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A plan for Iran

Conventional wisdom says we have but two choices in confronting and containing Iranian nuclear ambitions ” United Nations sanctions or a military strike to knock out key nuclear sites.

But as political analyst Dick Morris opines; neither option is a good one. U.N. sanctions are tame and ineffective, and don’t go to the heart of how to cripple the Iranian theocracy. Meanwhile, a military strike would actually help the regime by solving its major problem of how to rally popular support and stay in power. A U.S. or Israeli attack would cause nationalism in Iran to soar and rally the public around a very unpopular government.

But there are other options. First, Iran’s economy is vulnerable because it’s completely dependent on oil revenues. Iran’s domestic consumption of energy is increasing while its production is decreasing, with the net result that its energy revenues will drop from $55 billion in 2006 to about $44 billion in 2007; and without foreign investment this trend is expected to continue.

Last year the Iranian government imported nearly 3 billion gallons of gasoline at a cost of $5 billion to meet public demand. In a nation where 70 percent of the labor-force is employed by the government, the cost of such subsidies vis-à-vis its declining energy revenues is of serious concern to the Mullahs.

The United States can exploit this situation and exert enormous leverage on the Mullahs by disinvesting in Iran’s energy and banking sectors ” see http://www.Divestterror.org. Currently, American pension funds invest in almost 500 companies worldwide that invest in Iran. But a monumental decision by the state of Missouri to stop the state’s pension funds from investing in companies that do business with Iran, Syria, Sudan or North Korea has led other states to follow suit.

Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida has signed legislation banning pension-fund investments in companies investing in those rogue states. In California, its assembly recently voted unanimously to require CalSTRS and CalPERS, the teacher and public employee retirement systems that invest billions of dollars annually, to remove their investments from companies invested in Iran’s defense, nuclear and oil industries.

Five public pension systems in Ohio gave in to demands from state legislators that they too disinvest from companies doing business with Iran and the Sudan. There is similar legislation in New York to redirect $20 billion in state pension-fund assets now invested in companies that invest in terror sponsoring nations.

This is a good start, but it’s not enough. Congress must also push the Bush administration to enforce the 1996 Iran and Libya Sanctions Act. President Clinton signed the Act 11 years ago, but neither he nor President Bush enforced it, likely out of fear that the European Union would resent America removing investments in European companies that do business with terror sponsoring states.

Next, we should follow a course of action similar to John F. Kennedy’s during the Cuban Missile Crisis. On October 22nd 1962 President Kennedy told America and the world, “It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.”

John Kennedy put Nikita Khrushchev and the Soviet Politburo on notice that it was the “official policy” of the United States that nuclear missiles would not be tolerated in Cuba. There was no equivocation. The Soviets knew they would bear full responsibility and would endure the ultimate consequence if they allowed a missile-launch from that island.

Likewise, our government should hold Iran ultimately accountable for any potential use of a nuclear weapon by paraphrasing JFK’s statement of 45 years ago. We must make it clear to the Mullahs that it shall be the “policy” of the United States to regard the detonation of a nuclear device, anywhere at anytime and from any source, that in whole or part is traceable to Iran, as an attack upon the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response against Iran.

While the aforementioned are clear disincentives, we must also offer the Mullahs some inducements to halt the development of these weapons. Kennedy promised the Soviets we would remove our intermediate range missiles from Turkey (even though they were obsolete and were scheduled to be removed anyway) along with a guarantee not to invade Cuba.

We might promise not to attack Iran while giving that nation full diplomatic recognition and lifting economic sanctions. It also wouldn’t be unreasonable to offer technical assistance in developing nuclear energy designed solely for peaceful purposes.

However, under no circumstances can Iran be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons lest the free-world face nuclear blackmail at every turn in the larger war on terror.

State legislatures are beginning to do their part and the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act is already on the books; making our diplomatic task one of giving the Iranians the respect they crave by making visible concessions, all while presenting the Mullahs with a Kennedy-like “ultimate consequence” policy of deterrent.

Quote of the day: “A man’s feet should stay planted in his country, but his eyes should survey the world.”

Butch Mazzuca is a business consultant and writes a biweekly column for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at bmazz68@earthlink.net.


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