Rep. Tim Murphy, who just returned from “an intensive” three-day trip to Israel, is certain Iran is forging ahead with nuclear weapon development, and said, “the world needs to be paying attention.”
This was the Pennsylvania Republican’s first trip to Israel. He traveled with Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., to meet with several high-ranking Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Lieberman, and Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi.
“We were there to discuss defense issues,” Murphy said, “in particular the concern with Iranian nuclear developments and the threats to Israel of Lebanon, Syria, Hamas, Hezbollah and other terrorist groups.”
Murphy doesn’t believe Iran is delaying its nuclear program, as it claims.
Because the Islamic republic is simultaneously developing long-range missiles, having continual discussions with North Korea and Venezuela, and vowing to annihilate Israel, Murphy believes “it’s pretty clear to the world that Iran is moving forward with dozens of sites for their nuclear development.”
He added, “I think that when they do achieve that, if they’re permitted to achieve that level of nuclear weapons development, it becomes a threat not just to the Mid East, but to Europe as well.”
Murphy feels strongly that the world must address Iran’s nuclear ambitions with a unified front.
“It will require a very strong stand,” Murphy said. “I have zero faith, nor trust in any promise, suggestion or hint that Iran will cease its nuclear weapons program without strong, universal, unwavering, multinational sanctions against them.”
Murphy said he hopes economic sanctions imposed on Iran will help fuel the dissent already brewing within the population of that country, and put pressure on its leaders to stop the nuclear weapon program.
“When people [living in Iran] recognize that [Ahmadinejad] is trying to govern with an iron fist, and yet they are still willing to take to the streets and demonstrate at the risk of being killed, captured and imprisoned, there is a strong dissent within his country. The question is, will that grow? If there are international sanctions, will that dissent become stronger? And I don’t know. It’s a big question mark, but an important one.” Because of Ahmadinejad’s stated goal of annihilating Israel, and his country’s ability to launch thousands of rockets into Israel if Israel moves militarily to quash Iran’s nuclear program, Israel is facing a very difficult situation, Murphy said.
“The question is, can Israel defend itself against all of that at once?” Murphy asked. “And it is a grave concern, and it is one the world needs to be paying attention to.”
“Israel has always been a strong country with its military. Clearly this is a different kind of threat,” Murphy continued. “It is not just one that’s going to require conventional actions, soldiers moving in with some tanks or some air strikes.”
Murphy noted that the fact that Israel faces these threats along with a backdrop of peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority complicates issues.
“We have to support a peaceful coexistence,” Murphy said. “But as long as other countries use the Palestinian Authority as their proxies, that is a problem. And if that part of the world really is concerned about Iran obtaining nuclear weapons, and Iran is continuing to fund terrorist groups, the other countries are gong to have to put some pressure back on the Palestinian Authority.”
Murphy said he does not think the Obama administration is doing enough to put pressure on the Palestinian Authority.
“I think we should be doing much more,” he said, adding that the United States must become independent of OPEC oil, the proceeds of which help to fund terrorism.
If Iran makes good on its threats against Israel, Murphy said the question becomes, can Israel defend itself on its own?
“If [Israel’s] missile defense is not fully deployed, will they need the assistance of our navy to help them?” Murphy asked. “Will they need further assistance of our military? If Hamas, Hezbollah and Syria decide it can weaken Israel enough and will move forward with ground troops, then we will have a very serious problem that the world is going to have to come to terms with.”
“It is in no one’s interest in the region to allow Iran to accelerate this to the level of nuclear weapons,” Murphy added.
“The question is, does America have the will and the way to back up our diplomatic efforts with a big stick if need be?” Murphy said. “We have the way, but I am very concerned that if mixed signals are sent throughout the world, then enemies of America will see it as a sign of weakness, and the terrorist groups will see it as a victory for them.”
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-687-1263.)