Reprinted from
Sen. Jon Kyl: Iran Nukes 'Biggest Challenge' to United States

Kenneth R. Timmerman

Saturday, May 27, 2006

 WASHINGTON -- Senator Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., told a group initially formed to educate the American public about Soviet aggression during the Cold War that the "Iranian nuclear crisis . . . is the biggest challenge in the near and immediate future" the United States will face.

 In a May 25 speech before the Committee on the Present Danger, Kyl urged Americans from all political backgrounds to agree on "first principles" about Iran that "can win the adherence of decent people everywhere."

 He described seven concepts he felt should guide U.S. and international policy-makers in confronting the aggressive behavior of the Iranian regime led by hard-line president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

1) Recognize that inaction also has consequences.

Doing nothing about Iran's nuclear programs amounts to acquiescence to a nuclear Iran, Kyl argued.

2) Take Ahmadinejad at his word.

Claims by Iran's president that Iran will wipe Israel off the map and attack America "may be mere bluster . . . However, the more prudent assumption to make is that Ahmadinejad is a dangerous man, bent on doing us harm and seeking the capability to act on his oft-stated intentions," Kyl said.

Comparing threats by the Iranian president to the famous incident at the United Nations in New York when Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev vowed to "bury" the United States, Kyl noted that "Ahmadinejad is not simply banging his shoe on the podium . . . Given the tremendous costs – financial and diplomatic – that the regime is bearing, it is safest to assume" that it sees advantages to becoming a nuclear power.

3) Assume worst case estimates on Iran's nuclear weapons capability.

The U.S. intelligence community "has a terrible record predicting when countries will ‘go nuclear,' Kyl said. In fact, "in nearly every case other than the most recent pre-war Iraq intelligence, our estimates have underestimated the capacity of determined regimes to secretly develop their programs."

 The CIA was surprised by Soviet nuclear tests in 1949, Chinese tests in 1964, Indian tests in 1974 and 1998, and again with Pakistan and North Korea. "Given this uncertainty, it is wise to act as if the more pessimistic estimates of Iran's nuclear timeline are warranted," he said.

4) Use Iran as a "litmus test" with friends and allies

"The abuses of international law perpetrated by the Tehran regime have been flagrant and repeated, and attempts to use diplomacy alone have failed," Kyl said. "The time has come for us and our allies to impose targeted sanctions and penalties against Iran. The Europeans need to ratchet up the pressure in the U.N."

The U.S. should use Iran as a "litmus test for responsible international citizenship," specifically with Russia and China. "There need to be consequences for their continued intransigence. We need to look at options such as organizing boycotts of the July G-8 meeting in St. Petersburg, or the 2008 Olympics in Beijing."

5) Reach out to the Iranian people.

"By and large, the people of Iran are younger, better educated, and more pro-Western than their counterparts elsewhere in the region," Kyl said. "They are the greatest hope for regime change, which in turn, is the only hope for a moderate Iran. The West must build connections with the Iranian public, and signal that our gripe is not with them but strictly with the regime in Tehran."

6) Target the Iranian leadership.

Noting that most economic activity in Iran "is controlled by the State," Kyl favored sanctions targeting state-run businesses and Iran's economy in general, because they would "disproportionately hit the leadership."

The IMF has been tracking "significant outflows of international capital from Iran," he said. "Coordinated sanctions will make foreign investors still more skittish, and make the regime's business interests less profitable."

Kyl adopted other suggestions from a recent paper on Iran by the Committee on the Present Danger, in particular: "bringing a case before the International Criminal Court, charging Ahmadinejad with inciting genocide," because of his repeated threats to wipe Israel off the map. "Doing so would isolate the Iranian leadership internationally," Kyl said.

7) Keep force on the table should diplomacy fail

"It is hard to believe that Ahmadinejad could be deterred from using nuclear weapons once acquired," Kyl said. Because of this, the United States should consider pre-emptive military action, should current diplomatic efforts fail.

Along with Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., Kyl called on national security experts from both political parties two years ago to reconstitute the Committee on the Present Danger, which had been disbanded at the end of the Cold War.

Lieberman also addressed the Committee last night, and called for "rational" discourse on national security affairs, including the Iranian nuclear crisis.

 "We cannot deal with such issues on a partisan basis," Lieberman said.

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