Iran cannot be trusted with nuclear technology

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

Is the U.S. not hypocritical in its nuclear policy toward Iran? Not only was the U.S. first to build nuclear weapons, but it also bears the grim distinction of having actually used these terrible weapons on fellow humans. Given these facts, how dare the U.S. oppose Iran?s peaceful desire for nuclear energy! Why shouldn?t other countries be allowed to build their own energy programs? And why must the entire world feel beholden to the wishes of one country? The right to self-defense is championed by many in the United States. If the U.S. can defend itself with nuclear weapons, why shouldn?t other countries be permitted to do the same? If independent states possessed nuclear weapons, at least they would feel somewhat safer from future ?preventative wars? waged by the United States.

Across the globe, critics of American foreign policy have been leveling accusations such as these at President Bush?s heavy-handed nuclear nonproliferation policy. Many see the U.S., and not Iran or North Korea, as the world?s biggest bully. Many feel that if unprovoked, such ?rogue states? would mind their own business, and peace would prevail. But the critics are ill-informed, and their arguments are specious. Here?s why.

The vast majority of nonproliferation experts agree: Iran desperately wants nuclear weapons. Even ignoring the fact that Iranians have admitted as much in the past, the evidence from inspections is irrefutable. The official line from Iran used to be that it sought ?peaceful energy.? Given Iran?s vast oil reserves and limited energy needs, this argument is laughable. But the official line from Iran has recently changed sharply, and now no one is laughing.

Nearly two weeks ago, Iran?s new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, shocked the world with the following statement: ?There is no doubt that the new wave in Palestine will soon wipe off this disgraceful blot from the face of the Islamic world. As [Ayatollah Khomeini] said, Israel must be wiped off the map. Anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation?s fury.?

It doesn?t matter whether or not you support Israel?state leaders seeking nuclear technology who imply the annihilation of another state are a direct threat to global society. In 1995, the launch of a sounding rocket from Norway nearly caused a nuclear war: Imagine the consequences of a direct nuclear attack on Israel. Given Israel?s response, nothing in the Middle East would be left standing. The area has historically been unstable, and there is no good reason to introduce the power of the atom to the fray.

Even if Iran never uses the weapons-grade plutonium that it will inevitably produce in its Arak reactor, the potential for its misuse by others is terrifyingly real. If Ahmadinejad?s rhetoric is indistinguishable from that of Osama bin Laden, can there be any doubt that the aims of each are similar? Consider this: Recently released evidence shows that bin Laden has ties with the Iranian government and has met with prominent Iranian clerics. It?s our worst-case scenario, and it?s creeping towards reality.

Pakistan was the first predominantly Muslim state to obtain nuclear weapons (courtesy of the U.S.), and it has admitted to selling nuclear weapons technology to Iran, Libya, and North Korea. Unfortunately, a few Pakistani scientists had felt that it was their religious duty to provide this information. They believed not in a Pakistani bomb, but in an ?Islamic bomb.? If sensitive nuclear information can be so easily disseminated from a close ally of the U.S., can there be any doubt about how freely such technology will flow from a state that claims to wield ?the fire of the Islamic nation?s fury??

Forget arguments about U.S. hypocrisy and Iranian defense, because the menace of nuclear weapons transcends such petty differences. It can?t be more dramatic: Nukes threaten the existence of human life on earth. Yes, the U.S. made mistakes in the past, but as it atones for these and helps Russia do the same, the elusive goal of a nuclear-weapons-free world finally seems to be within reach. Now is the moment for us to decisively step away from nuclear weapons, not to re-enter the Cold War with North Korea and Iran as the enemy.

But the United Nations is weak, and if it continues to allow Iran to develop its nuclear ?energy? program, not only will a nuclear standoff with Israel occur, the danger of nuclear terrorism will exponentially increase as well. The United States cannot allow another September 11, and yet it cannot afford another Iraq. Thus the question the world asks now becomes personal: can we trust the UN to deal with this threat?