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Experts Say Next US President Must Deal With Tehran's Nuclear Program


Several American experts say the next U.S. president will have to confront the need to do something about Iran's nuclear enrichment program. They say efforts over the last five years to negotiate with Tehran have been ineffective, with Iran now closer to acquiring the technology to make an atomic bomb. VOA's Ravi Khanna has more on the story.

Tehran continues to defy the West, with Iranian President Ahmadinejad saying Iran has every right to enrich uranium and that it's for peaceful uses. The U.S. and other countries believe Iran is secretly developing nuclear weapons technology. The country's repeated missile tests are also a concern.

The next U.S. president will have to deal with Iran's nuclear program, the experts agree.

They say an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities would have widespread consequences, because a surgical strike is impossible. Iran's nuclear facilities are believed to be deep underground and dispersed.

Experts also believe U.N. sanctions have not and will not deter Iran.

Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, says Russian and Chinese backing for more sanctions is doubtful.

Russia helped build an Iranian nuclear power plant and has provided Iran with nuclear fuel. China needs Iran's oil and natural gas.

If Israel decides to attack Iran's nuclear facilities, as it did with Iraq, Bolton favors helping the Israelis with military equipment.

"It is risky, it may not succeed fully, or it may not succeed at all. There are undoubtedly consequences that Israel would face," Bolton said. "But I think from the Israeli point of view, and from the American point of view, however deeply unattractive the use of military force is, it is far more unattractive to contemplate an Iran with deliverable nuclear weapons."

But recently, Ehud Olmert, Israel's outgoing prime minister, said the assumption that Israel will attack Iran may not be realistic.

James Phillips at the Heritage Foundation says if the new U.S. president decides on a military option, he will have to answer three questions ahead of time.

"Do we have adequate intelligence to target the key parts of Iran's nuclear program, secondly, do we have the means to destroy those targets, and thirdly, how long a military strike is likely to delay Iran's efforts to attain nuclear weapons," Phillips asked.

David Albright is a physicist at the Institute for Science and International Security. He says the military option is not practical because Iran has several thousand nuclear centrifuges, which can be hidden over a wide area.

"We don't see how you can take out the Iranian program, short of full scale aerial bombardment that will go on for quite a while," Albright said. "There is a risk of pretty widespread war in that region."

Henry Sokolski at the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center prefers a cold war against Tehran even though it might take time.

The new president, he says, should open talks with Iran but widen their scope.

"I would focus on something where you have comparative advantage that Iranians claim they care about," Sokolski said. "They claim they want security guarantees."

Steps to guarantee Iran's security, he says, should be on the agenda.