September 15, 2009
The U.S. should begin preparing crippling sanctions on Iran and publicly make clear that a military strike is possible should the Iranian government press ahead with its nuclear effort, a bipartisan policy group said.
“If biting sanctions do not persuade the Islamic Republic to demonstrate sincerity in negotiations and give up its enrichment activities, the White House will have to begin serious consideration of the option of a U.S.-led military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities,” said the study from the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington.The report was written by Charles Robb, a former Democratic senator from Virginia; Daniel Coats, a former Republican senator from Indiana who also served as ambassador to Germany, and retired General Charles Wald, the former deputy commander of U.S. European command. Their assessment comes as the U.S. prepares to participate in preliminary talks with Iran on Oct. 1 designed to gauge its commitment to address concerns about its nuclear aims.
The report echoes the Obama administration’s conclusion that Iran’s atomic work is approaching a destabilizing point at which it may be able to build a bomb.
Coats, Robb and Wald write that Iran will have enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon by next year, “leaving little time for the United States to prevent both a nuclear- weapons capable Islamic Republic and an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.”
The authors back a bill that would sanction foreign companies that export gasoline to Iran, if negotiations fail. They say the administration should have prepared “sufficient financial, political and military pressure” before agreeing to negotiations.
The U.S. will dispatch its undersecretary of state for political affairs, William Burns, to the Oct. 1 meeting with U.S. allies and Iran without conditions. Iran has said its nuclear program is closed for discussion. The State Department said yesterday it will use the meeting to outline the consequences of Iran proceeding with a nuclear program.
The U.S. and its allies on the United Nations Security Council plus Germany have pushed Iran to accept a suspension of sanctions in exchange for Iran’s halt to uranium enrichment.
Iran has expanded its nuclear stockpile to 1,430 kilograms of low-enriched uranium hexafluoride compared to 75 kilograms in December 2007, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. It has also almost doubled its number of centrifuges at its uranium enrichment facility at Natanz since 2007.
The authors say a deadline of 60 days should be set for determining Iran’s seriousness once it commits to negotiations. If those negotiations fail, the administration should toughen sanctions and “prepare overtly for any military option.”
Such preparations could include deploying an additional aircraft carrier battle group to the waters off Iran and conducting joint exercises with U.S. allies.
In the absence of U.S. action, Israel is more likely to strike, the authors argue, saying that an Israeli strike “entails more risks than a U.S. strike.”
Israeli officials say that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose a threat to their country’s existence.