In his State of the Union speech President Barack Obama vowed Iran "will face growing consequences" for its continuing pursuit of nuclear weapons. Both the Senate and House have passed resolutions to place further economic sanctions against the rogue Islamic regime, and on Feb. 9 the president pronounce new UN sanctions "the next step."
In addition to its call 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.
The Iranian government followed Obama's call for cooperation by hanging Mohammad Reza Ali Zamani and Arash Rahmanipour, two pro-democracy protestors arrested last summer, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for death sentences for more protestors.
The Iranian government will not stop its march to nuclear power unless challenged with actions.
America must follow through on economic sanctions by standing firm not only to protect our security, but to protect our allies, to maintain stability in the Middle East, and to save the lives of the Iranians who truly want peace.
Iran sits atop some of the world's largest oil reserves while its lack of refining capability forces it to import 40 percent of its gasoline. 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. Members of Congress in both houses, from both parties, and the White House are working to punish companies that provide, finance, insure, or facilitate the shipment of gasoline to Iran.
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. Authorities put her on trial in the Revolutionary Court in Mashhad for professing her Christian faith. Two weeks later, they took her through further interrogation at the detention center of the Mashhad Intelligence Ministry, sentenced her to a three-month house arrest, and seized custody of her child, who was taken into a government-affiliated care system. According to reports, they also pressured Najifi to renounce her Christian faith.
On Dec. 28, Obama said, "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."
In recent public interviews, Iranian Interior Minister Mohammad Najjar 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.
When 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 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and build several more such facilities. Ahmadinejad stated publicly 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.
-Richard Land is president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, a member of the U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom, and a member of Christian Leaders for a Nuclear-Free Iran