On August 5, 2008, Iran sent a one-page letter to the United Nations indicating it would not agree to the economic proposals presented by Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia and the United States in exchange for a freeze on Iranian nuclear enrichment. Further, in response to an Israeli Air Force demonstration it could reach Iran nuclear facilities, Iran announced it has a missile capable of sinking ships 300 km away and would close the Strait of Hormuz if it is attacked.
The U.N. members indicate they will now work towards a third round of economic sanctions. Time may not be on the side of sanctions, however, as Israel remains demonstrably concerned, for good reason, that an Iran with nuclear weapons is too untenable a situation for the security of Israel. This may become one of the most significant foreign policy issues for Congress in January 2009.
Below is the question recently asked by the Associated Press to all candidates regarding Iran, Israel and the nuclear development in Iran. The Associated Press released its combined news story this week. What ends up in an AP story, however, after the cutting for space, is about three sentences per candidate. Please review Jim Steiner's thoughtful analysis of the nuclear issues between Iran, Israel, the United Nations and the impact on the United States .
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Iran's recent war games and tests of a long-range missile have raised worries of yet another Middle Eastern conflict _ this time involving Iran, Israel and perhaps the United States and Israel 's allies. Would you vote to support military action against Iran? If so, under what circumstances? If not, how would you as a member of Congress steer the two countries away from war and down a different path?
[The end of July], the United States attempted to send a strong message to Iran, by allowing William Burns, the third-highest ranking U.S. diplomat, to attend the meeting that included an Iranian diplomat regarding Iran's nuclear program. The Iranians rebuffed the UN and the United States. The U.N., in giving Iran two more weeks to respond to stop its enrichment program, has begun a deadline towards further sanctions, but there is no indication the Iranians are willing to negotiate. It is clear from the Israeli Air Force rehearsal over the Mediterranean of a long-range deep-penetration air strike that the window of opportunity is closing on a peaceful resolution regarding Iran and its nuclear capability.
Only recently, Secretary Burns testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee and noted the pariah status actions by the Iranian leadership have caused for that country. It has few allies and must import most of its refined oil. It is desparate to be recognized as a power broker, but it has little power to project and a devastated economy. That does not bode well when one considers the psychology of convincing Iran it can "win" by refuting enrichment programs as to nuclear power. The mere controversy over its enrichment program brings it the kind of publicity it so actively seeks. The prime example of how nuclear power can be used effectively, however, is S. Korea, where nuclear power is not enriched or reprocessed for weapons development and the country enjoys a robust economy.
As you may know, I spent time in Israel during my service as a Green Beret, after training with Israelis, Lebanese, and Egyptians, among others from the greater Middle Eastern region. One of my Israeli colleagues is now the two-star general representing his country as the senior defense attaché at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. In the last six months Major General Benny Gantz and I have resumed the same kind of informal discussions we used to hold when we were both but captains in our respective military forces.
As to the diplomatic effort being made, I support lifting the economic sanctions currently imposed on Iran, as proposed by the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany, if Iran agrees to freeze its enrichment activities and allows verifiable inspection to confirm compliance. It is verifiable inspections that will prove to be the key to a diplomatic solution. It was, in part, the uncertainty created by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein failing to allow verifiable compliance inspections that led to the current military situation in that country.
If a diplomatic solution is not soon achieved the next Congress, and President, may very well face a world crisis over an attack by Israel to forestall nuclear weapons development in Iran. If the intelligence is strong enough, and diplomatic resolution stalled too long, action may very well occur, indeed, in my opinion is likely to occur.
It is not likely, however, that the President or the U.S. Congress will be required to consider war with Iran. Iran, even with its missile force, can project itself only within the confines of the Persian Gulf region. The United States will be required to defend itself if Israel concludes it must attack, as Iran's radical leaders have made it clear it will treat an Israeli attack as being an attack by the United States. That reasoning is well-understood on many levels, including the fact that the United States offers far more potential targets Iran can actually reach from its country than does Israel , including our naval forces in the Persian Gulf Suffice it to note, however, that our military is already on war alert in the Persian Gulf and remains quite capable of defending itself.
As a member of Congress in January 2009 I will vote to support our long-time ally and friend Israel if it concludes that a line has passed justifying immediate military action. I do not say that lightly. There is no doubt in my mind that the leadership of Israel will not act without sufficient intelligence regarding the threat by Iran. At stake is the protection of her citizens, no differently than the U.S. Congress and the President have the duty to protect Americans.
An attack will occur only if the ongoing efforts at a diplomatic solution has run its course. Unfortunately, the latest message from Iran is to ignore the U.N. and Germany, and the offer being made. Congress can provide some voice in this unfolding arena by making it clear that the United States joins with other U.N. members in expecting Iran to open its nuclear facilities to complete inspection. Nothing short of that is acceptable. Anything not open to inspection invites suspicion that there is indeed something Iran is hiding.
Remember, we are talking about Iran, a country whose leadership routinely has fired off such rhetoric as to call for the destruction of Israel , continues to support financially and militarily the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon, supplies weapons in Iraq to our enemies, and which in recent years held an international conference to denounce the Holocaust as a fraud. There is every reason for Israel to take seriously the threat posed by a nuclear Iran, as must the United States and other neighboring Persian Gulf countries.
During my trips to Israel I appreciated the maturity of the Israeli military leaders with whom I worked. They place a first priority on the protection of the Israeli people. I visited the Golan Heights just 10 years after the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and observed firsthand the furthest point of penetration by Syrian tanks during that war. Those tanks stopped because the Syrians did not believe they would truly get that far, so they had no orders for exploiting beyond that point. That delay proved sufficient for Israeli military reserves to move forward through what would otherwise have been undefended towns and villages had the Syrians continued to advance. As the Israeli officers with whom I worked noted repeatedly, using the Syrian bridge advance as an example, Israel can win every battle of the next war, but if the last one is lost, the country is lost. Not just in 1973, but during other wars, Israel 's ability to defend herself has been tested. Now is potentially another such time.
The United States is at a dangerous intersection, not unlike intersections of the past. We as a country were unable to gain sufficient timely intelligence on Japan's intended attack at Pearl Harbor and we entered war. The Cuban missile crisis, on the other hand, resolved peacefully when a naval blockade by the U.S. and the pending threat caused the Soviet Union and the United States to reach agreement. To free an occupied Europe, we launched a D-Day invasion that changed modern history in response to the aggression of a small group of German leaders who saw conquest as a destiny.
Once again in history, this time in Iran, the country has leadership that promotes extreme positions. All signs point to it trying to develop a weapon capable of much greater damage than the conventional munitions otherwise in its arsenal. I applaud the diplomatic effort by President Bush that was undertaken this past week, as a bold effort to avoid hostilities is preferable. The Iranian response is all too telling that they misread the strength of world opinion about the consequences of ignoring the issue. The United States and Congress must stand by our ally Israel . We must continue to pursue with all diligence and effort diplomatic solutions to resolve this nuclear crisis no differently than we resolved the Cuban missile crisis, and no differently than diplomatic efforts appear to be bearing fruit with N. Korea. However, if it becomes necessary to support Israel taking military action to preserve the safety of her country, Congress must be counted upon to provide that support. My vote will be in support of our ally Israel .
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