Tick … tock. By the time this year’s senior class graduates in the spring, Iran, the world’s largest sponsor of international terrorism, could possess an advanced missile program capable of wreaking havoc on its targets. While Iran already does have a missile program, the concern is that the range of these missiles will increase to such a distance as to pose a direct threat to U.S. interests abroad. So with good reason, the Iranian missile program has increasingly become a threat to international stability, causing great concern among foreign policy leaders both in the United States and abroad.
Today, American and Israeli security experts concur that if current levels of missile technology continue to flow into Iran, within six months Iran could be capable of firing these missiles at its enemies. Fortunately, we might be able to keep Iran from attaining this military leverage. Because much of the technology is imported by Iran from Russia and China, we can concentrate our efforts on the source of this pipeline of technology. So far, we have been unable to convince Russia and China to halt these transfers. Even a personal visit from Vice President Gore could not sway the Russians to stop.
Now Congress is taking the initiative by introducing legislation aimed at stopping Russian and Chinese suppliers to Iran. The Iran Missile Proliferation Sanctions Act of 1997, which has at least 69 co-sponsors in the Senate and at least 150 co-sponsors in the House, requires the president to submit a report to Congress 30 days after enactment listing the foreign entities responsible for contributing to Iran’s missile program. These entities then could be sanctioned by the United States, forcing them to choose between Iran and the United States.
These missiles, with a range of up to 1,000 miles, may seem of little consequence until we realize that we have thousands of troops stationed within that range. Our soldiers will be in serious danger if we allow Iran to acquire this dangerous capability. Furthermore, every enemy of Iran, especially our close Israeli and Persian Gulf allies, has reason to fear that Iran could shoot one of these deadly missiles at their populations.
Some people believe that we do not need to fear the Iranian missile threat, contending that Iran recently has shown signs of moderation, as evidenced by the election of Iranian President Mohammed Khatami. However, Khatami has yet to prove that he is the “moderate” some people make him out to be. In fact, U.S. News and World Report stated in September that Khatami is “reportedly eager to accelerate Iran’s military nuclear development program.” I do not believe we can rely on Iran’s “moderation” to ease our conscience regarding the threat of their missile program.
Many American foreign policymakers agree that the Iranian missile threat is one of the greatest challenges to international stability. Leaders from the White House, the State Department, the Defense Department and Congress have admitted that it is now imperative to stop the Iranians before they fully acquire the technological know-how necessary to produce their own deadly weapons.
Now is the time to stop Iran; if we wait any longer, it may be too late. Allowing Iran’s missile program to continue to grow will be a costly error for everyone. If Iran does succeed in attaining this missile capability, time will only tell what the price will be for the rest of the world. Spring is only months away, so by the time we pack up and go home for the summer, there may be a new threat with which the world will have to deal. Tick … tock. Tick … tock.
-The writer is a second-year graduate student in the Elliott School, pursuing an M.A. in international affairs.