‘We cannot be safe with a nuclear Iran’

‘We cannot be safe with a nuclear Iran’

Last week, as the Bush administration was preparing to impose unprecedented unilateral sanctions on Iran, the Iranian leadership and military were demonstrating precisely why such steps are not only necessary, but perhaps a little late in coming.

Several news programs showed a disturbing video of a military drill in which Iranian soldiers holding colored flags created an American flag with a swastika on it and a large star of David. Other soldiers created a saber that they marched through the flag and star, tearing them in two. It was an eerie look into the psyche of those in charge of this would-be nuclear power. This type of saber-rattling cannot be ignored. And its message must be remembered: Iran will stop at nothing to wipe Israel off the map and bring the United States to its knees.

Congress has long recognized this, and a variety of bills imposing severe sanctions on Iran have been introduced and even passed. Earlier this year, I shepherded the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act (HR ‘347) through the House of Representatives. Companies based in the United States are already barred from doing business with Iran, but trade and investment sanctions do not extend to foreign companies that legally operate in its country. HR ‘347 would permit divestment from those companies with investments of $’0 million or more in Iran’s energy sector. The bill would also authorize state and local governments and public education institutions, as well as private investment and pension plan managers, to divest their pension fund assets.

The very same day the House passed HR ‘347, the House also passed a bill I cosponsored that would expand and clarify the Iran Sanctions Act (HR 957). Together, these bills are a serious step in the right direction toward restricting the financial means upon which Iran depends to support its nuclear weapons programs and other dangerous plans.

Last week, the White House followed suit, setting in place a package of unilateral sanctions against Iran that represent the broadest set of punitive measures imposed on Iran since the 1979 hostage situation. The sanctions will empower the United States to financially isolate a substantial part of Iran’s military, as well as anyone who does business with it. One of the two executive orders would designate the entire Revolutionary Guard Corps as supporting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The corps controls a growing sector of the Iranian economy, including construction companies, oil, pharmaceutical plans, telecommunications, and more. More dangerously, it operates front companies that procure nuclear technology.

The other executive order would designate the Quds Force as a supporter of terrorism. The 15,000-member Quds Force runs Iran’s covert activities throughout the Mideast. It controls the arms, aid, and training operations that support Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad. It is the supplier of the high-tech bombs that penetrate armored vehicles and the roadside explosives that are killing American troops in Iraq. As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stated, "These [executive orders] will help protect the international financial system from the illicit activities of the Iranian government. They will provide a powerful deterrent to every international bank and company that thinks of doing business with the Iranian government."

The American people have become increasingly weary of Iran’s bellicose leadership and its unwillingness to be a responsible player in global relations. Last month, when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited New York City and spoke at Columbia University, I joined community leaders from all across North Jersey and the metro-New York area to speak out against Ahmadinejad’s policies and hostile posturing toward the United States and Israel. Ahmadinejad is a dangerous man who has made no secret of his desire to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth. He has openly pursued nuclear power and backed Shi’ite insurgents in Iraq that assault American troops. Iran is supremely unpredictable and dangerous.

I was extremely disheartened when I heard that a prestigious institution like Columbia would provide a forum for his hate, but I was equally pleased to see so many people make good use of America’s rights to free expression and free speech to protest his speech.

Some say that the principle of mutually assured destruction will keep a nuclear Iran contained. But that tried and true principle will not work against such an enemy. In Ahmadinejad’s world, the global war on terror is a holy war which he must win against the U.S. and Israel. We cannot be safe with a nuclear Iran. The free nations of the world must stop buying Iran’s lies and prevent them from acquiring and using the most fearsome weapons of war.

Scott Garrett represents New Jersey’s fifth district in Congress.