Time is running out to prevent a global regime where radicals, terrorists and serial human-rights abusers hold the balance of power.
Only days ago, Iran began loading uranium fuel rods into the core of its first nuclear power plant at Bushehr. While many in the international community played down the significance of Bushehr, it is emblematic of an illegal nuclear policy that could spell the end of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)-perhaps the most important pillar of global security.
An Iranian bomb must be stopped not only for what it could physically wreak on its neighbors and the world at large, but for the paradigm-breaking order that could result if Iran is able to achieve nuclear weaponization.
Many neighboring governments have already said that they will fast-track their own nascent nuclear programs toward weapons capability if Iran acquires the bomb. This domino effect could spread further around the globe, thus tearing the NPT to shreds. Nuclear weapons would become so commonplace that any of the more than 100 current conflicts around the world could come to a devastating conclusion with the flick of a switch.
The nations soon to acquire nuclear weapons will not be decent democracies. As recent history has shown, it’s countries like North Korea, Saddam’s Iraq, Iran, and Libya that have attempted to build the atom bomb. Repressive regimes are seeking to provide the impetus for a new global regime where radicals, terrorists and serial human-rights abusers will hold the balance of power.
The greater the number of nuclear powers, the more likely that terrorist organizations will be able to acquire atomic weapons. The possibility of “dirty bombs” exploding in a major metropolitan area would become more real. Al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists make no secret that they hold such intentions. The explosion of just one “dirty bomb” in a major city would have devastating effects, which would be measured not just in human casualties but in the long-term health of the world’s economies and political institutions. Such an act would turn inhabitants of the Western world into fearful hostages of terrorists, resulting in the moral and psychological collapse of our civilization.
Forceful action by all democratic nations is needed to counter Iran in particular and the threats of nuclear weapons in general. While the recent sanctions against Tehran by the United Nations, the European Union, the U.S., Canada and others are vital, their importance lies in their implementation, and in their ability to bring other countries on board. It is imperative that nations forego their short-term financial considerations to safeguard a future free of the threat of nuclear weapons proliferation.
Seventy years ago considerations of “economic expediency” spurred the Soviet Union, Britain, France and the United States to cooperate with Nazi Germany. Far from the path to realism and pragmatism, this proved to be the biggest mistake of the 20th century. It seems that some in the international community are ready to repeat that mistake.
The 2010 Prague Summit and the signing of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the U.S. and Russia demonstrated the obvious benefits of close cooperation between Russia and the U.S.-and potentially all democratic nations-in countering new global challenges and threats.
But while the battle against environmental damage, for example, has produced international action, the most immediate danger facing the world today-the proliferation of nuclear weapons-has not attracted similar attention. If we want to reverse this looming threat to our security and civilization, we can’t afford to lose any more time.
Mr. Kantor is president of the European Jewish Congress and founder and
president of The International Luxembourg Forum on Preventing Nuclear Catastrophe