The Baltimore Sun

Pressure on Iran could backfire badly

In her column "Facing the Iranian threat" (Commentary, Dec. 9), Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi criticizes the Bush administration for not pressuring the Swiss, Dutch, French, British and Indian governments into cutting off gasoline exports to Iran, maintaining that such an action could force Iran's leaders to negotiate a cessation of their nuclear program.

However, while this end is certainly appealing, we must also consider the possibility that Iran might obtain gasoline from other sources rather than succumb to this tactic.

What countries might fill the gasoline import void for Iran? Consider Venezuela, for example, whose government, led by Hugo Chavez, controls one of the world's largest oil refining systems.

Mr. Chavez has already formed a friendship with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, based largely on their mutual hatred of the United States. It does not seem far-fetched that Mr. Chavez might delight in diverting some now U.S.-bound gasoline exports to Iran, thus sticking it to the U.S. in two ways through a single action.

Even more troubling, this could serve to tighten the bond between Venezuela and Iran, and perhaps give Iranian-backed terrorists a foothold in the Western Hemisphere.

If we have learned anything from our dealings with Iran and Iraq over the past decade, it should be that we must consider what the lesser of two evils is before taking action.

In the Middle East, Saddam Hussein was certainly evil. But he was probably less evil than the prospect of a powerful Iran with nuclear capabilities is.

And at present, the lesser of two evils may be to allow India and other allies to export gasoline into an Iran whose economy has been weakened by economic sanctions and lower crude oil prices instead of driving Iran and Venezuela into each others' arms.

Mark Haas, Timonium

Will Obama confront the threat from Iran?

The question to be answered on Jan. 20, 2009 is: Which Barack Obama has ascended to the presidency ("Facing the Iranian threat," Commentary, Dec. 9)?

Is it the one who has suggested he will talk with the leaders of Iran even as that nation becomes a nuclear power with long-range missiles that can deliver such a weapon, or the one who has said he will push for meaningful sanctions on Iran's nuclear program with a military deterrent as a final option?

Certainly all of our friends in the Middle East will be awaiting that decision, one that will determine the fate of Israel and of the oil-producing states of the region.

If we allow Iran to continue its nuclear program unchecked, we will regret that choice.

Nelson Marans, Silver Spring

No proof that Iran is building the bomb

In her column "Facing the Iranian threat" (Commentary, Dec. 9), Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi of the Israel Project calls on President-elect Barack Obama to get tough with Iran. She refers to "Iran's nuclear weapons program" as if it is a proven fact that Iran is developing nuclear weapons.

But there is no proof of this claim. In fact, the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran published last December found that Iran did not possess a nuclear weapon or have a program likely to build nuclear weapons.

This NIE report reflected the consensus view of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies.

Iran has never threatened the United States and is not doing so now. And unlike other governments in the region, it has not invaded another country in more than a century.

If Ms. Mizrahi is worried about the threat of nuclear weapons in the region, maybe she should be asking Mr. Obama to get tough with Israel, which is one of the world's largest nuclear powers.

Joanne Heisel, Columbia

Decline of newspapers dims our democracy

After reading "Sun's parent files for protection from creditors" (Dec. 9), I think that the decline in the number of newspaper subscribers and readers is a barometer of our nation's inability to grasp the importance of keeping up with local, national and world events.

If our democratic values and institutions are to survive, the public must remain informed.

So let us all encourage each other and our young people to return to reading the newspaper.

John A. Micklos, Baltimore

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