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What Obama and Romney Didn't Say At the Debate: 9 Things You Should Know About Iran's Nuclear Program

The foreign policy debate saw the presidential candidates gloating about how much Iranians are suffering because of US-imposed sanctions, but there was no mention that Iran does not have a nuclear bomb.

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Well, Scott, initially you were talking about U.S. behavior and then suddenly we’re talking about Israel... 

And as far as Israel goes, I'm not going to comment on their program.  What I'm going to point to is the fact that consistently we have urged all countries to become members of the NPT. 

So there’s no contradiction there.

This non-answer harkens back to the president's very first White House press conference in February 2009, when veteran correspondent Helen Thomas  asked Obama a painfully simple question: "Mr. President, do you know of any country in the Middle East that has nuclear weapons?"

In response, the new commander-in-chief responded, "With respect to nuclear weapons, I don't want to speculate. What I know is this: that if we see a nuclear arms race in a region as volatile as the Middle East, everyone will be in danger. And one of my goals is to prevent nuclear proliferation generally."

Clearly, though a world without nuclear weapons may be a goal of Obama, maintaining Israel's posture of " nuclear ambiguityappears to be a  presidential obligation.

Exactly a week before the Nobel Committee announced Obama as its Peace Prize laureate, it was  reported on October 2, 2009 by Eli Lake of the Washington Times that, in May of that year, Obama had "reaffirmed a 4-decade-old secret understanding that has allowed Israel to keep a nuclear arsenal without opening it to international inspections."  Lake explained, "Under the understanding, the U.S. has not pressured Israel to disclose its nuclear weapons or to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which could require Israel to give up its estimated several hundred nuclear bombs."

A Senate staffer familiar with the secret agreement told Lake:

What this means is that the president gave commitments that politically he had no choice but to give regarding Israel's nuclear program. However, it calls into question virtually every part of the president’s nonproliferation agenda.  The president gave Israel an NPT treaty get out of jail free card.

6. Sanctions are the West's other weapon of mass destruction.

During the debate, Obama  praisehis policy of collective punishment of a civilian population over a nuclear weapons program even he has admitted  doesn't even exist while Romney called for even more destructive measures to  hurt the Iranian people.  Sanctions target Iran's citizens with the hope of causing enough suffering to instigate regime change.  That  won't happen.  In the meantime, the Iranian people  suffer for a crime their government isn't even committing.

During the vice presidential debate, Joe Biden  boasted, "These are the most crippling sanctions in the history of sanctions, period, period."

While Mitt Romney surely scolded the president for "not supporting" the so-called  Iranian opposition following the election in 2009 (even though no  dissident leader or group asked for " help" from the U.S.;  quite the contrary), we won't hear that Iranians across the political spectrum  uniformly oppose sanctions and wholly support their country's indigenous nuclear energy program.

Just today, AFP  reports, "Some six million patients in Iran are affected by Western economic sanctions as import of medicine is becoming increasingly difficult" because restrictions on Iran's banking sector "severely" curtail "the import of drugs and pharmaceutical devices for treatment of complex illnesses."

As sanctions mount and more are promised, thought should be given to the lethal effects of a decade of similarly  draconian measures on Iraq following the Gulf War.

In 1995, The New York Times  reported, "As many as 576,000 Iraqi children may have died since the end of the Persian Gulf war because of economic sanctions imposed by the Security Council."  When, the following year, Leslie Stahl  interviewed Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on 60 Minutes about these  tragic and genocidal effects of brutal economic U.S. sanctions against Iraq and  asked, "We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?" Nonplussed, Albright immediately  replied, "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price, we think the price is worth it."

Despite the uninformed lip-service both candidates pay to caring about the welfare of the Iranian people, there is no doubt both Obama and Romney believe the current sanctions on Iran are also worth it.

"In many ways, the sanctions on the Iraqi people were worse than the war because the economy was taken back decades and the health service deteriorated massively," Carne Ross, former British Foreign Office diplomat and the UK's Iraq expert at the United Nations Security Council,  has said.

But deliberately causing a  humanitarian disaster that destroys the lives of an entire civilian population isn't an alternative to war.  It is one.

7. Attacking Iran is not only immoral, it is uncontrovertibly illegal.  

Any military campaign against Iran would result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iranians.

As journalist Marsha Cohen  pointed out earlier this year, a 2009 study produced for theCenter for International and Strategic Studies briefly addressed "the human and environmental human catastrophe that would result just from an attack on the Iranian nuclear power plant in Bushehr," and determined:

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