High-ranking senators from both U.S. political parties say there are no easy answers when it comes to dealing with Iran's nuclear ambitions, but that the possible use of force cannot be ruled out. The comments follow a statement by Israel's defense minister that the Jewish state would not tolerate Iranian nuclear capability and is preparing to defend itself in that regard.
Arizona Senator John McCain says the time has come to bring Iran's nuclear activities before the United Nations for possible sanctions. The Republican lawmaker spoke on the U.S. television program Fox News Sunday.
"I would be pressing now, and I think the [Bush] administration will be very soon, to go to the [U.N.] Security Council," he said.
But when it comes to U.N. sanctions against Iran, which has restarted what Tehran describes as a peaceful nuclear energy program, the senator acknowledged that opposition could arise from permanent Security Council members Russia and China.
Another Republican lawmaker was more blunt in assessing the prospects for resolving the Iranian nuclear dispute through the United Nations.
"Sanctions do not work unless you have a unified position among all trading partners with Iran," said Kansas Senator Pat Roberts speaking on CBS' Face the Nation program. "Now, in the Security Council you have a problem, because you have China and Russia who trade with Iran. And they are not going to permit any sanctions."
Also appearing on Face the Nation was Connecticut Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman, who said all avenues must be pursued to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
"It is good that we are working with Britain, France and Germany, but the pace [of those efforts] is too slow," he said. "We have to try to take it [the Iranian nuclear situation] to the United Nations. I am pessimistic that Russia and China will let us do what we want to do. And then I think we form a 'coalition of the willing' - first to impose economic sanctions on Iran. Secondly, we can never take the military option off the table."
Senator Lieberman described U.S. armed forces as the most potent military force in the history of the world, and said that, despite heavy military commitments in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, the United States is fully capable of launching a pre-emptive military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities.
Those words were echoed by his Republican colleague, Senator John McCain.
"We cannot take the military option off the table," he said. "But we have to make it very clear [that] it is the last option. There is only one thing worse than the United States exercising a military option, and that is Iran having nuclear weapons. They already have the missiles to put them on."
Senator McCain said he understood Israel's fear of Iranian intentions, given recent comments by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that Israel should be wiped off the map.
Saturday, Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said "Israel will not be able to accept an Iranian nuclear capability and it must have the capability to defend itself, with all that implies."
In 1981, Israeli warplanes destroyed an Iraqi nuclear reactor outside Baghdad. Military analysts have said that an air strike against Iran's nuclear program would be much more difficult to carry out given the existence of multiple facilities, many believed to be underground.