Iran's long-range missile test
on Monday, following revelations of a covert nuclear program
, further raises the specter of confrontation. Should the U.S. emphasize
diplomatic moves such as economic sanctions, or is the threat of military force the last best option? Few seem optimistic
that sanctions alone will work: Russia and China, big trade partners
with Iran, still appear unmoved. On the question of how to engage with Iran, pundits suggest everything from permitting the development of nuclear power, to toppling Ahmadinejad, to effecting a surprising workaround on sanctions with Saudi Arabia.
- Allow Non-Weaponized Nuclear Enrichment Roger Cohen argued that
sanctions "won't work" and would only worsen hostilities "The
enrichment program has attained sacred status as a symbol of
Iranian independence — comparable to oil’s nationalization in the
1950s," he wrote. "You don’t bring down a quasi-holy symbol — nuclear
power — by cutting
off gasoline sales." And besides, "sanctions feed the persecution
which the Iranian regime thrives." The US, then, should "Settle the
complex to contain the program" and allow a closely-monitored,
non-weaponized nuclear program. "I believe monitored enrichment on
Iranian soil in the name of what
Obama called Iran's 'right to peaceful nuclear power' remains a
possible basis for an agreement that blocks weaponization."
- Accept War Now, Before it's Nuclear Eliot A. Cohen in the Wall Street Journal
anticipated that war with Iran is now inevitable and that the only real
option is to "actively seek the overthrow of the Islamic Republic"
before it secures nukes and makes that war much deadlier. "A large
sanctions effort against Iran has been underway for some time.
It has not worked to curb Tehran's nuclear appetite, and it will not,"
Cohen wrote. "Pressure, be it gentle or severe, will not erase that
The choices are now what they ever were: an American or an Israeli
strike, which would probably cause a substantial war, or living in a
world with Iranian nuclear weapons, which may also result in war,
perhaps nuclear, over a longer period of time."
- Use Nuclear Issue to Address Other Problems Ray Takeyh noted
in the Washington Post that Iran's regime, weakened internally and
embarrassed within the region after its disastrous elections,
desperately needs to be legitimized. This may be an opening for
American interests. "Ironically, Tehran has come to Washington's
rescue," Takeyh wrote, suggesting that talks over Iranian nukes could
be an opportunity to finally address its sponsorship of global
terrorism and abuse of its citizens. "If Iran is truly interested in
escaping its pariah status, then it will swallow the bitter pill of
such discussions," he wrote, noting that the US successfully executed
similar talks with the nuclear-rich Soviet Union during the 1975
- Want Sanctions? Turn to Saudi Arabia Roger Stern and Bernard Haykel advocated
in the UAE National for partnering with Saudi Arabia, a powerful force
in the region that already wants to limit Iranian influence. The
authors pointed out that Saudi Arabia recently helped to oust
Hezbollah, Iran's political proxy, from Lebanese leadership. The Saudi
oil industry, they argued, could tame Iran in a way that Western
sanctions never could. "Saudi Arabia could force a drastic reduction of
Iran’s revenue by
producing some or all of its four million barrels a day of spare
capacity," the wrote. "Iran's Opec production quota violations have
historic highs, so there is a strong precedent for such a Saudi
production increase." Saudi Arabia made a move in the mid-1980s, when
its manipulation of the oil market helped plunge the Soviet Union into
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