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Debate: Military action against nuclear Iran

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Background and context

The debate over a military confrontation with Iran covers a wide range of issues in the international affairs of the Middle East and the world. It is one of the most contentious debates in the world today, the outcome of which will have substantial global effects.

Iranian President Mahmoud Admadinejad
Iranian President Mahmoud Admadinejad
Brief History: In 1953 the U.S. played a role in the overthrow of Mohammad Mossadeq and the installation of the Shah. After supporting the Shah for many years, in 1979 the Iranian Revolution forced the Shah into exile and transformed the country into the Islamic Republic of Iran led by Ayatollah Khomeini. The ensuing hostage crisis led to a failed military intervention under President Jimmy Carter. The U.S. has considered various covert attempts to overthrow the regime and other military options against Iran over the the last few decades in response to Iranian-sponsored terrorism. The U.S. ended diplomatic and economic relations with Iran during the Clinton Administration, and has not renewed them. Recent debate over the possibility of attacking Iran has centered mostly on Iran's long-standing defiance of international regulations on its nuclear program. Iran's continued development of its nuclear program, support of international terrorism, and allegations that is is providing Iraqi insurgents with explosive devices have led to increased debate over a military response.

The Bush Administration has tried to halt Iran's development of its nuclear program through diplomatic means, but President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad refuses to suspend uranium enrichment. The U.S. faces increasing pressure to confront the program from Israel, while it has struggled to persuade Russia and China to assist in its efforts. There is also increasing media reporting of a possible attack on Iran. The administration, however, continues to deny any intention of attacking Iran in the near future.

Topic Analysis

This is a very ambiguously worded topic because of the verb tense the NFL wording committee chose. Asking whether the United States "would be justified" is a very different question from asking simply whether it "is justified." The reason, one has to suppose, that the NFL chose to ask whether the United States "would be justified" is that the US, as of the time this topic was announced for debate, was not pursuing military options. Thus, the question: would it be just for the United States to do so under present conditions. This, however, is somewhat hard to tell given the enigmatic nature of Iran.

Clearly, the most obvious justification for the United States using its military against Iran would be Iran's refusal to comply with United Nations resolutions calling on it to stop enriching uranium. While the United Nations has clearly not authorized any of its member states to take military action against Iran, the United States has consistently claimed that it would not need the United Nation's permission to pursue military action against Iran. One could argue, in fact, on the con side that the United States would only be justified in attacking Iran if the United Nations authorized such an attack, which it has not done.

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Another potential justification for the United States using its military against Iran is Iran's reported support for attacks on United States and Iraqi forces in Iraq. The United States has for several years now charged Iran with exporting violence into Iraq and has on several occasions suggested this could result in the United States taking action against Iran.

For the pro side to win this debate, what criteria its using to determine that the United State would be justified in pursuing military options in Iran. For the con side to win this debate, it will similarly need to offer a criteria for when the United States might be justified in pursuing military options and show that those criteria have not yet been met. The con side could, of course, try to argue that the United States would never be justified in pursuing military options against another country, but this would likely be a difficult position to defend. The argument for pacifism is difficult to make when confronted with the threat of a rogue state acquiring nuclear weapons.

The pro side could, however, try to interpret the topic as asking not whether the United States is currently justified in pursuing military options but try to pose unreal or hypothetical conditions that would justify the United States in pursuing military options against Iran. That is, the pro could try to argue, for instance, "the United State would be justified in pursuing military options against Iran, if the United Nations sanctioned such a move." This reading of the topic, however, would put a very heavy burden and likely unfair burden on the negative. It would be very difficult if not impossible for the negative to deny, for instance, that "if the United States knew that Iran planned on launching a nuclear strike against United States forces stationed in Iraq, that it would not be justified in pursuing military options against Iran." The con's ground in this debate has to be that given what we know about the situation in Iran at the time of the debate, that the United States would not be justified against pursuing military options against Iran.

What makes it difficult to debate this topic, however, is that it is very difficult to know for certain the degree to which Iran really is an imminent threat to anyone. To date, there is no hard evidence publicly available showing that Iran is indeed trying to develop nuclear weapons. At the same time, it's hard not to be concerned what might happen if Iran one day did possess nuclear weapons. At the point where Iran did have a nuclear weapon, the United States' military options against Iran would have shrunk to near zero.

