By Sam Klein
Most Americans know of Middle Eastern Nations such as Afghanistan and Iraq, primarily due to our large occupation and involvement within these nations. Since our War on Terror, America has constantly been involved in the Middle East, attempting to bring democracy and halt terrorist activities. Yet, many people do not know of the clear threat that Iran poses to our nation. From aiding terrorism to stimulating a massive Middle Eastern arms race, Iran threats our quite severe.
First, Iran propagates terrorism. The Council on Foreign Relations reports that, “Iran provides [funding and weapons to] terrorist groups–most notably in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Lebanon–posing a security concern to the international community.” Specifically, the Department of Defense estimates that Iran provides “roughly $100 million to $200 million annually” to Hezbollah, a terrorist group that is determined to obliterate Israel. In addition, the Department of State concludes that Iran provides “small arms and associated ammunition, rocket propelled grenades, mortar rounds, 107mm rockets, and plastic explosives” to Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, a country where thousands of US soldiers are currently stationed fighting the Taliban. Perhaps most concerning, the Wall Street Journal reports that recent Wikileaks documents reveal “new evidence of direct contacts between Iranian officials and the Taliban’s and al Qaeda’s senior leadership.” To further issues, Iran trains the Taliban. The New York Sun states, “Iran’s Revolutionary Guards are training hundreds of Al Qaeda fighters to carry out attacks against coalition forces throughout the Middle East.” After being trained, al-Qaeda operatives “then travel to countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan, where they use their new skills to carry out attacks on coalition troops.” The Council on Foreign Relations reports that, as of 2010, Iran “began releasing detained al-Qaeda operatives, a move that…U.S. intelligence officials [speculated] was [meant] to replenish al-Qaeda’s ranks.” In addition, there is evidence of a past informal agreement by which Iran would support al-Qaeda training with the understanding that such training would be used “for actions carried out primarily against Israel and the United States”, showing Iran’s willingness to help terrorists attack the United States. All in all, Iran is one of our world’s greatest sponsors of terrorism. How can we fully halt terrorism with nations that openly support it?
Another major threat is that Iran’s nuclear program leads to regional instability. The Guardian reports that “Iran now has the “technical ability” to make highly enriched uranium, an essential step towards building a nuclear bomb”, while the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee reports that “Iran is converting its stockpile of low enriched uranium…[to] a level that represents 85 percent of the work necessary to produce fuel for a nuclear weapon” as the International Institute for Strategic Studies released a report in February stating that, Iran will most likely have their nuclear weapons in about two years, despite U.S. efforts to stop their programs. Iran having nuclear weapons has two major impacts:
1. Leverage: The Center for Strategic and International Studies notes that “even the future prospect of an Iranian weapon, gives Iran added leverage in the ‘wars of intimidation that shape much of the real-world behavior of nations in the region.” Thus, even though Iran does not have their nuclear weapons now, they can still place pressure on states to go against our foreign policy agenda. This would severely hurt our foreign relations, which is especially crucial in an area so abundant with oil. Lastly, The Anti-Defamation League further states that Iran, with nuclear weapons, would engage in a more aggressive foreign policy, which would lead to “greater confrontations with the international community and support for extremists.”
2. Iran, with nuclear weapons, which result in a regional arms race. The Wall Street Journal reported that even in 2009, ten nations in the Middle East were seeking nuclear programs, creating an arms race initiated as a sign that countries fear that Iran will grow too strong. The Anti-Defamation League furthers that an arms race in the Middle East would destabilize the volatile and vital region, with a disruption in the supply of oil causing significant damage to Western economies, including the United States. And according to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, “the possession of nuclear weapons may be perceived as making it “ safe” to engage in” low-intensity conflict and terrorism, with each incident having the potential to be escalated to the nuclear level. The Harvard International Review agrees, summating that if the Middle East were to have even a few nations with nuclear weapons, that it would be a recipe for nuclear war.
So, Iran is a threat to our national security. From funding terrorism to a potential nuclear arms race, the nation’s detriments to our country are clear. So what do we do about it? A continued war in the Middle East seems futile, as even right wing politicians are beginning to call for a return of our troops. What does seem most realistic at this time however is more nuclear proliferation, which would have to start from the major nations, so that smaller nations such as Iran would feel more comfortable. In regards to terrorism, the primary reason why terrorist activity is so prevalent is because of our presence. Once the U.S. backs out of the Middle East, terrorist activity should die down. Without nuclear innovation, a thriving terrorist market, and increased national security, our nation should perceive a lesser threat from Iran.