Preventing Iranian nuclear weapons AND preventing war with Iran - read more on national Peace Action website
Preventing an Iranian Nuclear Bomb: the Three Options - Analysis by Peace Action's Norman Robbins - read
What should Obama do about Iran? For real change in foreign policy, read the Joint Experts' Statement on Iran
Map Shows US Military Bases Surrounding Iran
The neighborhood is bristling with nuclear weapons: When will the US and the UK tell the truth about Israeli weapons? News analysis from The Guardian, 11/20/07
Did you miss our January 2008 forum on Iran, featuring Scott Ritter and Edward Peck? - read article in Cleveland Jewish News
Preventing An Iranian Nuclear Bomb: The Three Options+1
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Norman Robbins, Cleveland Peace Action, email@example.com
Given the uncertainty about Iran’s nuclear intentions, as well as the mutual lack of trust between Iran and the West, it is important to craft an American policy that is effective regardless of Iran’s true nuclear designs, and that depends on verification, not on trust. In order to identify what will and will not work, it may be necessary to abandon politically popular but failed or potentially disastrous policies. Three options are on the table: 1) Increasing sanctions to force Iran to abandon Uranium enrichment; 2) Military attack; or 3) Negotiating verifiable limitations on enrichment together with enhanced inspections to prevent bomb development. After reviewing the pros and cons of each option, the third option emerges as the best (or “least bad”) because: 1) it addresses the problem regardless of Iran’s real nuclear intentions; 2) It depends on verifiability, not trust; and 2) it is more likely to succeed, in that it recognizes the security interests of all parties. However, it may have to proceed in the context of a broader US-Iran diplomatic rapprochement (Option 3+1).
No one knows whether Iran’s nuclear program: 1) is aimed solely at peaceful atomic energy, as Iran claims; 2) is designed to stay within the Non-proliferation Treaty rules but allow development of a nuclear weapon “break-out” capacity as circumstances dictate at some later time, or 3) is secretly developing a nuclear weapon, as the Israeli government and some Western political leaders claim.
There is no hard evidence for the third possibility. In November 2007, U.S. intelligence agencies issued a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) stating: “We assess with moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007, but we do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons.”
http://www.dni.gov/press_releases/20071203_release.pdf US Intelligence Chief Dennis Blair recently confirmed these findings, and the US State Department Intelligence Section went further, stating there was not even evidence that Iran had made any decision on pursuing nuclear weapons. Finally, the IAEA, the international Agency with the most information, says that Iran has clarified many concerns (except for some in the past that are still “alleged”) and that it finds no diversion of enriched Uranium for military purposes. Both the current IAEA Director ElBaradei, and future Director Amano agree on this determination.
Even if Iran were to develop a nuclear weapon, would it launch a first strike against Israel? Iran is clearly hostile to Israel, but there is controversy over whether Ahmadinejad really meant wiping Israel off the map or rather that Israel would cease to exist as a Jewish state for other reasons (such as the Soviet Union, which was used as an example). Indeed, rightly or wrongly, this view is shared by a growing number of moderate Palestinians and Israel-observers, who believe that only a one-state solution is now possible (http://www.radicalmiddle.com/x_onestate.htm). More important, powerful Iranian leaders have asserted a “no first strike on Israel” policy. For instance, on July 8, 2008, Ahmadinejad stated clearly “Iran has no plans to attack Israel.” http://www.presstv.ir/Detail.aspx?id=62989§ionid=351020101. Ayatollah Khamenei, who decides Iran’s foreign policy, stated “We are not a threat whatsoever to the world … We will never start a war. We have no intention of going to war with any government.” (http:www.juancole.com/2006/06/Khamenei-n-nuclear-weapons-program-no.html). And General Hoseyn Salami, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Air Force, also asserted Iran’s actions would be political, not military, unless there is a military threat (http://www.juancole.com/2009/09/irgc-air-force-commander-missile-tests.html).
There are many additional reasons to strongly doubt that Iran would attack Israel first. It makes little sense for Iran to launch an attack on Israel (or give a bomb to terrorists) since this would be suicidal: Israel could retaliate with a devastating nuclear weapon attack. In addition, Iran would not wish to damage Jerusalem’s 3rd holiest site of Islam, and kill and injure hundreds of thousands of Muslims, including Palestinians, from radioactive fallout. Generally, Iran has pursued cautious policy choices as demonstrated by their refusal to use chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq war, despite Saddam Hussein’s provocations (See http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/experts.pdf for list of other cautious Iranian decisions). Curiously, those who claim Iran’s theocratic rulers are fanatic enough to commit national suicide, discount the Iran’s Supreme Ayatollah’s religious fatwa against Iran developing nuclear weapons, and argue that Iran would exercise “restraint” in response to an attack. http://washingtoninstitute.org/pubPDFs/PolicyFocus84.pdf
Is there time to explore non-military options to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon? Although some claim that because Iran has sufficient supply of low-enriched Uranium for 1-2 bombs, it could develop such bombs by mid-2010, even Mossad Chief Meir Dagan points out that with no technical glitches it would take until 2014 (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1093357.html), a conclusion similar to that reached by US intelligence
It is often stated that “7 years of diplomacy with Iran hasn’t worked”, with the implication that it can or will not work now. However, Western insistence on zero Uranium enrichment has been the deal-breaker. Other ways to control or limit Uranium enrichment tied to enhanced and intrusive inspections (Option 3) has never been formally negotiated.
