The House Chamber on Capitol Hill erupted in a standing ovation during the State of the Union address when President Obama remarked: “Let there be no doubt: America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal.” As congressional members applauded the president’s stated intent to prevent a rogue Middle-Eastern nation from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, a familiar scene emerged.

In 2003, President George W. Bush outlined his intent to lead coalition forces into Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein from power and eliminate the threat of alleged weapons of mass destruction.  The resulting conflict cost the nation over $800 billion, and more importantly, over 4,000 American lives without ever yielding a single WMD.

This time the threat to national security is more tangible because the radical Iranian government is actively enriching uranium.  While the theocratic Iranian establishment must be prevented from ever producing or possessing a nuclear weapon, the danger of committing our troops and resources to a full-scale war followed by costly reconstruction is ever present.

Some media outlets have exacerbated the situation by running headlines like “Iran Poised to Attack US” in reference to the latest report by the Obama appointed (DNI) James R. Clapper.

“The 2011 plot to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. shows that some Iranian officials—probably including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei—have changed their calculus and are now more willing to conduct an attack in the U.S.,” said Clapper before a Senate Select Committee.  This vague so-called “intelligence” report based on what sounds like pure speculation is based on an alleged assassination attempt for which the Obama administration still hasn’t provided any conclusive evidence.

Clapper went on to say, “Multiplicity and interconnectedness of potential threats—and the actors behind them…constitute our biggest [security] challenge,” a claim somewhat reminiscent of collusion between Al Quaeda and Saddam Hussein.

Considering that another brushfire war in the Middle-East could cost the United States billions of dollars and precious American lives, the Obama administration and the potential GOP presidential candidates must consider the reality of the turmoil in Iran rather than turning it into charged political rhetoric.

The current sanctions on Iran have severely devastated its economy. The rial has depreciated against the dollar, dropping in value from 9,700 to 15,600. This is because Iranian oil, the nations chief export, has been unilaterally embargoed by several countries. Even China, one of Iran’s key trading partners, is renegotiating lower prices on the distressed asset.

While the Iranian government has diplomatically isolated itself from many of its Arab neighbors, political tensions are growing in Tehran. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has considered abolishing the executive office, have a tense relationship.

In 2009, President Obama failed to seize the opportunity to facilitate regime change by supporting Iranian protests. However, civil unrest in the country still abounds. There is even a split forming in the Revolutionary Guard as an Iranian commander described in a letter to journalist Mohammad Nourizad: “I can positively assure you and announce to the dear people of Iran that a collective majority of the Revolutionary Guard absolutely despise the regime leadership.”

Iran is revealing its vulnerabilities and acting desperately with outrageous saber-rattling threats to close the Strait of Hormuz. It would be prudent of the Obama administration to exploit these weaknesses rather than beating the war drum. What is the most realistic threat to the United States: an Iranian nuclear weapon or another decade of war?

Stephan Yenca :: Point Park University :: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania :: @SYenca