International Community Looks at Options to Stop Iran From Producing Nuclear Weapons
The key issue facing the Obama administration is how to curtail what are believed to be Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions.
Last updated on: December 17, 2009 11:25 AM
A key issue facing the Obama administration is how to curtail what are believed to be Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions.
The United States and Europe believe Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons. But Tehran says its nuclear program is for peaceful, civilian purposes.
However, analysts say Tehran's recent actions do not allay western fears that Iran is working to gain nuclear weapons. At the end of November, Tehran announced it plans to build 10 new uranium enrichment plants. And recently it test fired a medium-range missile capable of reaching Israel, parts of southeastern Europe and U.S. bases in the Middle East.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger says Iran possessing nuclear weapons would be unacceptable.
"If the Iranians can build a nuclear weapon, that's the issue - it is whether they can build a nuclear weapon," he said. "And if they can and if they do, we being the West are in really serious, serious trouble. And at some point, the Iranians or somebody, some country is going to hand one of these weapons over to some terrorists, or the terrorists are going to take them one way or another - and then we're in real trouble."
Sanctions and censure
For years the international community has been trying to persuade Iran to forego any nuclear weapons ambitions. Organizations like the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency have imposed sanctions and censured Iran - but to no avail. President Barack Obama has given Iran until the end of the year to respond to Western concerns. But analysts say Tehran has not and it appears the international community may look at tougher sanctions in the weeks ahead.
Former National Security Adviser General Brent Scowcroft says more sanctions is not the way to go.
"I don't think the next step is necessarily a tougher stand, but it is convincing Iran that they don't have an alternative now and that they need to sit down and talk with us about, not only about nuclear weapons, but about Iran and the region. And we need to be prepared to talk to them about that too," he said.
Former CIA Director and Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger is pessimistic about what the international community can do to coax Iran to curtail its alleged nuclear weapons ambitions.
"Well in one word - very little. Nothing," he said. "The reality is if one remembers Saddam Hussein and that there were 16 or 17 censures against Saddam and ultimately he was removed by force. We are not in a position to do much. In regard to the Iranians, a censure - they have already demonstrated they are not interested in accepting the censure. And it probably just adds to their defiance."
Lawrence Eagleburger says if diplomacy fails, then maybe the international community should take tougher action.
"I still contend that if necessary, we ought to use force to prevent the Iranians from building a nuclear weapon," he said. "And that is a price that at least so far, I think, the international community and our own government has been unwilling to pay - namely to use the force necessary to prevent them from building their weapon or those weapons."
Use of force?
Eagleburger says one country that might be looking at the military option is Israel, since Tehran has stated it wants to destroy that country.
"If I were an Israeli, I think I'd have to take that statement seriously," he said. "And so at some point, the Israelis have got to say what are we going to do if nobody else is going to do anything? What do we have to do to prevent the Iranians from developing a nuclear weapon? And that may mean that the Israelis would then use force on their own to try to prevent it."
James Schlesinger is against those advocating the use of force.
"They ought to rethink their position. In the case of Israel, it does not have the capabilities of the United States Air Force and in effect, as somebody has said, they are betting their air force on a strike that probably would delay the Iranians a year or two if successful," he said.
For his part, General Scowcroft considers a military strike against Iran - as he put it - "a serious mistake."
"We can't solve the problem that way and what we can do is further inflame the Muslim world," he said. "It seems to me we ought to start this process with dialogue and see where that gets us before we start waving sabers."
However, many analysts say the international community has spent enough time on the diplomatic front trying to persuade Iran to curb its nuclear program. They say those diplomatic overtures produced very little and it is time to look at other avenues, including tougher sanctions. They also say all options remain on the table - a veiled reference to military action.