As seen in the Vice-Presidential Debate last Thursday, Iran has become a hot topic for the 2012 election. Although both Democrats and Republicans agree that Iran should not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons, each side differs on how to handle the situation. This disagreement has sparked intense debate between the candidates and foreign policy experts around the country.
While Obama clearly remains committed to preventing Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons, Romney has challenged the President by calling him weak on Iran. Obama continues to use diplomatic pressure and sanctions on Iran to force the regime to submit to international nuclear standards. Romney, on the other hand, has called for tougher sanctions on Iran, even going so far as to state that military options should not be taken off the table.
The issue of Iran has been an ongoing debate for the past decade. Iran continues to produce enriched uranium, claiming that it is trying to develop a peaceful nuclear energy program. Many countries, including the United States, claim that this nuclear program will be used to develop nuclear weapons to be deployed against Iran’s enemies. Iran’s actions have sparked international cooperation to halt the country’s nuclear programs.
The United Nations has an organization called the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that regulates the international nuclear field. This group seeks to ensure that nuclear programs are used to develop energy for peaceful means rather than create nuclear weapons. This agency has sought to inspect Iran’s nuclear programs, but Iran has refused to cooperate.
While the UN has not put official sanctions on Iran, many countries around the world have imposed their own sanctions. The United States has imposed sanctions on the country, specifically refusing to buy Iranian oil. Furthermore, the U.S. continues to patrol the Strait of Hormuz to prevent Iran from blocking it off and controlling the oil market.
The EU issued an oil embargo several months ago on Iran. Recently, they have placed even more sanctions on the country in the areas of finance and trade. These sanctions are crippling the Iranian economy since the EU is a major trading partner of Iran. Every country imposing sanctions is hoping to force Iran to cooperate with the IAEA on its nuclear programs.
The Israel Factor
One factor complicating negotiations with Iran is Israel. Both countries are sworn enemies, and at times have been at the brink of war. One reason for this is the declaration by Iran’s leaders that they hope to destroy the state of Israel, and their denial of the Holocaust having occurred. These statements have frightened and angered Israelis.
Initially, many believed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel would strike Iran’s nuclear facilities. However, he seems to have moved away from this policy and favors more sanctions on Iran. Since the EU and the United States have enacted these sanctions, a strike against Iran from Israel appears unlikely.
However, Netanyahu continues to leave a strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities as a possibility. A strike would easily prompt retaliation from Iran, creating a new war in the Middle East. The United States and other nations hope to avoid this, so they have been working hard to ensure that Iran’s nuclear programs come under UN investigation soon.
A Missed Opportunity?
During the 2009 Iranian presidential elections, protestors appeared in the streets after what many claim was a fraudulent election. Known as the Green Movement, the protestors hoped to convince Iranian leaders that reform was needed in the regime.
The movement was extremely large, and Iran has not seen that many protestors in the streets since the revolution in 1979. In response to the protests, the Iranian government began to arrest protestors to quell the movement. Security forces also began to fire tear gas at protestors to force them to leave the streets.
During the Green Movement, many called on the Obama administration to assist the protestors in their struggle against the Iranian government. However, the administration decided against intervening in Iranian affairs. This led to criticism from many Republican leaders, and has become a major criticism launched by the Romney campaign. Romney claims that President Obama should have helped the Green Movement when it arose rather than let it be destroyed by the Iranian government.
Just days ago, cyber-attacks were launched against American banks and oil industries in the Middle East. U.S. intelligence forces believe the source of the attacks was from Iran. If true, this will bolster American fears of Iran and make the issue that much more important in the 2012 election.
This leads in to tomorrow night, which will be the second presidential debate between Obama and Romney. Although the debate is not devoted to foreign policy like the third debate will be, foreign policy questions will most likely appear in the town hall style debate. Iran will certainly be a hot topic in these questions, as it was in the VP Debate. Although the issue of Iran will not decide the outcome of the election, it is an issue that voters may keep in mind as they head to the polls in a few weeks.