AJC Statement on Iranian Threat

The American Jewish Committee

Statement on the Iranian Threat

Adopted December 21, 2005, by the Executive Committee

The American Jewish Committee calls on the international community to act decisively to prevent the extremist and reckless Iranian regime from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Iran is hurtling toward nuclear arms capability. The rise of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who repeatedly flaunts his disregard for international norms and regional peace, elevates the threat to a level that demands an immediate response. Iran's massive and longstanding support for terrorist organizations - its proxies in carrying out attacks across the globe, in undermining Arab-Israeli reconciliation, and exerting Iran's political influence in the Middle East and beyond - suggest the havoc that a nuclear Iran, a potential nuclear proliferator to terrorists, will bring to the region and to the world. We urge world leaders to join in a robust international effort - working collectively, through the United Nations Security Council and other multilateral agencies, and as individual states - to halt this threat now, before it is too late.

President Ahmadinejad has unequivocally expressed his goal of exterminating Israel. On October, 26, 2005, he told thousands of students at a "World Without Zionism" conference that Israel is a "disgraceful blot" that should be "wiped off the map." He warned Muslim countries not to make peace with Israel, or they will "burn in the fire of the Islamic nation's fury." In the following weeks, President Ahmadinejad delivered tirades - including a speech before the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Mecca - denying both the Holocaust and Israel's right to exist as a sovereign state; on December 14, 2005, he referred to the Holocaust as "myth." He has asked God's assistance in creating "a world without the United States." Over the years, other senior Iranian officials have passionately declared their intention to destroy Israel; former President Ali Akhbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, in December 2001, openly called on Muslim states to develop and use a nuclear weapon to annihilate Israel - although, as he acknowledged, it would result in "damages" to Muslims, as well.

The Iranian regime's diatribes against Israel violate the basic principles of the United Nations Charter, notably Article 2 - which states that "all member states should refrain from threats or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state." They also present a major challenge to the concept of collective security enshrined in the Charter.

President Ahmadinejad's outrageous threats render Iran's rapid progress toward nuclear weapons capability intolerable. The international community must act forthrightly and immediately to halt this progress - bringing Iran before the UN Security Council with an unambiguous international regime to prevent it from acquiring the means to back its ominous threats with weapons of mass destruction.

Proposed measures

AJC appreciates the earnest efforts of the last two years, led by the United Kingdom, Germany and France (the EU-3), with support from the United States, to negotiate an end to Iran's nuclear ambitions. But by now, the evidence of Iran's lack of seriousness in these negotiations is clear; absent new leadership and new policies in Tehran, it is time to recognize the futility of negotiating further.

We thus implore officials of our and other governments to confer on the most urgent basis and adopt appropriate measures - with the broadest possible consensus - to demonstrate the world's abhorrence with the Iranian President's remarks, its condemnation of Iran's record on terrorism, and its resolve to stymie Iran's destructive intentions and terminate Iran's rapid advance toward nuclear autonomy. Most importantly, in accordance with Article XII of the IAEA Statute, states should cease providing any assistance to Iran's nuclear program, and should bring the issue of Iran's violations of non-proliferation agreements in its development of nuclear weapons capability before the UN Security Council. Suitable measures at this stage include:

  • nuclear sanctions - terminating all support for Iran's nuclear program, including selling or otherwise providing expertise, intelligence, equipment, material, or facility construction; adopting appropriate international means to enforce this ban (e.g., via the Proliferation Security Initiative);

  • diplomatic and political sanctions - such as recalling foreign envoys to Iran and expelling Iranian envoys abroad, canceling official visits, suspending interparliamentary and other exchanges, condemning Iran in the Security Council, suspending Iran from international political (including the IAEA and other UN bodies), scientific, cultural, and sports associations, agencies and exchanges;

  • economic sanctions - such as establishing full or partial trade embargoes, denying access to Western capital markets, denying financial and technical assistance in the exploitation of Iran's petroleum reserves, restricting Iranian access to refined petroleum imports, conditioning Iran's entry into the World Trade Organization, and suspending World Bank assistance to Iran.