Though this topic might seem to be a values resolution, the con could still likely argue that the United States would not be justified in pursuing military options against Iran because this would further weaken the United States. As many commentators have noted, the United States military is stretched very thin at the moment and employing it in another theater could make a bad situation even worse.

Along the same lines, the con side could potentially argue that while military action against Iran might be justified, that United States military action might not be. Does the justification for pursuing military options against Iran theoretically authorize any country to pursue these options are is there something unique about the United States?

An interesting question that the pro side should consider is whether the the United States would be justified in not pursuing military options against Iran. It is often argued that force should be used only as a last resort, meaning that the United States would only be justified in pursuing military options against Iran if failing to do so would produce a greater harm. The con side will likely want to press the pro on this point. If the United States were justified in pursuing military options against Iran, would it be justified in refraining from doing so?

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Imminent threat? - Is it "imminent" that Iran will produce nuclear weapons?

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Yes

  • Iran is seeking nuclear weapons, not simply nuclear energy. Iran's history of defiance, secrecy, and deception surrounding its nuclear program undermine its claim that its nuclear pursuits are peaceful and legitimate. Additional factors such as the low need for nuclear energy in Iran due to abundant fossil fuel energy as well as Iran's rejection of international deals that would provide external sources of uranium fuel undermine Iran's claim to a peaceful nuclear energy program.
  • Iran is likely to have a nuclear weapon within a number of years. Many credible estimates indicate that Iran could produce nuclear weapons by between roughly 2008 and 2015. (See argument page for estimates) If these estimates are taken as correct, they indicate that Iran could acquire nuclear weapons in a relatively short time-frame. This contributes to the argument that Iran posses an "imminent" threat that may warrant "preemptive" military action by the United States.
  • Iran's testing of high-altitude missiles demonstrates an "imminent" nuclear threat
    • Joseph Farah "Iran plans to knock out U.S. with 1 nuclear bomb" WorldNetDaily 4/25/05 - "The radical Shiite regime has conducted successful tests to determine if its Shahab-3 ballistic missiles, capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, can be detonated by a remote-control device while still in high-altitude flight. Scientists, including President Reagan's top science adviser, William R. Graham, say there is no other explanation for such tests than preparation for the deployment of electromagnetic pulse weapons – even one of which could knock out America's critical electrical and technological infrastructure, effectively sending the continental U.S. back to the 19th century with a recovery time of months or years. Iran will have that capability – at least theoretically – as soon as it has one nuclear bomb ready to arm such a missile. Last month, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security chaired by Jon Kyl, held a hearing on the electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, threat. 'An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack on the American homeland, said one of the distinguished scientists who testified at the hearing, is one of only a few ways that the United States could be defeated by its enemies – terrorist or otherwise,' wrote Kyl 'And it is probably the easiest. A single Scud missile, carrying a single nuclear weapon, detonated at the appropriate altitude, would interact with the Earth's atmosphere, producing an electromagnetic pulse radiating down to the surface at the speed of light. Depending on the location and size of the blast, the effect would be to knock out already stressed power grids and other electrical systems across much or even all of the continental United States, for months if not years.' Graham serves as chairman of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack and was director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and science adviser to the president during the Reagan administration. Graham told WorldNetDaily he could think of no other reason for Iran to be experimenting with mid-air detonation of missiles than for the planning of an EMP-style attack."
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No

