FIRST-PERSON: Iran must be sanctioned

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--On Dec. 15 the House of Representatives voted 412-12 in favor of enacting tough economic sanctions on Iran, in response to its leaders' defiant insistence on building nuclear weapons. The Senate must do likewise.

These sanctions are necessary to show Iran that we are serious. So far, the Iranian regime has openly mocked efforts by the international community to restrain their maniacal quest for nuclear weapons, and have even redoubled their efforts.

After years of efforts by the United States and our European allies, Iran has made it increasingly clear that it has no intention of responding to soft diplomacy. The House-passed bill would authorize President Obama to sanction companies that provide, finance, insure or facilitate the shipment of gasoline to Iran. While Iran sits atop some of the world's largest oil reserves, its lack of refining capability forces it to import 40 percent of its gasoline.

In addition to calling for the violent expansion of radical Islam and the destruction of Israel, consider for a moment the Iranian regime's behavior over the past few months. It stole the presidential election in June, and then violently repressed the peaceful crowds who demonstrated against it. It jailed some of the protesters and opposition leaders and killed others. Now, it has begun a campaign to hunt down and prosecute as many of the protesters as it can find.

In recent public interviews Iranian Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar has said he has "ordered the police to show no mercy" against anyone taking part in the recent demonstrations, adding that they will be treated as "someone engaged in terror." Since the penalty for "engaging in terror" is death in Iran, the message is clear: Those brave enough to attend peaceful, pro-democracy demonstrations face death at the hands of this regime.

The Iranian regime has also shown itself to be among the world's worst violators of religious freedom. Last month Hamide Najifi, an Iranian citizen from the Christian minority, was arrested by security forces. She was put on trial in the Revolutionary Court in Mashhad for professing her Christian faith. Two weeks later, she was taken to further interrogation at the detention center of the Mashhad Intelligence Ministry, was sentenced to a three-month house arrest, and lost custody of her child who was taken into a government-affiliated care system. According to reports, Najifi was heavily pressured during her interrogation to renounce her Christian faith.

As President Obama himself said on Dec. 28: "For months, the Iranian people have sought nothing more than to exercise their universal rights. Each time they have done so, they have been met with the iron fist of brutality, even on solemn occasions and holy days."

When President Obama announced that we had irrefutable evidence that Iran had built a secret uranium enrichment facility at Qom, in violation of every international convention, the regime threatened to pull out of the Nonproliferation Treaty and to build several more such facilities. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who had assumed the presidency based on fraud, thundered that Iran was "running the show" on nuclear proliferation issues, and publicly stated that Iran would "never negotiate" with regard to its nuclear program.

In addition to using terror as a way of maintaining his own power internally, Ahmadinejad routinely denies the Holocaust, threatens to destroy Israel, and oversees a regime that is the largest state sponsor of terrorism and that has facilitated the development of improvised explosive devices that have killed U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This is not a regime that can be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon. And time is running out. The Senate must act immediately and join the House of Representatives in passing overwhelmingly a bill that would force the Iranian regime to come to terms with the international community on it reckless quest for the most threatening weapon known to man.


Richard Land is the president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

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