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Iran, intent on nukes, poses ‘critical test’ for civilized world

WASHINGTON (BP)–Iran’s effort to develop nuclear weapons potentially constitutes “one of the greatest crises for the world since the Cuban missile crisis,” Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land told reporters Sept. 29.

Speaking on a conference call, the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission said if Iran “gets nuclear weapons, then virtually every country in the region is going to get them. And I can’t think of another region in the world where we would less like to have multiple countries with nuclear arms.”

Iran poses a “critical test” for the civilized world, Land said.

The Cuban missile was the 1962 standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union that brought the countries to the verge of a nuclear conflict before the communist power agreed to remove missile installations from Cuba.

Speakers on the conference call represented a coalition of nearly 50 Christian and conservative leaders who sent a letter Sept. 22 to President Obama and Congress urging quick action to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. The letter included calls for a boycott on arms sales to the militant Islamic regime and economic sanctions on firms that conduct oil-related business with Iran.

Between the issuance of the letter and the conference call, it was revealed that Iran was building a second uranium-enrichment facility that one official said could produce enough material for a nuclear bomb each year, The Washington Post reported. The Middle East country also completed both long-range and short-range missile tests during that week’s time.

The conference call came two days before diplomats from the United States and five other countries are to meet with Iranian envoys regarding the regime’s nuclear program. The Obama administration indicated Sept. 30 it would seek one-on-one talks with Iran during the meeting, The Post reported. The other five countries in the Oct. 1 meeting are to be China, France, Germany, Great Britain and Russia, according to the newspaper.

The range of punishments proposed in the Sept. 22 letter from Land and others “will make it very difficult for the Iranian regime to be able to continue to go down this course,” Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and former head of the Christian Coalition, said in the Sept. 29 conference call.

“We think we have a window,” said Reed, who also is president of the political consulting firm Century Strategies. “We think it’s a narrow window and it’s a window that’s rapidly closing that will enable us to deal with this issue and seek a solution that is peaceful and involves diplomacy and involves sanctions. We’re very concerned that if we wait any longer than right now, right at this moment, that that window is going to close and the available options to the civilized world to deal with a nuclear Iran are then going to go from bad to worse.”

The signers of the Sept. 22 letter also charged Iran with supporting terrorist organizations in other countries and suppressing its own citizens’ rights. Tehran “is currently arresting and detaining political opponents, actively persecutes its Christian citizens, [and] has shot protestors in cold blood in the streets,” according to the letter.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad repeated his attacks on Israel in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly Sept. 23. He said the Jewish state was guilty of the “genocide” of Palestinians but he did not repeat his previous denials of the Holocaust and calls for Israel’s annihilation.

Ahmadinejad’s criticism of Israel prompted a walkout from several delegations, including those of the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany and Australia, according to Agence France-Presse, a French news agency. Israel and Canada boycotted the entire speech.

In addition to Land, other Southern Baptist signers of the Sept. 22 letter included current SBC President Johnny Hunt and two former SBC presidents, Jack Graham and James Merritt.

Other signers of the Sept. 22 letter included Charles Colson, chairman of Prison Fellowship; Pat Robertson, president of the Christian Broadcasting Network; Tom Minnery, senior vice president of Focus on the Family; Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America; Gary Bauer, president of American Values; and Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom.

That letter followed by only four days one from the European Centre for Law and Justice urging the U.N. human rights office to hold Iran and Ahmadinejad accountable for recent human rights abuses.

Iran is one of only eight countries to be classified by the U.S. State Department as “countries of particular concern,” a designation reserved for the world’s worst violators of religious freedom.
Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.