  • Military action is premature since Iran's nuclear weapons capabilities are not an "imminent" threat. As long as the experts determine that a number of years remain before Iran is capable of producing nuclear weapons, the threat cannot be considered "imminent". There is no clear-and-present danger that Iran will attack the United States with nuclear weapons. Since military action, in international law, depends on the pretext of an "imminent threat", such action cannot be legitimately taken at the present time. Alternative, diplomatic means of ending any effort by Iran to acquire nuclear weapons must be exhausted first.
  • There is no clear evidence that Iran is weaponizing its nuclear program:
    • Dr Mohamed ElBaradei, the IAEA Director General, at an interview at the Monterey Institute for International Studies in California 5/30/06 - "We know that Iran has developed a knowledge of the so-called fuel cycle, how to enrich uranium, but that is not synonymous with saying that this is a weapon program. A lot of countries are enriching uranium for peaceful programs without necessarily using it for weaponry. Iran has developed that program and started to develop that program in the mid '80s, you know, during the war with Iraq. Whether they developed that program with the intention of converting it later on into a weapon program or not, that's a question of intention, which is very difficult to assess. We have not seen a linkage, necessarily, between their program or activities and a parallel weapons program."
  • Iran faces lots of technical problems and mistakes which will slow down any nuclear weapons program.
    • Gordon Carera of the BBC reports on 2/10/2007 that, "Over the years, some of the problems with the programme seem to be due to Iran's own mistakes. For instance, one of the top figures in the programme has talked of how in the early days, those assembling the centrifuges did not wear cloth gloves. As a result, tiny beads of sweat would be transferred to the rotor which spins inside the centrifuge. This almost imperceptibly increased the weight of the rotor which then unbalanced the centrifuge when it started to spin, causing it to "explode". Iran also was thought to have had problems with the purity of the uranium hexafluoride which is fed into the centrifuges, although its scientists now say this has been solved."
    • Gordon Carera of the BBC reports on 2/10/2007 that,"But the problems may also be due to more shady activity by others. Over a number of years, both US and Israeli intelligence are believed to have covertly passed flawed parts and equipment to Iran to cause technical difficulties and slow the Iranian programme down. In one event last April, according to Iranian press reports, the explosion of another set of centrifuges was attributed to problems with the power supply."
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International law: Is Iran in violation of international law proving a pretext?

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Yes

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No

  • Iran has, under the NPT, the "inalienable right" to pursue a peaceful nuclear energy program:
    • David Morrison, Director of Communications for United Nations Development Programme, "Iran 'no imminent threat', says ElBaradei", Spin Watch, 10/22/06 - "In its preamble, resolution 1696 recognises that signatories to the NPT have a right 'to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination'. This is written into Article IV(1) of the NPT, which says [10]: 'Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with Articles I and II of this Treaty.' So, under the NPT, Iran has an 'inalienable right' to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. For the Security Council to demand in a mandatory Chapter VII resolution that Iran cease enrichment is tantamount to amending the NPT in respect."
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Unacceptable? - Is a nuclear Iran unacceptable/intolerable/too great a risk?

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Yes

  • Iran's radical-Islamic regime may be willing to risk using a nuclear weapon against its enemies. Iran's leadership holds radical, Islamic views that make it more likely than other countries to take-up the risk of using a nuclear weapon. This radical ideology discounts the faculty of reason, making it difficult to count on Iran making a sound cost-benefit analysis that using a nuclear weapon is not in their interests, and would, likely, lead to their annihilation. In this way, the risks that the Iranian regime will use its nuclear weapons against another country are intolerably high.
  • A nuclear-armed Iran will be more aggressive. Even if Iran opts not to use a nuclear weapon, there are major additional risks. It's possession of a nuclear weapon would make it much more likely to act aggressively in the international system through conventional means or through its sponsorship of terrorism. Nuclear weapons will support such aggression because it will make other states think twice about responding aggressively, out of fear that Iran will then respond with nuclear strikes.
  • Argument:Iranian possession of nuclear weapons will spark an international arms race
    • An October 2005 report by the Army's Strategic Studies Institute argues that, "Iran’s continued insistence that it acquired its nuclear capabilities legally under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) would, if unchallenged, encourage its neighbors (including Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Turkey,and Algeria) to develop nuclear options of their own by emulating Iran’s example, by overtly declaring possession (in Israel’s case)or by importing nuclear weapons (in Saudi Arabia’s case). Such announcements and efforts, in turn, would likely undermine nuclear nonproliferation restraints internationally and strain American relations with most of its key friends in the Middle East."
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No

  • A nuclear Iran will not be able to blackmail other states.
    • Dr. Barry Posen writes in the 2/28/06 edition of the New York Times that, "Because many of Iran's neighbors lack nuclear weapons, it's possible that Iran could use a nuclear capacity to blackmail such states into meeting demands - for example, to raise oil prices, cut oil production or withhold cooperation with the United States. But many of Iran's neighbors are allies of the United States, which holds a strategic stake in their autonomy and is unlikely to sit by idly as Iran blackmails, say, Kuwait or Saudi Arabia. It is unlikely that these states would capitulate to a nuclear Iran rather than rely on an American deterrent threat. To give in to Iran once would leave them open to repeated extortion."
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Military feasibility: Would an attack be capable of disabling Iran's nuclear program?

