Saturday, February 04, 2006

Next Steps: The Iranian Threat

The American Enterprise Institute:
The Iranian regime has made clear it is uninterested in ending its nuclear program. In addition, Iran’s new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has reversed the minimal political and economic reforms of recent years. In less than six months as president, Ahmadinejad has chosen a cabinet of hard-liners, outlawed Western music, inaugurated a new campaign of anti-Semitism, and violated Iran’s agreement on uranium enrichment with the EU-3. He has openly threatened the United States and its Western partners. In short, he has made obvious that the Iranian regime is a threat to the United States and its allies in Europe and the Middle East.

The regime has demonstrated its intent to develop nuclear weapons. Members of Congress and the Bush administration have said that the time for negotiation with Iran is over.

Can the Iranian nuclear threat be contained? Will Iran continue to sponsor terror with impunity? And will any solution to the nuclear nightmare require ignoring the regime’s repression at home?

On February 2, the day before the International Atomic Energy Agency met to refer Iran to the United Nations Security Council, AEI hosted a panel discussion to address these and other issues. READ MORE

The Honorable Stephen G. Rademaker
U.S. Department of State

There have been encouraging signs of international cooperation to stop Iran’s efforts to obtain nuclear weapons. Concern over Iran has been growing for years, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been on a bumpy road since November 2003.

There is little doubt that the regime’s concealment is for weapons development. Estimated investments range from $600 million to $1 billion, a sum of such magnitude that it would only be spent on weapons. IAEA inspectors found documents for machine casting uranium metal hemispheres, which are used only in weapons production. Iran’s possession of nuclear weapons is unacceptable, in part because of the possibility for a nuclear proliferation domino effect in the region.

The United States has supported the EU-3 diplomatic negotiations, and if the IAEA were to refer the issue to the UN Security Council, diplomacy would not be over. The Security Council should enhance the authority of the IAEA, and the United States should continue to work with others in order to pursue effective multilateralism regarding the threat of Iranian nuclear weapons.

Patrick Clawson
Washington Institute for Near East Policy

By tying the Islamic Revolution to Iranian nationalism, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is confronting the West in order to reinvigorate flagging religious fervor. Hard-liners in the Iranian regime see a second Islamic Revolution taking root in the Middle East, especially with the election of Hamas in the Palestinian territories. These Iranian elites believe that they can pursue nuclear weapons and confront the West with impunity for the following reasons: the West is dependent upon Iran for oil; America is preoccupied with Iraq and Afghanistan; and there is a division between the United States and Europe over the proper course of action in the region.

The West must find a way to raise the stakes in a manner that will convince Iran’s elite that pursuing nuclear weapons is against the country’s interests. This can only be achieved if Iran believes the West will take serious action to prevent a nuclear Iran. The Iranian people’s support for producing nuclear weapons is very shallow and is predicated on the assumption that obtaining these weapons would not have adverse consequences. The United States, then, must convince the Iranian people that a nuclear weapons program will be used to keep the theocracy in power and will not help Iran’s population.

George Perkovich
Carnegie Endowment

The decision to report Iran to the UN Security Council is an action that is more significant than it seems. The issue at hand is not Iran’s right to develop peaceful nuclear technologies, but bringing Iran into compliance with its Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) obligations, which requires oversight of their nuclear program. There are several aspects of Iran’s nuclear activity that the IAEA suspects are being undertaken solely for military purposes. However, it is unlikely that Iran will address these suspicions because that would be tantamount to an admission of guilt.

Time is on the side of those who wish to enforce the NPT. China and Russia both have an interest in maintaining international law, and both countries do not desire the proliferation of nuclear weapons. But the United States will succeed only if it takes the time to maintain its international coalition to press Iran to give up its nuclear weapons program.

Danielle Pletka

The international coalition that the Bush administration has been building, culminating in the recent referral of Iran to the UN Security Council, has only been achieved due to the outrageous statements and actions of Iranian president Ahmadinejad. The United States should push for all Security Council members to demand that Iran fulfill its NPT obligations. These demands must be tied to deadlines. A possible range of actions the Security Council could take includes: first, impose sanctions on the trade of civilian nuclear technologies and materials, and on oil equipment; second, impose travel restrictions on those known to be involved in Iran’s nuclear program; and third, freeze Iran’s ability to borrow from the World Bank.

While this would get the attention of the Iranian regime, a two-track strategy must be prepared. This includes the current diplomatic track as well as a track that places Iran on the Bush administration’s freedom agenda. The United States must support opposition parties and dissidents in Iran much more earnestly. Finally, the United States cannot support nuclear disarmament without concurrently pushing for liberalizing the regime.

The Honorable Sam Brownback (R-Kans.)
U.S. Senate

The United States and the international community should not tolerate the Iranian regime’s disregard for human rights and global security. The government denies its citizens basic rights, is rife with corruption, actively supports terrorist groups, and is developing a nuclear weapons program. The quest for a nuclear program is not about energy; it is being used to intimidate threats to Iranian power, to dominate the Middle East, and to threaten the United States and its allies, specifically Israel.

The United States must utilize a two-track approach to the Iranian crisis, challenging the regime both externally and internally. The U.S. government should appropriate more money to support democracy, freedom of the press, and human rights in Iran. The secretary of state should appoint a special envoy for human rights in Iran who can coordinate efforts by international organizations, regional entities, and nongovernmental organizations. The World Bank should stop lending money to Iran, which has received $1.1 billion in the past three years. Regime change in Iran can happen from within, and the people of Iran can champion their own future.

AEI interns David Ribner and Daniel Kaplow prepared this summary.
Watch the video of the panel discussion here.