Upping the stakes in the showdown over Iran's nuclear program, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told United Nations diplomats Monday that it was "time for a strong international response" to Tehran's uranium enrichment program. Clinton said tough new sanctions are "the only way to catch Iran's attention." But former U.N. ambassador John Bolton argues in The Wall Street Journal that if we don't go beyond threats and economic punishment, it's inevitable that Iran will acquire nuclear weapons. Here's an excerpt:
"The further pursuit of sanctions is tantamount to doing nothing. Advocating such policies only benefits Iran by providing it cover for continued progress toward its nuclear objective. It creates the comforting illusion of 'doing something.' Just as 'diplomacy' previously afforded Iran the time and legitimacy it needed, sanctions talk now does the same.
Speculating about regime change stopping Iran's nuclear program in time is also a distraction. The Islamic Revolution's iron fist, and willingness to use it against dissenters (who are currently in disarray), means we cannot know whether or when the regime may fall. Long-term efforts at regime change, desirable as they are, will not soon enough prevent Iran from creating nuclear weapons with the ensuing risk of further regional proliferation.
We therefore face a stark, unattractive reality. There are only two options: Iran gets nuclear weapons, or someone uses pre-emptive military force to break Iran's nuclear fuel cycle and paralyze its program, "at least temporarily."