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Yes

  • The U.S. is capable of destroying the key elements of the Iranian nuclear program.
    • Patrick Clawson, Deputy Director for Research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, argued on 9/25/06 that, "This would be the Navy and the Air Force, which are not overly committed in Afghanistan and Iraq," he said. "It would be quite a doable thing to destroy the key nodes in Iran's nuclear program.… There are some key nodes without which that program cannot function, and it would take a number of years to rebuild."
    • Globalsecurity.org points out, in maintaining that a crippling strike is possible, that "Many aircraft are still in the region supporting Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. The United States had aircraft at multiple locations throughout the Persian Gulf, including Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and Diego Garcia. While the number of aircraft in the region has declined significantly since the end of major hostilities in Iraq, the United States continues to have some number of F-15Es, F-16s, naval aircraft, and some unidentified number of heavy bombers in the region."
    • Senior Fellow for Science and Technology at the Council on Foreign Relations, Michael Levi writes, "The concern is that if an underground laboratory is deeply buried, that can also confound conventional weapons. But the depth of the Natanz facility—reports place the ceiling roughly 30 feet underground—is not prohibitive. The American GBU-28 weapon—the so-called bunker buster—can pierce about 23 feet of concrete and 100 feet of soil. Unless the cover over the Natanz lab is almost entirely rock, bunker busters should be able to reach it."
  • Israel has the capabilities to take out Iran's nuclear program. Newsweek's Kevin Peraino and John Barry report on 2/13/06 that, "'They are dispersed, underground, hardened,' says the senior Israeli military source. U.S. analysts say each facility would require multiple hits before serious damage was done. Still, the Israelis... insist they have all the firepower they need: more than 100 U.S.-made BLU-109 'bunker buster' earth-penetrating bombs. 'I think they could do the job,' says the senior Israeli source."
  • A military strike would be a sufficient set-back for the Iranian nuclear program. Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution Kenneth Pollack writes on page 392 of The Persian Puzzle that, "If the United States could destroy all, or even key elements, or Iran's nuclear program, it probably would not end the program, but it could set it back very considerably. Since the key is to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of the current regime, such a delay could be all that is necessary."
  • Iran's subterranean nuclear facilities are vulnerable to destruction: Globalsecurity.org argues, "Even though the uranium facility at Natanz has been buried underground, it remains vulnerable. As Lieutenant Colonel Eric M. Sepp noted, 'The "cut-and-cover" facilities are constructed by digging a hole, inserting a facility, and then covering it up with dirt and rocks. These cut-and-cover facilities can be just below the surface of the ground or may reach a depth of perhaps 100 feet, and represent the vast majority of underground facilities today. In the case of contemporary cut-and-cover facilities, there is no question that conventional munitions can defeat them.'"
  • A surgical military strike only requires hitting a few key targets Newsweek's Kevin Peraino and John Barry report on 2/13/06 that, "[Israeli] defense experts display no doubt whatsoever that Israel's Air Force can cripple Iran's nuclear program if necessary. The trick, they say, is to go after the system's weak spots. 'You need to identify the bottlenecks,' says a senior Israeli military source, asking not to be named for security reasons. 'There are not very many. If you take them out, then you really undermine the project.' Shlomo Brom, a former Israeli armed forces chief of strategic planning, says the destruction of two or three key facilities would probably suffice. He singles out the Natanz uranium-enrichment complex and the conversion plant at Esfahan as critical."
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No

