Iran says it will end the suspension of its nuclear program, despite upcoming negotiations with European leaders. In the U.S., the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing Thursday to talk about how to handle the situation.
Troubled by Iran's declaration that it plans to resume nuclear activities, U.S. lawmakers are considering how to respond. Tehran says it plans to break a six-month freeze and restart uranium conversion, no matter what the outcome of scheduled talks next week with European leaders.
U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said to the committee, "Our message to Tehran today is: adhere to the Paris Agreement, maintain suspension of all nuclear-related activities and negotiate in good faith the eventual cessation and dismantling of all sensitive nuclear fuel cycle activities."
The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee also heard testimony about whether Iran's nuclear program is a direct threat to the United States. Gary Milhollin, a nuclear arms expert, says Iran has ties to terror groups, who could smuggle a weapon into the U.S. "I think if the Iranians had a dozen bombs, and were worried about an imminent war with us, I think they could get one here without putting it on a missile."
If Iran resumes nuclear activities, the European Union has threatened to take the case to the United Nations Security Council... But Senator Joe Biden thinks that option has drawbacks. "If we go to the Security Council, we may get something we didn't wish for, which is, faced with the prospect that we have to basically either to accept, or to act unilaterally militarily."
Iran has consistently maintained its nuclear program is geared to producing energy, not weapons... and some senators wondered if the Iranian people support the program. George Perkovich of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace says Iran's nuclear technology is a matter of national pride, and the attitude is that "Great countries have the technology. We're a great civilization, we're really smart people, we should be able to do this, and why the U.S. is trying to stop us is you've never gotten the revolution. You can't stand Iran as a nation."
The U.S. cut off diplomatic relations with Iran, after the 1979 revolution, when U.S. citizens were taken hostage. Senator Christopher Dodd thinks the U.S. should open limited communication. "We've got to engage a bit more. I just don't think you want to outsource your foreign policy to the Europeans on this matter."
Secretary Burns also emphasized the Bush administration supports the efforts of European Union leaders who are negotiating with Tehran on the nuclear issue. "The Iranian government has pretty consistently refused to have any interest in wanting to have a responsible discourse." And Mr. Burns says he doesn't think that offering Iran extra economic incentives would stop it from pursuing development of nuclear weapons.