One of the big matters affecting us is the great challenge that is facing the world because of the rise of militant Islam and its attempts to acquire nuclear weapons. If I had to put in a nutshell the greatest threat that faces humanity – it is that a militant Islamic regime will meet up with nuclear weapons or that nuclear weapons will meet up with a militant Islamic regime. The first is a danger now focused in Iran and the second is a concern that many people have about a Taliban takeover of Pakistan. I think that both are eminently preventable but things are not prevented by themselves, they depend on actions and the most important action vis-à-vis Iran is action that the international community can take and must take in time.
This regime depends virtually entirely on energy. Its budgets depend on energy – on the exportation of oil and natural gas. The first and most powerful sanction – biting sanctions – is to prevent the export of oil from Iran. Right alongside it is to prevent the import of oil or specifically refined petroleum which means gasoline into Iran. These are sanctions with teeth. Other sanctions are now being discussed by the international community but without these sanctions, I think they will not have the impact to actually make a dent in this regime and force it to consider whether to continue its brazen pursuit of a nuclear weapons program.
If one is talking about what are effective sanctions – what are crippling sanctions – what are sanctions that can actually work – they must include, they must include the constriction of the export of oil from Iran and the import of refined oil into Iran. I think that nothing else stands a real chance to stop the progress of the regime but this has a chance – at least it must be tried and must be tried now. There has been a slow lag of understanding of things that we have been talking about for years.
At first, there was a question whether Iran, whether this regime is as tyrannical as it is. People said that it’s a populous regime – it may have a theological bent but it is a popular regime that seeks to better the lives of Iran’s people. Well, they no longer think that. I think the regime has been exposed by the clear sunlight that fell on those sidewalks where young Iranians were bleeding, choking on their blood, being gunned down by these goons. People now know the truth about the nature of the regime. And a regime that tyrannizes its own people will tyrannize its neighbors very soon. In fact, that’s already happening.
The second thing that people said is does Iran have a nuclear program? There was some debate about that. Well, that’s pretty much evaporated as Iran’s secret nuclear facility has been exposed and other facts came to light. So now we know that this is a tyrannical regime that is developing atomic bombs.
The third thing that we know is that they threatened to use those bombs against us and possibly as weapons of terror against anyone else they choose. This is a formidable combination. When you have no inhibition and you have far-reaching ideological, theological ambitions – the combination of a militant Islamic regime that has the weapons of mass death and could use atomic weapons, not merely to threaten directly but also to use it as weapons of nuclear terror could be a pivot of history. That too is understood in most of the capitals and by most of the leaders that I’ve spoken to in recent months and over the years and there is a crystallization of an understanding.
And now comes another question that caused a lot of arguments and disagreements. How long will it take for them to develop a weapon? That too, as Iran is advancing and as it is demonstrably accruing low, enriched uranium which is one step short of a process called high enrichment which they’ve just begun. That too begins to fade as an issue of discord because people understand it will happen a lot sooner than people think.
So now the leading countries in the world and the leading leaders of the world today understand that Iran is a brutal tyranny, that it has a nuclear weapons program, that it is using its power to tyrannize its own people and its neighbors and that it is fast approaching a nuclear weapons capacity. Well what is it going to do when you have the understanding? There’s a difference between not knowing and knowing. Then there’s a difference between knowing and understanding. And then there’s a difference between understanding and having the international community actually act on that understanding.
We’re at that fateful point. We’re at the point where the international community has to decide whether it is serious about stopping Iran. If it is serious about stopping Iran, then what it needs to do is not water-down sanctions, moderate sanctions, sanctions that will only enable people to put a ‘V’ around the rubric box of sanctions, but effective , biting sanctions that curtail the import and export of oil into and out of Iran. This is what is required now. It may not do the job but nothing else will. And at least we will have known that it’s been tried. And if this cannot pass in the Security Council, then it should be done outside the Security Council but immediately.
I never fail to quote Hillel the Elder who said several thousand years ago some pretty smart things. They were short and succinct and to the point. And one of the things that he said was: ‘If not now, when?’ If not now, when is the international community going to impose biting sanctions on Iran? A year from now? Two years from now? Three years from now when it’s all pointless? If not now, when and the answer is right now! That is what is required: Crippling sanctions that affect Iran’s import and export of oil now.