  • Iran's multiple subterranean nuclear facilities are well protected against bombardment
    • Mark Levenstein "The case against attacking Iran" Foreign Policy Magazine 11/10/06 - "Some of Iran's nuclear facilities are underground, insulating them from bombardment, even from U.S. forces."
    • Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute Kenneth Pollack argues on 4/5/06 that, "The Iranians have very large tunnel complexes associated with their nuclear facilities. If we want to take out those tunnels, it is extraordinarily difficult for us to do so. There are planning cells in the Pentagon that are looking at this question, and the target tiers honestly keep coming back and saying it will require nuclear penetrator munitions to take out those tunnels. Could we do it with conventional munitions? Possibly. But it’s going to be very difficult to do so. And we may miss all of these centrifuges and all of this already manufactured uranium hexaflouride, which suggests that the Iranians can get to work a hell of a lot faster. They will have to necessarily rebuild Isfahan before they get to work on this. They might already have another facility that can substitute for Natanz if they’ve already got the uranium hexaflouride and the centrifuges ready to go."
  • An attack may not significantly set back the program.
    • Scholar at the Center for Conflict Analysis and Prevention Schlomo Brom writes in 'Is the Begin Doctrine Still a Viable Option for Israel?' of 10/2005 that, "It is very difficult to find in the Iranian nuclear program one vulnerable point that, once it is attacked and destroyed, the Iranian program is stopped or stalled for a long time. The Bushier nuclear power plant, which is relatively vulnerable to attacks, is not really a part of the military nuclear program, and it mostly serves as an excuse for an Iranian wish to have control over the full fuel cycle, namely building a capacity for uranium enrichment. Its attack would not have a real effect on the military program. The net effect is that any attempt to attack the Iranian nuclear program would necessitate sustainable attacks on a relatively large number of targets that are well-defended, passively and actively."
  • The U.S. and Israel do not have enough intelligence to successfully attack Iran. The Nonproliferation Policy Education Center argues on 9/13/04 that, "As for eliminating Iran’s nuclear capabilities militarily, the U.S. and Israel lack sufficient targeting intelligence to do this. In fact, Iran has long had considerable success in concealing its nuclear activities from U.S. intelligence analysts and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors (the latter recently warned against assuming the agency could find all of Iran’s illicit uranium enrichment activities). As it is, Iran could have already hidden all it needs to reconstitute a bomb program assuming its known declared nuclear plants are hit."
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Iranian response? Would Iran respond in a catastrophic fashion?

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Yes

  • An attack on Iran would cause a significant violent terrorist backlash by Iran. George Perkovich and Silvia Manzanero the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace argue in "Iran Gets the Bomb-Then What?" on 10/2005 that, "Iran does not lack means to deter and/or retaliate against military attacks against it. Iranian Revolutionary Guards reportedly have deployed action cells in Iraq. These cells appear not to have been activated yet, but rather are to provide capabilities to attack U.S. forces in the region if Iranian decision-makers judge it necessary to respond to U.S. actions in Iraq and/or against Iran. Nor can the possibility be dismissed that Iran has “terrorist” capabilities deployed in Europe, South America, or even the continental United States for activation “if necessary.”
  • Iran could undermine U.S. interests in Iraq.
    • James Carafano of the Heritage Foundation believes that, "There are no good military options. When you’re trying to stabilise Iraq and you’ve got this long border between Iran and Iraq, and you’re trying to keep the Iranians from interfering in Iraq so you can get the Iraq government up and running, you shouldn’t be picking a war with the Iranians. It just doesn’t make any sense from a geopolitical standpoint."
  • Iran has the capability to retaliate inside the U.S. The Nonproliferation Policy Education Center argues on 9/13/04 that, "Iran is likely to increase its assistance to groups willing to risk striking the U.S. News reports in August of 2004 claimed that Iranian diplomats assigned to UN headquarters in New York were to survey 29 American targets to help terrorist organizations interested in hitting the U.S."
  • A military strike would actually embolden the current Iranian regime. Senior Associate and Director for Non-Proliferation at the Carnegie Endowment Joseph Cirincione stated on 4/4/2006 that, "I believe a military strike would consolidate the hold of the Islamic government, not loosen it. If you want to keep President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad in power for the next five years, launch a strike on an Iranian facility. There is no doubt in my mind that the Iranian people would rally around the government and would become convinced that what the government has been telling them is true, that the main threat to the Iranian people comes from the United States or the U.S.-Israeli alliance."
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No

