A task force of the Bipartisan Policy Center, a high-powered Washington-based research group, is calling on President Barack Obama to devise a tougher strategy to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. In a newly released report, two former U.S. senators and a retired general argue that if the United States does not act quickly to address the threat, Israel is poised to take military action on its own against Iran.
The subtitle of the report is "Time is Running Out," and it sums up the experts' conclusion, as former Democratic Senator Charles Robb of Virginia explained. "We believe that time is running out, and we need to adopt a more robust strategy in order to prevent both a nuclear Iran, and an Israeli military strike," he said.
The report was written by Robb, Daniel Coats, a former Republican senator from Indiana, and retired U.S. Air Force General Charles Wald, the former Deputy Commander of U.S. European command.
The authors praise President Obama's attempts to reach out to Iran diplomatically. But they argue that Tehran will likely have the capacity to produce at least one nuclear weapon next year. They say diplomacy urgently needs to be backed up with the threat of tougher sanctions and military force.
Senator Joseph Lieberman, an Independent Democrat from Connecticut, agrees . . ."that a credible and explicit threat of the possible use of military force needs to be put back on the table in our discussions with Iran."
Western nations accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, and that it is not subject to negotiation.
The report was released as the United States prepares to participate in preliminary talks with Iran on October 1. The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council - China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States -- as well as Germany - are expected to talk with Iran about security and economic issues.
Republican Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona had some advice for those who oppose any potential military action against Iran. "For those who don't like to contemplate the military option, of course, the answer is: Then if you don't like the military option, let's do what is necessary to avert it," he said.
Senator Kyl urged Congress to act quickly on legislation to impose expanded and more effective sanctions on Iran's banking and energy sectors as well as on companies that do business with them. But Kyl said that if sanctions do not produce results within the next few months, they need to be backed up with a credible threat of military strikes.
Retired Air Force General Charles Wald said Iran should not believe that U.S. military forces are stretched too thin in Afghanistan and Iraq to take action in Iran. "We do have a significant amount of air power remaining. And I am not here because I am an airman trying to advocate air power. I am just saying that is a tool we have and the Iranians need to know that the United States is not stretched too far," he said.
General Wald made clear that he was referring to limited air strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities, and not to deploying U.S. troops in the country.