Friday, February 25, 2005

Iran nukes would trigger regional proliferation

World Tribune:
A new report warns that the United States must halt Iran's nuclear weapons programs or face the prospect of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

The Presidential Study Group, sponsored by the Washington Institute, said in a report that Iran's nuclear weapons program marked the most difficult proliferation challenge in the Middle East and must be stopped.

"Iranian nuclear proliferation could constitute a 'tipping point' in the Middle East, with states from Saudi Arabia to Egypt and possibly Syria and Algeria likely to respond with efforts to acquire nuclear capability and threatening the nuclear nonproliferation regime," the report said. ...

The 53-member panel organized by the Washington Institute included two former secretaries of state (Alexander Haig and Madeleine Albright), a former CIA director (James Woolsey) and a former national security adviser (Sandy Berger). The report was entitled "Security, Reform, and Peace: The Three Pillars of U.S. Strategy in the Middle East."

"Stopping Iran short of achieving a nuclear weapons capability -- by diplomacy if possible; by other means, if necessary -- is a vital U.S. interest," the report said.

The panel said an Iranian atomic bomb would spark nuclear weapons programs throughout the Middle East. The report cited Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria.

The report recommended that the United States work with the European Union to halt Iran's nuclear weapons program. But the panel said U.S.-EU cooperation must not rule out the use of the military option against Teheran.

"Achieving international consensus on Iran should not, however, come at the cost of curtailing support to Iran's freedom-seeking opposition, nor should it require forswearing military options to address the problem," the panel said. ...

"The United States is facing an extraordinary moment of challenge in the Middle East, one that demands an integrated U.S. strategy built on a set of three pillars: security, reform, and peace," the report said. ...