The United States is urging the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions on Iran immediately for its refusal to halt its uranium enrichment program. Some Middle East analysts say even with the threat of sanctions, Tehran is unlikely to suspend the program. Analysts argue, however, that diplomacy is a better approach to the situation than using military force.
Consultations are under way at the U.N. Security Council on a draft sanctions resolution proposed by Britain, France and Germany.
The United States and the European powers favor action to punish Tehran for failing to comply with the Council's demand to halt uranium enrichment.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is urging Council members to impose sanctions immediately.
"The United Nations Security Council is now working on an Iran sanctions resolution," she said. "For the international community to be credible, it must pass a resolution now that holds Iran accountable for its defiance."
Some Middle East analysts say Iran is not likely to halt its nuclear program, even if sanctions are imposed.
Kenneth Pollack, a specialist on Iran with the Washington-based Brookings Institution, spoke recently at an event sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations.
"Even the word suspension is an anathema in Tehran and it does seem very unlikely that we are going to get an Iranian agreement to suspend," he said. "I think that is very unlikely at any point in the near future for the Iranians."
Ray Takeyh, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, has just published a book called Hidden Iran: Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic.
Takeyh says the Iranian government, which has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), is using a civilian construction program to develop nuclear weapons.
"I think there are certain determinations that have been made by the regime," he said. "Namely that the country will proceed with its nuclear program up to the uppermost limits of what the NPT can allow, which is essentially creating a very elaborate nuclear infrastructure that can give them a weapons capability when and if they should want to move to that capability."
Reports from Iran say the country has recently doubled its capacity to enrich uranium.
That prompted President Bush to call for increased international pressure on Tehran.
"Whether they've doubled it or not, the idea of Iran having a nuclear weapon is unacceptable," he said. "It is unacceptable to the United States and it is unacceptable to the nations we are working with at the United Nations to send a common message."
Iran says its uranium enrichment is for peaceful purposes, to provide fuel for nuclear power. The United States alleges Iran is using the technology to create a weapons program.
Middle East analyst Kenneth Pollack says some officials within the Bush administration are pushing for the use of military force against Iran if it does not comply with U.N. demands to stop enriching uranium.
Pollack says, however, key U.S. leaders believe diplomacy is the best alternative.
"There certainly are people who are pushing for a more aggressive policy, for a policy of regime change, for a policy of military strikes," he said. "But they do not seem to be gaining a whole lot of traction because the principals do seem to understand that as difficult as the diplomatic track is to pull off, it actually is the least bad option."
Pollack says the diplomatic option offers some positives for the United States, even if it does not convince the Iranians to give up their nuclear program.
He says using diplomacy does preserve some American influence and enjoys the support of many U.S. allies.
It is not yet clear when or if the permanent members of the Security Council will agree on a resolution imposing sanctions on Iran, although U.S. diplomats have expressed optimism such a document will be approved.