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Columbia Spectator Staff

This week, LionPAC and other student groups at Columbia will hold events as part of No Nukes for Iran Week. Recently, the topic of Iran's nuclear ambitions appeared in a Spectator column, which claimed that events on campus have unfairly demonized Iran. However, the purpose of No Nukes for Iran Week is to promote a free forum for discussing Iran. Acknowledging the irresponsibility of the Iranian regime should not demonize the people of Iran or Iranian history. Yet, one cannot ignore the Iranian regime's myriad human rights abuses, state support for terrorism, and direct threats to the United States. The regime's actions show that its nuclear ambitions threaten both the Iranian people and the world, making the issue critical to everyone on campus. Exposing the regime's behavior helps to contextualize this week's events on campus and the open discussions they should promote.

Iran's human rights abuses were underscored during protests to the disputed 2009 Iranian presidential election. In an attempt to gain the rights guaranteed to all free peoples, thousands of Iranian citizens held demonstrations calling for fair elections. In response, the government detained over 1,000 students and murdered as many as 250 protesters, including Neda Agha-Soltan, a woman whose senseless death served as an international symbol of Iran's suppression of freedom. Yet, this was only a snapshot of the regime's true brutality. It regularly imprisons and persecutes women, student groups, religious and ethnic minorities, labor organizers, and homosexuals. These injustices may intensify if Iran gains nuclear weapons, as Iran could grow more hostile to calls for reform. While Iran threatens its own people, granting the country nuclear weapons would also destabilize the Middle East.

With nuclear capabilities, Iran can undermine regional stability and increase its habitual support for terrorists. Iran has most notably supported the terrorist group Hezbollah. Hezbollah has plotted attacks against Egypt and Lebanon, and it imperils an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord by smuggling weapons to Hamas. Given Iran's history of sponsoring terrorism, one can easily imagine Iran providing nuclear weaponry to terrorist groups. Moreover, besides increased support for terrorism, a nuclear Iran could destabilize its region by triggering an arms race, as Iran's Sunni neighbors, such as Saudi Arabia, struggle to match Iran's nuclear capabilities. Iran poses a formidable threat to its region and American allies, but it poses a graver direct threat to the United States.

Iran continues to imperil American troops overseas. In 1979, Iran invaded the U.S. embassy in Tehran, taking hostage nearly 100 Americans. More recently, the WikiLeaks collection of documents chronicling the Iraq war showed that Iran was partially responsible for the deaths of many American soldiers in Iraq. Iranian soldiers fired rocket-propelled grenades aimed at Americans over the border, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps trained Iraqi insurgents in Iran to kidnap American soldiers, and Iranian weapons, especially roadside bombs, fill the weapons caches of Iraqi insurgents. Furthermore, Iran already has ballistic missiles capable of striking U.S. troops stationed in Europe and the Middle East, and its potential missile capability is alarming. A report by the Department of Defense claimed that, "With sufficient foreign assistance, Iran could develop and test an ICBM [intercontinental ballistic missile] capable of reaching the United States by 2015." Iran poses a clear and direct threat to the United States—a nuclear bomb will make this threat immeasurably worse.

Iran is an educated country with a rich history, but the current Iranian regime defames this heritage. The regime regularly commits human rights abuses, aids terrorist groups, and directly threatens the United States. It is irresponsible to allow such a morally delinquent regime to acquire the most lethal weapon ever created. Our student body has a great commitment to justice, and events held this week will engage this devotion to prevent a calamity that would lead to great suffering. We invite the entire Columbia community to participate in this open discourse.

The author is a sophomore in the joint General Studies and Jewish Theological Seminary program. He is the director of public relations for LionPAC.

Terrorism LionPAC Iran