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Iran's Presence Reminds Us to Be Cautious

October 1, 2007
Weekly Columns

Last week Columbia University in New York City invited the President of Iran to speak before students and faculty during a World Leaders Forum. While speaking at the event, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke in a manner that gave frightening insight into the mind of a reckless leader who appears to be seeking the materials to create nuclear weapons. That should concern every world leader and all nations.

During the question and answer time, the conversation with Ahmadinejad was peppered with questions about the stifling treatment of women in Iran, the country's apparent desire to build nuclear weapons, and the country's support for Islamic extremists. He responded by claiming that Iran is a progressive nation that treats women with equality, that they only want nuclear capabilities to run power plants, and that Iran is too cultured to resort to terrorism. These comments came from a man who denies that the Holocaust occurred. Clearly he is not an individual the United States, or the world for that matter, can trust. That is unfortunate, for Iran is a significant and important power that we must deal with in the years ahead.

President Ahmadinejad's presence in the U.S. this past week has raised more questions about Iran's aggressive behavior. Ever since Iranian revolutionaries stormed the U.S. Embassy and held Americans hostage in 1979 and 1980, we have kept a watchful eye on Iran and its radical leaders. And when Iran recklessly breaks treaties to seek enriched uranium, the key material needed to produce a nuclear bomb, that action should certainly get the world's attention.

I believe that there must be better safeguards in place to monitor this situation and keep the world informed of Iran's race to develop the potential to build nuclear weapons. As a result, last week I voted with 396 of my other colleagues in favor of the Iran Counter-Proliferation Act of 2007. This legislation will institute additional import and export sanctions against Iran and encourage President Bush to determine if the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Iran's army, should be designated as a terrorist organization.

Confronting Iran should not require the use of U.S. forces at this point, but should be driven diplomatically to keep Iran in check. Iran has actively pursued a greater role in the world power arena without making measurable efforts to give civil rights to its citizens or adhere to the norms of diplomatic behavior. Until there are considerable changes in Iran, its actions must be watched carefully by the world's leaders. I am hopeful, however, that we can eventually encourage Iran to turn away from its reckless course and adhere to the norms of international behavior. Neither Iran nor America will benefit from a military confrontation. Our leaders know that, I hope Iran's leaders do as well.