Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, offers a critique of the bipartisan senate resolution to be presented on Thursday, which pressures the Obama administration to rule out containment options for Iran and limits diplomatic options. Writes Mr. Kimball:
- 1. Iran is already “nuclear capable”, according to U.S. intelligence community assessments and the purpose of U.S. policy is and ought to continue to be to “prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.” “Nuclear capable” is hard to define and in this context is a meaningless term.
2. If this resolution in its final form asserts that it is within the power of the U.S. government to prevent a nuclear capable Iran, that assertion conflicts with the assessments of the intelligence community and the Secretary of Defense who understand that Iran already has the capability and expertise to develop and build nuclear weapons if they choose to do so. Short of a U.S. led invasion and occupation of Iran, no military strike or economic sanctions can, IN THE LONG TERM, “prevent” Iran from MAKING nuclear weapons. This has been acknowledged by former Vice Chairman of the joint Chiefs of Staff in Congressional testimony in April 2010.
3. The resolution calls for suspension of all enrichment activities by Iran. It is important to recall what the 2006 and 2008 offer by the P5+1 actually says on this and what U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said on March 1, 2011 before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs: “under very strict conditions” and “having responded to the international community’s concerns,” Iran would have a “right” to enrich uranium under International Atomic Energy Agency inspections.
In other words, a permanent Iranian uranium-enrichment halt would be beneficial and very welcome, but it is not necessary to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, and it is not realistic given the strong support for enrichment across the political spectrum in Iran. Tying enrichment amounts and levels to the actual needs of Iran’s nuclear power plants might provide an acceptable compromise. The priority focus of U.S. diplomacy should be to test Iran’s recent, publicly stated offer to stop producing uranium enriched to 20 percent if it could have access to fuel for its Tehran Research Reactor. A stockpile of 20 percent-enriched uranium would allow Iran to shorten its time frame to produce weapons; Washington should not forgo any opportunities to reduce that risk.
4. Unfortunately, the proposed resolution does not include a call for renewed efforts in the context of the P5+1 talks to advance proposals for the confidence building steps that Iran should take to address the international community’s concerns about the purpose of its nuclear activities.