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November 08, 2011

Analyst: Few Options on Iran's Nuclear Aims

by Lisa Bryant

Global reaction to the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA's) newly released report, which offers the strongest evidence yet that Iran is building a nuclear weapon, has been low key.

Although the report says some components of the program can have civilian applications, it points to others that are specifically linked to nuclear weapons. It suggests Tehran has created computer models of nuclear explosions and experimented on nuclear triggers.

Iranian officials reject allegations its nuclear program has any military aim, and President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad on Wednesday said the country would not retreat from its nuclear activities.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe says Paris is ready to push for tough new sanctions against Iran if the country refuses to answer questions about its nuclear program.

In a Wednesday interview with Radio France Internationale, Juppe, who called the IAEA report detailed and damning, said Iran's actions are unacceptable and violate U.N. resolutions and international law. He said the IAEA's board of governors should condemn Tehran and that the Security Council should take up the matter.

The United Nations Security Council has already passed four sets of sanctions against Iran, but two permanent Security Council members, Russia and China, have so far shown little appetite for more.

Security Analyst Dave Clemente of the London think-tank Chatham House says the international community has few options.

"The U.S. seems like [it will continue] with the sanctions that already exist, in part because it will be difficult if not impossible to get any increased level of sanctions," he said. "Certainly, through the Security Council it would be nearly impossible."

Clemente also doubts Israel will carry through with warnings of a possible military strike against Iran's nuclear program.

"I think it is unlikely because it would have strong repercussions around the region," he said. "It would exacerbate instability that already exists and have unforeseen consequences, certainly for the U.S."

Clemente notes the report comes amid increasing concern about Iranian policy and actions. Last month, Washington accused Iranian officials of plotting to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States. The IAEA is expected to examine its latest report on Iran during a board meeting next week.