Monday, August 14, 2006

Brownback: The Folly of Iran's Arrogance

Sam Brownback, CNN News:
Iran's authoritarian leaders repeatedly tell us they need to maintain their uranium enrichment program. But we know they have no need for a civil nuclear energy program, and the Iranian people do not stand to profit from nuclear power given the country's huge oil resources. I believe that Iran's leaders know that they are not acting on behalf of their own people. I believe they are acting on their own behalf.

Instead of using their wealth to empower their citizens, they hope to develop nuclear weapons to protect themselves. Iran's leaders believe that with nuclear weapons the international community will not dare object to any threat they might make against their neighbors, let alone the regime's repression of its own people.

History shows the folly of such arrogance. Soviet leaders presumed their nuclear arsenal gave them the ability to operate with impunity and would allow them to remain in power indefinitely. They eventually discovered that nuclear weapons did not ensure the success of their military adventures, and they ultimately realized their nuclear arsenal could not conceal the repression of their people. Despite thousands of warheads, Soviet communism crumbled. READ MORE

How did all of this happen? The United States and our allies stood firm in the face of Soviet aggression and refused to limit the conversation to nuclear weapons. The Soviet Union collapsed because its nuclear weapons and dictators could not withstand the pressure the world applied by standing against Soviet aggression while prying open Soviet society.

Iran's leaders face a similar situation. They can attempt to hide behind a nuclear wall, but they will not escape the world's pressure to reform or the ultimate power of the Iranian people to choose their own destiny. The nuclear weapons that Iran's leaders hope will guarantee their survival will actually ensure their downfall.

As with the Soviet Union, while the United States must stand up to Iranian aggression and should not rule out military options, there is much we can do without firing a shot.

We must remind the Iranian people that we stand with them. We must continue to support democracy and human rights reforms in Iran. And most importantly, we must make sure that Iran's leaders hear all of our concerns about their behavior.

If we discuss only nuclear weapons, we play into the hands of the brutal rulers in Tehran. If we take every opportunity to remind Iran's leaders and the rest of the world of the Iranian government's repression of its people, its terrible human rights record, and its support for terrorism, we can demonstrate that even a nuclear arsenal would not excuse the regime's arrogant and reckless behavior.

In the coming days Iran's leaders face a choice. They can give up their enrichment program and take the first steps toward joining the international community, or they can build a nuclear wall and hide behind it. In either case, the United States should deliver the same message to Iran's leaders: Treat your people justly and behave responsibly in your relations with your neighbors and the rest of the world.

History shows that nuclear weapons do not spare tyrannical rulers from the ultimate triumph of the people they claim to lead. Democracy and human rights are the true guarantors of long-term peace and stability for a nation and its rulers.