Nick Autiello, Staff Writer – Debut Column
Ideology: Moderate Republican | Writing From: Boca Raton, Florida

When President Obama came into office, he promised that he would take serious action against Iran unless they made concessions to the world community regarding their nuclear activities. Well, Mr. President, the end of the year is here, and not only has Iran not made any concessions, they have dramatically denied the opportunity to do so. Last week, the IAEA overwhelmingly approved a resolution rebuking Iran’s nuclear activities. They demanded that it stop all construction on its recently revealed Qom nuclear plant, and offered a reasonable compromise under which Iran would ship its spent nuclear fuel to Russia for reprocessing. Iran would be prevented from developing nuclear weapons but still be able to access to civilian nuclear technology (which Iran has every right to as a signatory to the Nonproliferation Treaty). But alas, those ever-pragmatic Iranians rejected this compromise, shouting that it is their national right to the full fuel cycle, and that the rest of the world is singling out Iran. India and Israel, they argue, actually have nuclear weapons and barely anybody cared when they got them.

There is little question the Iranians want nuclear weapons. However, they can hardly be blamed for this: at time when the United States essentially borders Iran to the east and west and with three nuclear powers in the region. If Iran were to ever dominate the region, it would need nuclear weapons. There is no hard evidence that the Iranians are in fact developing nuclear weapons, but the circumstantial evidence is undeniable: there is no reason to keep the construction of a uranium enrichment plant secret unless it is being used for weapons research. The argument of President Ahmadinejad that Iran is not required to report domestic construction activities under the NPT is almost as ridiculous as Lafayette telling the crowd in Paris that Louis XVI had been “abducted” when he fled France in 1791. And of those missiles they derive so much pleasure from parading around? Well, would a county that isn’t developing nuclear weapons really need missiles capable of delivering them? And if you’re still unconvinced, the three countries that voted against the IAEA resolution were Cuba, Venezuela and Malaysia. When Russia and China are both fed up with Iran’s shenanigans, it clearly means that its time to get serious.

So the question becomes, how serious do we get? Obama has lost all political capital in Iran. He recorded a wonderful “Happy New Year” message over the summer that was laughed at by the Iranian power structure. Ahmadinejad successfully convinced a good portion of the Iranian population that the United States was behind the riots after their disputed presidential election in June. And now, having rejected the most reasonable offer they’re going to receive from the international community, Iran has proved John McCain right – they can’t be negotiated with. But is “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” the solution? No way.

Saying that the military option is still on the table with Iran is ridiculous. We can’t invade the country, and strategic air strikes would only work if we get every single nuclear plant in the country. Who knows how many are out there we don’t know about yet? So now it’s time for sanctions – but real sanctions. The international community needs to bring Iran to its knees. It needs to show the Iranian leadership that they cannot isolate themselves from the world, and if they try, the world will isolate Iran right back. The threat of Iran stopping oil sales is empty, so empty in fact that when they recently threatened to do so, the oil market completely ignored it. Some have called for a naval blockade of the Strait of Hormuz. It’s an interesting proposition; the United States would need to garner international support for such a blockade, bringing an international flotilla up to the Gulf and stopping all Iranian exports. Would it be painful for those who import from Iran? Of course it would, but unless the international community is willing to make sacrifices, Iran will have the bomb before we know it. A blockade would bring Iran’s economy to its knees, and the Iranian people will demand change. And if then, the mullahs don’t change their attitude toward nuclear development, then a poverty-stricken and hungry people will do what we’ve been waiting for since 1979: take the oppressive theocracy out of power and install a new government that is willing to open up relations with the world and afford its citizens the basic rights all human beings deserve. The United States can in no way be directly involved in any regime change, but policies aimed at forcing the Iranian people to throw out the mullahs should be sung from the mountaintops. And the first step in democratizing and preventing a nuclear Iran would be sanctions.

Nick Autiello is a sophomore at Florida International University majoring in Political Science. He has worked for the Charlie Crist, Rudy Guiliani and John McCain campaigns.