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Preventing War with Iran Is Top Priority

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The best way to keep Iran from building a nuclear bomb is for the Obama administration and its nuclear client Israel to stop threatening the Islamic Republic.

Look at recent history. In 2003 Iraq’s government had no nuclear weapons (or other WMD). The U.S. government invaded, and before long Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was hanging from a rope. In 2011 Libya’s government had no nuclear weapons. The U.S. government led NATO on a bombing campaign to help a group of rebels, and before long Libyan Col. Muammar Qaddafi lay dead on a roadside. Today Syria has no nuclear weapons. The U.S. government and NATO are currently aiding rebels seeking to overthrow (and likely kill) President Bashar al-Assad.

On the other hand, North Korea has nuclear weapons, and Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un appears safe from any regime change sponsored by the U.S. government and NATO.

Lesson for foreign leaders who are in the doghouse with the U.S. government: Get a nuke.

Therefore it follows that not threatening a foreign regime is a good way to keep it from following the yellowcake road. And it sure beats threatening war, which all too easily can become actual war.

Iran is not building a bomb. U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies have said so repeatedly. The Islamic Republic, unlike Israel, is a party to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and is thus subject to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Moreover, the Islamic regime long ago issued a fatwa, invoked many times since, condemning WMD as immoral.

Furthermore, a nuke would be useless as an offensive weapon for Iran. (Iran has not attacked another nation in hundreds of years, but it was attacked by U.S.-backed Iraq in 1980.) Israel has an arsenal of at least 200 nuclear warheads, some mounted on submarines for a second-strike capability. The U.S. government has thousands. Say what you want about the Iranian leadership, but it is not suicidal.

Thus, the only value for Iran in having a nuclear weapon would be in deterring an attack. Stop threatening an attack, and that value vanishes.

Why then do President Obama and Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, refuse to take war against the Iranian people off the table? The Israeli government wants to prevent any change that would limit its freedom of action in the region — which has included repeated mass violence against the Palestinians and the Lebanese — and the U.S. government, largely for domestic political reasons, backs Israel to the hilt. President Obama and Vice-President Biden are only the latest American politicians to declare that “no daylight” exists between the United States and Israel — despite the absurdity of that claim.

In fact, the American people and the Israeli government have entirely different interests with respect to Iran. Americans have no interest whatever in war with Iran. Countless noncombatants, not to mention U.S. military personnel, would be killed or maimed, and economic well-being would be shaken by the disruption of oil production and trade. This wouldn’t be good for the people of Israel either, although their hawkish ruling elite and its boosters in America, including in Congress, apparently think otherwise.

It’s more and more obvious that this issue isn’t really about nuclear weapons at all. Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, is trying to reassure the West and Israel about its civilian nuclear program. (This is not the first time.) His foreign minister is meeting with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany (the P5+1) in order to strike an agreement that would include lifting the economic sanctions — a form of warfare under international law — which deprive innocent Iranians of food and medicine. Progress in the talks had been reported, but France, with Israeli backing, reportedly threw up roadblocks, among other reasons, due to a conflict of interest, namely, its lucrative military ties with Israel and Saudi Arabia (the U.S.-allied Sunni kingdom that is a rival of Shiite Iran).

But perhaps more important, the Obama administration made an interim agreement unacceptable to Iran by refusing to recognize its prerogative under the NPT to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. (In this video interview, deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes tells NBC’s Andrea Mitchell that Iran has no “right to enrich” uranium even to produce electricity — a deal breaker for the Iranian government.)

Despite early signs of progress in the negotiations, Netanyahu and his biggest supporters in Congress want even more sanctions, as they talk down the potential for a peaceful settlement. One gets the feeling that they will never take yes for an answer to the question of nuclear weapons; they want war and regime change, no matter what the Iranian government does.

The warmongers must be thwarted. Peace is the priority.

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    Sheldon Richman is vice president of The Future of Freedom Foundation and editor of FFF's monthly journal, Future of Freedom. For 15 years he was editor of The Freeman, published by the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington, New York. He is the author of FFF's award-winning book Separating School & State: How to Liberate America's Families; Your Money or Your Life: Why We Must Abolish the Income Tax; and Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State. Calling for the abolition, not the reform, of public schooling. Separating School & State has become a landmark book in both libertarian and educational circles. In his column in the Financial Times, Michael Prowse wrote: "I recommend a subversive tract, Separating School & State by Sheldon Richman of the Cato Institute, a Washington think tank... . I also think that Mr. Richman is right to fear that state education undermines personal responsibility..." Sheldon's articles on economic policy, education, civil liberties, American history, foreign policy, and the Middle East have appeared in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, American Scholar, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, Washington Times, The American Conservative, Insight, Cato Policy Report, Journal of Economic Development, The Freeman, The World & I, Reason, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Middle East Policy, Liberty magazine, and other publications. He is a contributor to the The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. A former newspaper reporter and senior editor at the Cato Institute and the Institute for Humane Studies, Sheldon is a graduate of Temple University in Philadelphia. He blogs at Free Association. Send him e-mail.