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Bret Stephens, foreign affairs columnist for the Wall Street Journal, spoke Wednesday. Photo by Mallory Gnaegy.
Sarasota Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012 5 years ago

WSJ columnist speaks about Middle East

by: Mark Gordon Observer Staff

A combination of perilous events in the Middle East could lead to a potentially catastrophic year in the region, says Wall Street Journal foreign affairs columnist Bret Stephens.

Stephens was the keynote speaker for the American Jewish Committee-West Coast Florida Winter Lunch & Learn event Wednesday, Feb. 15, at the Longboat Key Club Harbourside Dining Room.

A onetime editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post, Stephens told the crowd, more than 250 people, that Iran is at the forefront of the potential problems. Iran has been said to have made several key advancements in acquiring nuclear power over the past year.

“We should be very alarmed about Iran,” said Stephens. “We should be very alarmed that Iran will cross the nuclear power finish line.”

Stephens said Israeli security and military officials are certainly watching what Iran does, and a pre-emptive strike is a legitimate possibility. That could even happen within months, added Stephens, and Israel could attack with or without assistance from the United States.

Stephens said he thinks the U.S. should take a more forceful approach on Iran. He derided the pacifying nature of the Obama administration, which he said values talk over action.

“Containment,” Stephens said on Iran, “is ludicrous.”

Stephens said countries such as Iran don’t respond well to sanctions and stern lectures. After all, he said, Iran sent 100,000 children to their deaths in minefields in the 1980s. So, cutting off financial aid isn’t likely to budge a country whose leader, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has said eliminating Israel is a top priority.

Moreover, if Iran can use nuclear weapons on Israel, Stephens said, it might not be long before the country figures out how to launch a similar attack on the United States.

“Iran isn’t only significant threat to Israel and its neighbors,” Stephens said. “Iran is a threat to all of us in the United States.”

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