Sunday, January 15, 2006

Defiant Iran Poses Grave Threat

By Jim Saxton
Baltimore Sun
January 15, 2006

WASHINGTON -- I recently returned from a trip to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.
As I met with many of the brave, selfless men and women of the U.S. military serving there, it was clear to me that we can be proud of our many successes in helping to rebuild Afghanistan and Iraq after years of despotic and brutal rule.

In Pakistan, I witnessed firsthand the gratitude for our humanitarian assistance after its tragic earthquake. The region is slowly pulling itself from the morass of dictators and extremists.

But this emerging regional stability is being threatened.

The world community is grappling with an Iran that is openly flouting international law and the International Atomic Energy Agency by resuming its nuclear program. Despite pressure from the European Union, China and the United States, Iran has elected to end the freeze on uranium enrichment activities.

Iran's leaders have grabbed up economic incentives from Britain, France and Germany with one hand and ripped the lid from their uranium - and stability in the Middle East - with the other. I am dreadfully pessimistic about Tehran's motives and extremely concerned that the Islamic Republic will soon be able to deploy nuclear weapons. This sense of foreboding has deepened in the wake of the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the hard-line and increasingly erratic president.

Mr. Ahmadinejad is continually and unnecessarily provocative. Not only has he publicly and repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel, he seems to believe that world leaders will sit idle as Iran develops nuclear weapons. The Iranian leadership thinks the world is preoccupied with other problems and will tolerate Iran doing a little bit now and a little more in six months. It is essential that world leaders stand up to Iran, stand up to the deceit and say "enough."

Iran has taken this extraordinary step in total defiance of the international community and with a complete understanding that it will now be susceptible to U.N. sanctions. As Gregory L. Schulte, the U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, stated, this move by Iran shows its "disdain for international concerns and its rejection of international diplomacy."

Yes, rejection of international diplomacy. In concert with members of the EU who led these diplomatic efforts, the United States has supported international agreements and assurances that Iran would suspend its nuclear program - one that was kept secret from the international community for 18 years. Yet in a clear rebuff to those assurances, Iran has signaled its desire to remain a pariah on the world stage and a source of insecurity throughout the region.

As chairman of the House Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee on Terrorism and Unconventional Threats, I am acutely aware of the dangers posed by members of the "axis of evil," rogue nations and those non-state actors who seek to destroy democracy wherever it takes root. They seek to destabilize a region where ballots have replaced bullets and representative rule has replaced dictatorial decree. It is critical that we remain vigilant to the threats raised by Iran's resumption of its nuclear program.

As history has taught us, diplomatic dispatches and discourse are not sufficient against an entity that seeks to assert its destructive will over neighboring countries. In the late 1930s, the United Kingdom under Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain had a policy of nonintervention with Nazi Germany. He naively believed that by conceding to the demands of the Nazi aggressor, he could avoid a European conflict.

Mr. Chamberlain met Adolf Hitler in 1938, resulting in an agreement that Britain and Germany would never again go to war. "I believe," he declared, "it is peace for our time." However, the success of appeasement was short-lived, as Hitler invaded Poland the following year, sparking a global conflagration.

We must learn from history. Peace-loving nations cannot and must not appease Iran on the nuclear issue. The threat is simply too great. If history shows us nothing else, it is that appeasement will not work against an extremist, intolerant and volatile aggressor.

Jim Saxton, a Republican congressman from Nevada, is a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

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