Heavy tensions in Middle East play big part in presidential election

The Southerner

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BY RACHEL CITRIN

Throughout the 2012 Presidential campaign, whether during the debates or in the media coverage of the candidates, the Iran-Israel conflict is a familiar foreign-policy topic. Unfortunately, many people remain unaware of the current situation in the Middle East and the implications that it can have for citizens around the world. The need for action is becoming more urgent and consequently, is taking on a more important role in the elections.

So what exactly is going on between Iran and Israel? A dangerous standoff currently exists between the two countries, characterized by unsustainable tensions stemming from Iran’s enrichment of uranium (to create nuclear weapons). Iran insists on its right to enrich uranium and produce nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes and asserts that it has not violated the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. A skeptical Israel, backed by the United States and some of the international community believes that Iran intends to develop nuclear weapons and demands that Iran should stop any further enrichment. Consequently, Israel is politically pushing for a military attack to deter a possible nuclear program.

The Iranian nuclear crisis has played a big part in the 2012 presidential race. Candidate Mitt Romney has frequently accused Obama of being “weak” in his dealing with Iran. Recently, Obama has been trying to appear more “tough” by supporting Israel; stopping short of pushing Israel to launch a military strike on Iran.

Romney’s strategy is to remind Iran that a military option still exists; to put pressure on Iran not to produce nuclear weapons, and to implement even tougher sanctions. His position, though, may be traced to one of his major funders, Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire casino executive. Adelson is a strong supporter of Israel and its vehement opposition of Iran’s nuclear capability. He is also the owner of Israel Hayom, an influential Israeli paper. He has pushed for the Republican Party to be firmly against Iran having nuclear weapons.

Regardless of the origin for Romney’s tough stance, the U.S. government needs to take steps to diffuse the crisis before the election and inauguration of the next president. A military attack and tougher sanctions do not seem to be the best options. Furthermore, the international community should initiate diplomacy. Western countries and Israel may need to acknowledge that Iran does have the right to enrich uranium. Trust, however, is a fundamental precondition for effective dialogue. Until a degree of mutual respect is established, dialogue appears to be unfeasible.

More specifically, the presidential candidates need to be more active in trying to prevent a war. President Obama, in particular, needs to work towards gaining Iran’s trust back. I believe that Obama will be more effective in handling the situation and he is more likely to stay away from supporting Israel in a war. Romney is more likely to turn against Iran with Israel. If Romney wins, the international view of the United States will certainly weaken.

There is still time to have a peaceful resolution to the nuclear crisis. Go out there and vote because as far across the globe the situation may seem, the implications of it may result in another war—which will affect every single one of us.

 

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