  • personal sanctions - such as denying visas to selected Iranian officials, and blocking such officials' assets in financial institutions abroad;

  • military sanctions - ceasing all military sales, assistance, and cooperation with Iran;

Iran already has an extensive nuclear infrastructure in place, and it is only a few steps from achieving nuclear weapons autonomy; it needs only to enhance its capacity to convert and enrich uranium. Estimates vary, but U.S. and other experts generally predict that, unless it is stopped, Iran can be expected to master the full fuel cycle within the next one to two years - and possibly by mid-2006. It will then have the knowledge and facilities to produce nuclear weapons within several years - without any further foreign assistance. Iran already has the proven ballistic missile capability to deliver such weapons across the Middle East - and to countries in Europe, Africa, and elsewhere in Asia. Its recent acquisition of ballistic missiles with a range of up to 3,000 kilometers heightens the potential threat.

On December 5, 2005, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the Iranians are trying to complete the full nuclear fuel cycle as quickly as possible, and that if the world allows Iran's nuclear enrichment plant to become fully operational, Tehran could be only a few months away from a nuclear bomb. Even conservative assessments put Iran only four to ten years from producing nuclear weapons.

The goal of the international action we urge is to assure that Iran ceases its efforts to enrich and convert uranium; allows full IAEA access to all sites, facilities and personnel engaged in its nuclear program; and ratifies and adheres to the Additional Protocol to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, an article strengthening IAEA safeguards to verify that non-nuclear-weapon NPT signatories use nuclear materials and facilities only for peaceful purposes.

A record of deception

Iran has consistently deceived the international community regarding its nuclear activities. It hid every element of its extensive program for eighteen years - including from IAEA inspectors, flagrantly violating its NPT commitments. Iran continues to dissemble and cover up important nuclear facilities and activities, concealing them from international controls - according to IAEA and U.S. government reports. During the past two years, while Iran has engaged in negotiations with the European Union, it has repeatedly deceived its negotiating partners, violated or reneged on its commitments, and continued developing its nuclear program - openly admitting that it is exploiting the time gained in fruitless talks to make further progress. As part of an agreement with the EU-3, Iran had briefly suspended its nuclear fuel cycle activities - but it has now resumed its efforts, despite an IAEA demand that the suspension continue.

Even without nuclear capacity, Iran's government has been a profoundly destabilizing force in the Middle East and the world beyond. Since coming to power in 1979, the Iranian regime has been intent on exporting its own brand of fanatical totalitarianism to other parts of the region and beyond, interfering in the internal affairs of other countries - notably Lebanon, and using methods of subversion, repression and intimidation to advance its goals.

Today, Iran stands at the pinnacle of the world's state sponsors of terrorism - harboring, financing, training, and arming Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad. Iran furthers its extremist international agenda largely through its proxy, the terrorist organization Hezbollah - a group responsible for deadly attacks against American, French, Argentine, Saudi, Lebanese, Israeli and other nationals. Former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage called Hezbollah the "A-Team" of terrorist organizations.

Iran's support of international terrorism blatantly violates UN Security Council resolutions - particularly resolution 1373, which calls upon all states to refrain from harboring, sponsoring, and financing terrorist organizations. The Iranian regime's support of Hezbollah, in partnership with Syria, violates Security Council resolution 1559, which calls for the dismantlement of all armed militias in Lebanon. Moreover, Iran has equipped Hezbollah with more than 10,000 rockets and missiles that are aimed at Israel along the Lebanese border, threatening large areas in Northern Israel. Iran and Syria bear primary responsibility for the volatile situation along the Israeli-Lebanese border.

Unless it is stopped, this Iranian regime - theocratic, belligerent, ambitious and reckless - is as little as months away from nuclear cycle autonomy, and no more than ten years from producing a nuclear arsenal. Nuclear status could embolden Iran yet further - leading to confrontations that escalate out of control. The international community's options for responding would then be severely curtailed, for fear of triggering a nuclear response. The world must not allow itself to be in the position of relying on President Ahmadinejad's, or the reigning mullahs', self-restraint or good judgment to avoid a nuclear calamity. The possibility of Iranian nuclear weapons falling into the hands of Iran's terrorist proxies - particularly Hezbollah - is horrifying.

The American Jewish Committee calls on the international community to act boldly against the looming Iranian nuclear threat, to bring Iran before the Security Council, and to consider urgently a full range of nationally imposed and international sanctions. We ask the United States to accelerate its diplomatic efforts to attain full international cooperation in ending all support for Iran's nuclear program - and to report openly on the cooperation of other states in meeting this fundamental security obligation. We urge world leaders to unite in a vigorous international effort to defuse the Iranian threat now, before it is too late.
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