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DREW HARMON | THE EDMOND SUN U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn listens to a question during a town hall meeting Saturday afternoon at the University of Central Oklahoma.

There is no denying that Iran is intent on developing a nuclear weapon, U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn warned at a town hall, hosted Saturday by the University of Central Oklahoma.

Coburn was asked twice about how the U.S. should respond to Iran’s nuclear program and what to do if Israel carries out a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear program.

“What are the United States’ specific obligations to Israel? What would happen as a result of that to pull us into any potential conflicts,” Coburn was asked. “Before it gets to that point, is there anything we can do to prevent it?”

The U.S. has a defense treaty with Israel that obligates it to respond when Israel is at war, Coburn said. But there is a bigger question, Coburn said. Besides Israel, why is the U.S. so interested in the Middle East? Coburn said.

“Oil,” Coburn said. “Do you realize we have 2.7 trillion barrels of available oil in this country? We could in fact be completely energy independent in this country.”

Coburn said the U.S. has more oil, natural gas and coal reserves than the combination of Saudi Arabia, Canada and China. Solving the U.S. economic problems would benefit by developing the country’s resources, Coburn continued.

Developing the nation’s oil to market makes strategic sense by not being dependent on foreign sources of oil, Coburn said. It would make economic sense to eliminate the $300 billion a year balance in payments deficit from importing oil, Coburn said.

“No. 3 is you can create 2 million jobs, premium jobs over the next 10 years,” Coburn said.

It will take 25 years to develop new forms of energy, Coburn said.

“So instead of buying it from somebody else, why don’t we use our own?” Coburn said. “But we don’t have that policy.”

Iranian nuclear capability would cause nuclear proliferation throughout all the wealthy kingdoms of the Middle East, Coburn said.

“So everybody will have a bomb,” Coburn said. “The question comes if you have governments stable enough never to use a bomb, when in the first place, the only reason for developing a bomb in Iran is for the annihilation of Israel.”

An Iranian American spoke of how his father’s bank had been nationalized following the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran. Jews have one guaranteed parliamentary seat in Iran, he added.

“As to the gentleman who had asked the question about Iran, I can assure you that no Iranian hates Jews,” the man said. “In fact, Iran has the highest concentration of Jews in the Middle East outside Israel.”

He noted that Iran is nearby countries with nuclear powers such as Israel, India and Pakistan. Coburn was asked if the U.S. can afford having a pre-emptive war with Iran when the U.S. is $15 trillion in debt.

Coburn responded that he is not sure if anybody is talking about a pre-emptive war with Iran. The question comes to Israelis that they must be concerned about their survival, based on what Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said last week, Coburn said.

“Israel is a cancer that needs to be cut out,” Khamenei said during his Friday Prayers sermon at Tehran University. Khamenei runs Iran, and not President Ahmadinejad, Coburn said.

“The question is if you’re a small country sitting over there, even though you have nuclear weapons,” said Coburn, who has served on the Senate Intelligence Committee, “and somebody is saying ‘We’re developing nuclear weapons.’ And, the leader of that country is saying, ‘Our goal is to cut you out,’ You can see how they might be concerned about that.”

The Obama administration waited two years to enforce tough banking and oil sanctions that had been passed by the Senate, Coburn said. Coburn said it is unfortunate that these sanctions harm the Iranian people more than the Iranian government.

There is not an easy answer to this situation as long as Iran is intent on developing a nuclear weapon, Coburn said.

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