  • A military attack may endanger the current regime. On 4/5/2006 American Enterprise Institute’s Reuel Gerecht argued that, "I think what it does longer down the road is people realize that the regime has, in fact, taken—has taken the country on a collision course with the United States. I do not believe there are that many Iranians out there who really think that’s a good idea, even amongst the clergy. I think this is actually likely to cause a great deal of political convulsion to probably unstick the situation in Iran, which is right now I think rather frozen solid."
  • Iran is already undermining U.S. interests in Iraq; there's not much more they can do to retaliate there.
    • As Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty reports, "Defense Secretary Robert Gates has described as based on 'hard fact' U.S. assertions that an elite branch of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps is training and arming Shi'ite extremists in neighboring Iraq. U.S. President George W. Bush recently accused Iran's Quds Force of supplying weapons, including armor-piercing bombs, that were used to kill U.S. soldiers."
    • David Cloud of the International Herald Tribune reports on 2/16/2007 that, "[Defense Secretary Robert] Gates and General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, repeated Thursday that weapons used against U.S. troops were coming from Iran and that personnel from the Quds Force, a paramilitary arm of the Revolutionary Guards, were involved."
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Alternatives: Do non-military alternatives have the potential for success?

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Yes

  • Sanctions would dissuade Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon. The Weekly Standard's Olivier Guitta states on 2/19/07 that, "The evidence that sanctions could work is significant. Consider the economic picture inside Iran. A roughly 100-page report prepared by the foreign affairs and defense commission of the Majlis, the Iranian parliament, and dated September 2006 was recently leaked to the French daily Le Monde. The report underscores the vulnerability of the Iranian economy--especially the oil sector--to sanctions. At first glance, it might seem that a country with the second-largest gas and oil reserves in the world has nothing to worry about. But as the report notes, 85 percent of Iran's revenue comes from the sale of oil abroad. At the same time, Iran imports most of the refined products it uses, like gasoline. Iran consumes half a million barrels of petroleum products per day, of which 40 percent is imported, at a cost of $3 to 4 billion a year. Heightening the vulnerability of the Iranian economy to sanctions is the fact that half of its imports come from Western countries, including 40 percent from the European Union. In the event of sanctions, the bulk of Iranian industry would be paralyzed after just three to four months. Iran would lose between $1.5 and $2 billion in annual revenue. Not surprisingly, the authors of the report note: 'It is important to delay any measures which could affect the population because of the risks of instability.'"
  • A two-track approach to Iran could dissuade Tehran from pursuing a nuclear weapons program. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's George Perkovich, in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee on 2/1/06 stated, "First, Iran must perceive that severe international and domestic costs will attend acquisition of the bomb; second, Iran must perceive that major international and domestic benefits will attend decisions to produce nuclear energy based on internationally contracted fuel services. Thus far, the U.S. and other leading powers have neither demonstrated plausibly high costs to Iran, nor mind-changing benefits. The threats we pose are too implausible or weak, as are the benefits we offer."
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No

  • Iran will not trade away its nuclear program for other incentives.
    • Senior Fellow for Middle East Studies Ray Takeyh writes in the 12/21/2005 edition of The Financial Times that, "For Tehran, its nuclear programme is not one to be bartered away for European investments. Nor is the Russian offer likely to entice a regime that views its nuclear rights through a nationalistic prism. The populist appeal of Iran’s uncompromising stance, the inherent value of nuclear deterrence to a beleaguered regime and Iran’s suspicions of the international community militate against Tehran accepting the latest European mandates."
    • Kenneth Timmerman writes in his article "The Day after Iran Gets the Bomb" from 10/2005 that, "The United States repeatedly has offered to resume normal trade and investment, to hold a security dialogue with the regime, and to eschew the language of regime change, if only Iran would abandon other objectionable behavior—in particular, its support of international terrorist groups and its violent opposition to the Middle East peace process. If the Islamic Republic was unwilling to take up the offer when the costs were relatively low, why should it take the offer now when the costs are much higher? At best, the Islamic Republic might agree to a U.S. offer of trade and relations, in exchange for a pledge of no nuclear first use and no onward proliferation. But Iran’s leaders will take such a U.S. offer as a sign of weakness. Far from giving up its nuclear capability in exchange, the Iranian regime will insist that it be treated with respect as a new member of the nuclear club."
  • Those with power would not respond to sanctions because they are not motivated by economic concerns:
  • Negotiating with Iran would only validate and reward their activities. The Nonproliferation Policy Education Center writes on 9/13/04, "As for negotiating directly with Tehran to limit its declared nuclear program – an approach preferred by most of America’s European allies -- this too seems self-defeating. First, any deal the Iranian regime would agree to would only validate that the NPT legally allows its members to acquire all the capabilities Iran mastered. Second, it would foster the view internationally that the only risk in violating required NPT inspections would be to be caught and then bribed to limit only those activities the inspectors managed to discover."
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Public: Where does the public stand?

