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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sanction Iran now!

Writing at Forbes.com, Henry D. Sokolski, the Executive Director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, lays out the case for sanctioning Iran immediately.
First, as long as Iran continues to operate its uranium enrichment plant at Natanz, it will be no more than 12 months away from producing all the low-enriched uranium feedstock it needs to make its first bomb's worth of highly enriched uranium. This remains so even if Iran approves the fuel-swap proposal negotiated last week (and Iran's foreign minister has already suggested that Iran may want to reduce the rate and amount uranium it wants to ship out). That's why the United Nations Security Council has long insisted that Iran suspend all of its nuclear fuel-making activities: The world needs to be sure that Iran, which has hidden its nuclear fuel-making activities twice from the IAEA (once at Natanz and last month at Qom) is out of the nuclear bomb-making business before letting it operate any nuclear program.

Again, if pressure is what got Iran to negotiate this fuel-swap proposal, even more pressure will be needed to get it to suspend its known nuclear fuel making activities. Alternatively, if we fail to push Tehran to uphold the U.N.'s earlier demands, Iran's anxious neighbors are even more likely to develop "peaceful" nuclear options of their own.

Second, although we might doubt sanctions against Iran will work, Iran's mullahs don't. In fact, they are more concerned about losing political control than any other time since the 1978 revolution. That's why some are actually open to swapping out most of Iran's enriched uranium: Although it would temporarily limit Iran's ready access to bomb material, implementing the deal would make it far more difficult for the West to inflict additional sanctions (much less justify Israeli bombing). This, in turn, would give the mullahs the breathing space they need to consolidate their shaky rule.

They might also indefinitely deflect U.S. and allied efforts to shut down Iran's nuclear fuel making plants. If so, we could see a revolutionary government in power next year that has completely crushed its political opposition and yet skirted being sanctioned by the West. This would only consolidate the political clout of Iran's hawkish hardliners even further. Also, by next October, the new government could garner significant amounts of uranium from the fresh research reactor fuel fashioned in France and Russia, and from its own enrichment plant at Natanz, which it could enrich further to make nuclear weapons.

Finally, Israel might bomb Iran. Fearful of the possible blowback, both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have warned Israel against this. Israel, loathe to face a nuclear weapons-ready Iran alone, demurred. It would prefer that the U.S. and others isolate and penalize Iran's misbehavior. It clearly was elated when the U.N. finally demanded that Iran suspend all of its nuclear fuel-making activities. But that was three years ago. Assessing the fuel-swap idea last week, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak noted that it would only "result in the legitimization of [Iran's] uranium enrichment" program, which, he insisted, must be stopped. Bottom line: Holding our breath to assuage Tehran today risks making Israel feel stranded and provoking it to act by itself.
Sokolski is right, and he goes on to give practical steps for undermining the Iranian regime, sanctioning Iran and making Israel feel a bit less isolated. Unfortunately, the odds of the Obama administration admitting that 'engagement' has failed by implementing any of those steps are somewhere between slim and none.

Read the whole thing.


At 8:41 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Yep. There's really only on card left on the table. Its too late for sanctions to stop Iran today.


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