Politics & Policy

A Defining Moment

A mission for the United Nations, Iran, and the world.

Just over sixty years ago, in the wake of atomic destruction and the horrors of Holocaust, world leaders united to say “never again.” This week, world leaders are giving a platform to Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a man who has opened the door to both: He calls for the elimination of a nation and pursues the means that would allow him to carry it out. Instead of inviting him to speak at the United Nations and Columbia University, he should be indicted under the Genocide Convention.

In prior conflicts, the signs of impending disaster were clear in hindsight. In their wake, we asked how the world’s leaders had ignored and abdicated their responsibility to humanity. Yet, the gathering storm of the Iranian regime’s vision of genocide, terror, and nuclear weapons is all too clear today. Far from hiding his intentions, Ahmadinejad held a conference to deny the Holocaust. His frequent incitement to destroy the state of Israel has numbed many to the point that statements such as “Israel cannot continue its life” or “Israel must be wiped off the earth” are met with silence from most world leaders. Yet, voices from such divergent political viewpoints as Nobel Prize Winner Elie Wiesel, human-rights advocate and former Canadian Minister Of Justice Irwin Cotler, former Ambassador John Bolton, and law professor Alan Dershowitz have called for Ahmadinejad to be indicted for inciting genocide.

If the principles of the U.N.’s founders and the harsh lessons from past genocide have any meaning, our leaders must act now to confront the Iranian regime’s terrorist, genocidal, and nuclear ambitions. Iran’s progress toward nuclear weapons makes its threats ominous and unprecedented. Iran’s support for terrorist groups like Hezbollah is linked to attacks as far away as Argentina, and has destabilized U.N. member states ranging from Lebanon, to Iraq, to Israel. As General David Petraeus testified earlier this month, Iran is fueling the violence killing American soldiers in Iraq and is threatening to engulf the region in a wider war. Furthermore, Iran publicly defies the U.N. Security Council as it races towards nuclear-weapons capabilities and promises to spread its technology to others. The hope that Iran can be contained like the Soviet Union during the Cold War ignores reality — the Soviet Union was not led by religious fanatics who celebrate suicidal martyrdom.

At Israel’s Herzliya Conference in January, I called for the world’s leaders to speak three truths: Iran’s dangerous actions must be stopped, they can be stopped and they will be stopped. The United States, our allies, and the world must pursue a comprehensive strategy based on five pillars.

First, we must put Iran in diplomatic isolation. Rather than invite its leaders to address world forums, they should be treated like a pariah. Indicting Ahmandinejad under the Genocide Convention should be a first step. Rather than dignify the world’s most prominent sponsor of terror with unconditional meetings such as Senator Barack Obama has pledged, America and united leaders should show moral indignation.

Second, we must tighten economic sanctions against Iran. These sanctions should be as least as severe as the sanctions imposed on apartheid South Africa. The effort to economically isolate the Iranian regime should build on the important efforts of the U.S. Treasury Department by restricting credit and capital. State pension funds should divest from companies doing substantial business in Iran. And, we must endeavor to persuade nations like China to abandon their economic activity with the Iranian regime.

Third, Arab states must join this effort to address the Iranian threat. These states can help by supporting Iraq’s democratically-elected government, turning down the temperature of the Arab-Israeli conflict, stopping the financial and weapons flows to Hamas and Hezbollah, thawing relations with Israel, and telling the Palestinians they must drop terror and recognize Israel’s right to exist.

Fourth, we must market and communicate to the people of Iran that becoming a nuclear nation is a source of peril, not pride. Iranians must understand that if any of the nuclear material their nation develops falls into the hands of terrorists and is used, the response from the world would be directed not only at the terrorists, but also at the nation that supplied the fissile material. And the response would be devastating.

Fifth, our strategy should be integrated with an expansive approach to the entire world of Islam. The United States, our allies and friends must support progressive Muslim communities and leaders battling radical jihadists. I have called for the creation of a Partnership for Prosperity and Progress that would help provide the tools and funding to provide secular public schools, micro credit and banking, the rule of law, adequate health care, human rights, and competitive economic policies. We must also strengthen public diplomacy through both government and independent foundations. We should establish regional security arrangements that unite and solidify our alliances. Only Muslims will be able to permanently defeat the radical jihadist threat. We should help them any way we can.

The world is looking to our leaders to meet the challenge of a rogue nation, bent on obtaining nuclear weapons. Failure to do so would diminish the legacy of those who fought and died in World War II and of all victims of genocide and terror. We are long past the time for political correctness and accommodation of Ahmadinejad’s outrageous rhetoric. It is time to speak clearly and frankly, to strengthen alliances and build new ones, and to act with unity and decisiveness against a ruler who threatens to reintroduced the world to the horrors of nuclear devastation and holocaust.

— Mitt Romney is the former governor of Massachusetts. He is running for the Republican nomination for president.


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