Lianna Stroster, Columnist
Ideology: Liberal Democrat | Writing from: Washington, DC

The United Nations Security Council, European leaders, and the United States have all made a concerted effort to stop Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon.  Iran has claimed to be increasing its uranium enrichment for energy purposes, not for weapons – but their nuclear program has been deemed to pose a serious threat. Yet the latest set of economic sanctions on Iran, pressed by the Obama administration, raises questions about the efficacy of diplomatic relations; it is telling that this is the fourth set of sanctions on Iran over nuclear issues. But a diplomatic effort made by the United States and its Security Council partners is a better option than a military strike on Iran to prevent them from acquiring such a weapon.

The Associated Press reported Sunday morning that Defense Secretary Robert Gates believes that “the new U.N. penalties [have] a ‘reasonable chance’ of persuading Iran’s clerical leadership to end what the U.S. claims is its drive to build a bomb.” Currently, the United States estimates that “Iran is one to three years away from being able to build a crude weapon. It would take longer to perfect ways of delivering it.”

Yet this fourth round of sanctions may not fully curtail Iran’s nuclear ambitions. “You showed bad temper, reneged on your promise, and again resorted to devilish manners,” remarked Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in an address, aimed at the Security Council members who voted in favor of the sanctions. He continued, “You have behaved badly, but we have terms which will punish you and make you sit at the negotiating table like a polite child.” Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders are seeminglyunfazed by such slaps on the wrist from the UN. Ceasing trade and communication with the United States has only energized Iran, leading to the important question: should these sanctions prove ineffective, is there a case to go to war with Iran should the sanctions fail? More importantly, would President Obama pursue that route?

Scholars such as M.J. Rosenberg, the former Director of Policy Analysis for Israel Policy Forum, have said the developing situation in Iran with nuclear weapons mirrors the situation a few years ago in Iraq with weapons of mass destruction.  Rosenberg argues that “the supposed WMDs were just a pretense” and without widespread support from the international community, the United States invaded and began fighting the unpopular Iraq war.   President Obama campaigned on learning from the mistakes of the Bush administration, and it seems unlikely that he would act alone against Iran.

War with Iran could have catastrophic consequences – not just in Iran and the US but in other parts of the world and would further destabilize an already-fragile region. “Military action would further destabilize the region, increase the threat of terrorism and dash any hope for meaningful negotiations toward a just and lasting peace between the Israelis and Palestinians,” warned Congresswoman Barbara Lee. The divided and anti-Western Middle East not be able to withstand another US invasion and could break the already-strained camel’s back. From the Israelis fighting against the Palestinians, Iraq and Afghanistan struggling to govern themselves, Pakistan falling to pieces, local economies failing, and anti-U.S. riots raging, it is unquestionable that such a war could force nations in the region to choose sides. And it would be no surprise to see a number of them side with Iran.

As an advocate of peace, not war, one can only hope that such diplomatic means will be the resolution to preventing Iran from acquiring a crude weapon.  Nevertheless, reality forces us to confront such an ugly truth: how much longer can the United States and its Security Council allies continue on the ineffective diplomatic path Iran? Until Iran has developed a nuclear weapon and World War Three has started?