Understanding The Iranian Threat

Regional Hegemony: Iran has long sought to spread its radical ideology throughout the Middle East and assume a hegemonic position in the region. Nuclear weapons would embolden Iran, provide it with a license to project power and influence with impunity throughout the region – both directly and through its proxies and make any international pressure or intervention against the regime next to impossible. The democratic gains in Iraq and Afghanistan would be the first thing that Iran would seek to eliminate. As a nuclear power, the regime would create insecurity for world energy supplies by attempting to assert more dominance over the price and flow of oil.



State Sponsor of Terrorism: Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, providing funding, training, arms, and political support to terrorist groups in the Middle East and worldwide such as Hezbollah, Hamas, the Taliban, and Al-Qaeda. Iranian-backed terrorist groups have killed U.S. and NATO troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. And the recently uncovered Iranian plot to kill the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. on American soil fits squarely into an overall pattern of warlike escalation on the part of Iran and proves that Iran will only become bolder as it becomes more powerful.



Nuclear Weapons Program & Nuclear Proliferation: Despite Iran’s repeated claims that it is enriching uranium for peaceful purposes, the facts prove otherwise: The international community has uncovered secret Iranian nuclear facilities built deep underground to guard against observation and possible airstrikes, a ballistic missile system capable of striking U.S. troops and allies, and large quantities of uranium enriched to 20%, far above the 3.5% required for civilian nuclear reactors. The IAEA’s November 2011 report confirms that Iran's nuclear weapons program will be capable of producing a nuclear warhead within months. There is a fear among many governments and proliferation experts that elements within the Iranian regime will utilize their existing proliferation networks to expand into the lucrative nuclear proliferation business and provide fissile material to other nations, groups and its proxies. Finally, the fear of Iran’s nuclear program is compelling a number of nations in the region to develop their own nuclear programs, encouraging the prospect of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.



Human Rights Abuser: The Iranian regime is recognized as one of the world’s leading human rights violators. Political dissidents, human rights activists, labor leaders, women, ethnic and religious minorities, homosexuals, students and anybody who is seen as a threat to the regime are routinely detained incommunicado and beaten, raped, lashed and subjected to inhumane forms of physical and psychological torture. The death penalty is routinely used for 'crimes' such as 'enmity against god', political opposition, blasphemy, apostasy, homosexuality, and 'insulting the supreme leader'. According to an October 2011 UN report, there are at least 100 juveniles on death row in Iran. Executions are often cruel and unusual and include public hangings by construction cranes and stoning. Iranians are often executed without formal charges or notification of the victim’s lawyers and family. According to the UN, Iran carried out at least 300 secret executions in 2010 alone. An Iran emboldened by nuclear weapons and resistant to outside pressure will be even more inclined to ignore international laws and norms regarding human rights and step up its campaign of repression against its people.



Rejection of International Law and Norms: The Islamic Republic of Iran is an egregious violator of international law and diplomatic norms. This is exhibited by Iran’s repeated flouting of its international obligations on its nuclear program, brutalization of its citizens and sponsorship of numerous acts of terrorism worldwide. Iran’s renegade behavior is a reflection of the extremist identity adopted by regime from its very foundation. The regime was established in the shadow of the 1979-1981 Iran Hostage Crisis in which the American embassy in Tehran was violently seized and 52 Americans held hostage for 444 days in blatant violation of all norms of international law and principles of sovereignty. Iran has also carried out extraterritorial assassinations and terrorist attacks, including the notorious 1992 Mykonos killings in which Iranian agents brazenly gunned down four Iranian-Kurdish opposition leaders in Berlin, Germany. As a result of this brazen act, every European Union member nation withdrew its ambassador and cut off diplomatic ties with Iran for almost six months. This was followed in 1994 by the Iranian-directed AMIA bombing in Argentina, killing 85 people at a Jewish community center. In October 2011, an Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. on American soil was uncovered by American authorities. Only a month later, in November 2011, a regime-sponsored mob stormed the British embassy in Tehran in what looked like a reprise of the Iran Hostage Crisis. In the more than 30 years of its existence, the Iranian regime has violated international and diplomatic norms in every way imaginable. In light of this history, it is unlikely that Iran will behave as a responsible custodian of its nuclear arsenal.



Radical Ideology: Much of what drives Iranian politics and decision-making is a hatred of the West. The Iranian regime demonizes the U.S. as the ‘Great Satan,’ repeatedly and forcefully denies the Holocaust, pledges to wipe Israel off the map and threatens to overthrow or dominate America’s Persian Gulf allies. Moreover, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has stated his belief that the mission of Iran is to prepare the way for the imminent return of the ‘Hidden Imam’ messiah, whose reemergence will be preceded by a period of chaos and war. Nuclear weapons would give Iran the ability to realize this radical vision.