Less than a month after Iran made a landmark agreement
to send 70% of its uranium to Russia for enriching-- allowing medical isotopes while denying Iran the opportunity to weaponize--Tehran has backtracked
. Iranian representatives say they no longer plan to follow the agreement, which was seen as a key success
for President Obama's efforts to curb Iran's nuclear
program. Instead, Iran says it will ship smaller amounts incrementally,
which would allow it to continue the enrichment Obama sought to halt. What
options are there for confronting Iran, and what does its
obstinate behavior mean for the region? The relevant Senate
committee has already agreed
to allow tougher sanctions.
- To Win Test of Wills, Stronger Sanctions The Washington Post's Robert Kagan says
the initial deal "was really more a test of Iran's intentions than a
decisive breakthrough." Now Kagan says Iran is testing the U.S. "Tehran
is obviously probing to see whether President Obama can play
hardball or whether he can be played. If Obama has any hope of getting
anywhere with the mullahs, he needs to show them he means business,
now, and immediately begin imposing new sanctions," he writes. "For the
clerics, an endless negotiating process is not merely a means
of putting off any real concessions on its nuclear program. It is also,
and more important, a way of putting off any Western sanctions that
could produce new and potentially explosive unrest in their already
Diplomatic Engagement Only Real Option The Washington Note's Ben Katcher dismisses
the so-called alternatives. "The only two tactical suggestions I have
come across are either the
use of military force to take out Iran's nuclear facilities or
'crippling sanctions' that would starve Iran's economy. The problem is
that neither of these 'options' is really feasible. A
military strike on Iran would have disastrous consequences for the
stability of the Middle East and is a recipe for three more decades of
antagonistic relations between Washington and Tehran. Meanwhile, the
idea that either the Chinese or the Russians will support 'crippling
sanctions' against Iran is a delusion,"
he writes. "That means engaging in creative diplomacy and understanding
that negotiations will likely be a long and difficult process."
- What About Containment? The New Republic's Michael Crowley points out that the White House may be considering containment, "The strategy
that dare not speak its name." This would mean allowing Iran to develop
nuclear weapons but containing it and deterring it from using them. "It
would, of course, be irresponsible not to think ahead this way. But
it's certainly not going to make the Israelis any less anxious."
- Air Strike Not An Option Matthew Yglesias rolls his eyes
at the inevitable suggestion that strategic bombing could halt the
nuclear program. "Obviously, we could degrade their research program by
stuff up, but that would likely lead the Iranians to intensify their
efforts. But there's no way to use air power to fully halt such a
program. For all we know, bombing will accelerate the pace of advances by changing the Iranian political calculation. "
- Iran Has No Desire to Cooperate Conservative blogger Allahpundit thinks
that Iran's refusal is especially galling given how soft the deal was
to begin with. "In fact, the biggest absurdity here is that this deal
was likely to
achieve next to nothing even if Iran had agreed to it. Danger Room
estimated last week that, given current Iranian capabilities, had they
shipped the bulk of their uranium to France or Russia they probably
could have replenished their supply in as little as three or four months.
The fact that they turned Obama down anyway only goes to show how
resolute they are about not making concessions to the west, even if
those concessions are meaningless in practice." The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan agrees but is more optimistic about the possibility of sanctions.
- 'Existential Dread' For Israel vs. Iran The Wall Street Journal's Yossi Klein Halevi insists that tension between Israel and Iran is near a boiling point. "In the last few years, Israelis have been asking themselves two
questions with increasing urgency: Should we attack Iran if all other
options fail? And can we inflict sufficient damage to justify the
consequences?" he asks. "Opinion here has been divided about the ability of an Israeli strike to
significantly delay Iran's nuclear program. But Israelis have dealt
with their doubts by resurrecting a phrase from the country's early
years: Ein breira, there's no choice."
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