Opinion

5 most urgent national security issues next president will face

President Obama and Mitt Romney battle over foreign policy issues in the third and final presidential debate. No matter who wins the presidential election November 6, Mr. Romney or Mr. Obama will have to confront five urgent national security issues in the first weeks of his term.

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3. Deal with the Iran nuclear challenge

Both the Bush and Obama administrations have pursued a policy of UN resolutions, sanctions, and negotiations in an effort to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. But Iran has not complied with international demands that it halt uranium enrichment. This is a problem not only because the Iranian regime has proven itself a regional hegemon, a supporter of terrorism, and an existential threat to Israel. If Iran acquired a nuclear capability, that would also likely lead to a regional nuclear arms buildup.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney both promise to continue down the same path: tighten sanctions, while keeping “all options on the table” – i.e., including military. That posture is appropriate for election season, but in the months after the election, the president will have to make a choice.

Will America and its allies use coercive force to destroy as much of Iran’s nuclear program as possible, accepting the consequences of possible retaliation? Or will we stand by as Iran moves toward acquiring a nuclear weapon?

If Israel launches military strikes on Iran, the region risks breaking out in conflict and accelerating further nuclear proliferation. If Washington chooses to pursue a military option, the president will need to gain the support of allies and manage the global political consequences of such a step.

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