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Yes

  • Public opinion is irrelevant to justification In "Resolved: That the United States would be justified in pursuing military options against Iran", there is no need to prove public opinion is on your side of the debate. If the Con side argues that the public is against military options against Iran, debaters on the Pro side can claim not all actions generally approved of are just and actions not approved of aren't necessarily unjust.
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No

  • The majority of the American public opposes a war against Iran. According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll. Jan. 19-21, 2007. N=1,008 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3. 68% percent of people answered 'no' in response to the question, "If the U.S. government decides to take military action in Iran, would you favor or oppose it?" Only 26% would favor the action.
  • World opinion opposes an attack on Iran. According to a BBC Poll from 9/21/06 "World opinion opposes aggressive steps as a way of stopping a possible Iranian nuclear arms programme, according to a 25-nation poll for BBC World Service. The most popular course of action, with 39% support, was to use only diplomatic efforts; 11% favoured military strikes."
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US Government: Where does the Government stand?

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Yes

  • A House of Representatives vote: Center for Non-Proliferation Studies 2004 - "On May 6, 2004, the U.S. House of Representatives passed Resolution 398 in a 376-3 vote, calling on the U.S. government 'to use all appropriate means to deter, dissuade, and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.' If a similar resolution passes the Senate, it will give President Bush or any future administration the ability to launch a preemptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities whenever this is deemed necessary."
  • Vice President Dick Cheney supports a war against Iran. Agence France-Presse reports on 11/22/06 that, "US journalist Seymour Hersh also said at the weekend that White House hawks led by Vice President Dick Cheney were intent on attacking Iran with or without the approval of the US Congress, both houses of which switch from Republican to Democratic control in January after the November 7 legislative elections."
  • The Pentagon is preparing for war. The New York Times reports on 2/25/07 that, "American and British news reports — denied by American officials — have asserted that the United States is planning for a possible bombing campaign against Iranian nuclear targets. The New Yorker magazine reported this weekend that a Pentagon committee was planning a bombing attack that could be launched within a day of an order from President Bush. The New Yorker article, by the investigative journalist Seymour Hersh and quoting unidentified American intelligence officials, said the United States had also increased its clandestine activities inside Iran to identify possible targets and 'establish contact with anti-government ethnic-minority groups.'"
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No

  • The Bush administration is not planning on war. According to the The Hindu of 2/19/07 Press Secretary Tony Snow stated, "The President has made it clear. We're not planning a full-scale invasion into Iran. Instead, what we have said is, we are pursuing a diplomatic path to get the Iranians to rejoin the international community. We think it can be effective. We believe in diplomacy."
  • The Pentagon is preparing for war. The New York Times reports on 2/2507 that, "The Pentagon issued a strong denial of Mr. Hersh’s article, saying: 'The United States is not planning to go to war with Iran. To suggest anything to the contrary is simply wrong, misleading and mischievous.'"
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International: Where does the international community stand?

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Yes

  • The Israel Government has interests in preventing the power expansion in Iran.
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No

  • Russian Prime minister Vladmir Putin opposes any military action against Iran.

See also

You Tube Videos

Columbia University Lee bollinger introduced Iranian President Ahmadinejad.

President Ahmadinejad at Columbia

President Bush discussing the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq on December 4, 2007

MSNBC comparing the run-up to the war in Iraq to current rhetoric on Iran.

An anti-war video focused on Iran. Entertaining if nothing else.

An anti-war rap.

External links and resources


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