Finally, every day that passes, in which we fail to reach a workable agreement with Iran, imposes hardships on the United States. The US spent about $550 million dollars a day in fiscal 2008 for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and lost hundreds of lives. Both are countries where Iran has long-standing relations which could contribute greatly to stabilization and reconstruction. Iran could also cooperate with the US in countering opium transport from Afghanistan, where opium sales support the Taliban.
Option 1. Ratchet up sanctions to compel Iran to entirely abandon uranium enrichment
Overall: Sanctions and inducements coupled with insistence on total cessation of Iran’s Uranium enrichment program are not likely to change Iran’s nuclear policy, and some proposed sanctions (blockades) could trigger a war. If sanctions fail to bring about full Iranian capitulation, many would then argue for a military attack (Option 2). Some argue that sanctions can function as a bargaining chip, if not the ultimate coercion.
PRO: Sanctions might:
• Force Iran to abandon its nuclear program
• Iran is already hurting from sanctions (but see below), and there is a chance that the public will blame them on Ahmadinejad’s policies, further undermining his political position.
• Harsher sanctions, such as a blockade of critical supplies (including refined gasoline) could force Iran to abandon its uranium enrichment program.
• Garner support of the American public since it less drastic and risky than war
• Sanctions are not as harsh or extreme as military action, so Americans and politicians are more likely to support them, whether or not they are effective.
• US Sanctions for 30 years have not had a major effect on Iran’s economy (excerpted from p.10 of http://web.mit.edu/cis/Publications/IRAN-Tirman_2009.pdf)
“The collective judgment of scholars on the economic pain suffered by Iranians ranges from 1 to 2 percent of GDP annually, with most at the lower end of that range… From 1994 to 2007, GDP rose nearly 400 percent.
Between 1999 and 2006, Iran signed multi-billion-dollar oil and gas deals with Italy, France, South Korea, Norway, China, and India, a total of $80 billion worth. More recently, Iran has signed such deals with Austria (€22 billion, April 2007), Switzerland (€18 billion, March 2008), Malaysia ($14 billion, Dec. 2008), and China ($1.7 billion, Jan. 2009).
Iran’s trade has shifted in recent years: once mainly with market economies, it is now largely with authoritarian states. For those who see a vital link between economic structure and political outcomes, these trends are particularly damning arguments against sanctions.” • Since UN sanctions were imposed, Iran has increased the number of its uranium enrichment centrifuges from about 164 to over 7,000. It is likely that Iran will increase its capacity further while ineffective sanctions and coercive diplomacy continue.
• Because of sanctions on Iran, US businesses including both energy and manufacturing, have lost out to other parts of the world, especially to energy giant Russia and massive energy user China.
• Since UN sanctions were imposed, Iran has increased the number of its uranium enrichment centrifuges from about 164 to over 7,000. It is likely that Iran will increase its capacity further while ineffective sanctions and coercive diplomacy continue.
• Further sanctions will bring little change in Iranian nuclear policy
• Repeated polls show that even though they don’t like their government, most Iranians (80+ %) support the right to enrich Uranium, opposing what they consider U.S. bullying tactics (Iranians have strong feelings and intense memories about British, Russian, and American colonial exploitation and hegemony). Analysis of polls shows that this view is shared equally by hardliners, moderates, and reformers. Recent reform candidates such as Moussavi have warned that sanctions would increase hardliner power by stoking nationalist feeling.
• Since Iran has the world’s second largest reserves of gas and oil, countries like China which depend on Iran’s supplies will not support harsh sanctions and will continue to trade with Iran. Russia wants Iran’s alliance in an oil-natural gas cartel. Many European countries are greatly concerned by Russia’s domination of natural gas supplies and want to open alternative supply sources from Iran. All these interests tend to nullify the impact of sanctions.
• Although Iran currently imports some 30-40% of its refined petroleum, sanctions on companies and shipping lines which bring refined petroleum to Iran are not likely to work. Iran is rapidly increasing its refining capacity (with Chinese aid), reducing its dependence by converting cars to natural gas, and importing refined petroleum from China. Sanctions would give Iran the excuse it needs to raise prices on heavily subsidized gasoline, and to blame this policy on the West, while pocketing substantial savings.
• Harsher sanctions could provoke or pave the way to war
• Sanctions which include blockade or embargo (such as that proposed on shipment of refined petroleum products to Iran) could lead to military skirmishes and war, with all the negative effects noted for Option 2. Even Obama advisor Dennis Ross concedes that sanctions are unlikely to sway Iran’s behavior but would legitimize military action against Iran if, as expected, they fail. General Ward, one of the leaders of a so-called bipartisan report signed by Dennis Ross, recently stated “If we don’t do diplomacy, we’ll never get to the point where we can attack” (Washington Institute for Near East Policy Conference, Oct. 17,2009: http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/audio/audio_popup.php?id=491&table=tblEvents). Israel has threatened military action if sanctions fail.
Option 2. Pre-emptive military bombardment of known Iranian nuclear sites
Overall: Bombing would temporarily damage Iran’s nuclear program, but would have disastrous consequences for American and Israeli security.
• Reduce Iran’s nuclear capability
• If Iran intends to build a nuclear weapon, it could delay production by 1–3 years (e.g. Sec. of Defense Gates, April 2009, http://www.armytimes.com/news/2009/04/military_iran_gates_041309/)
• Deter Iran from developing nuclear weapons
• It could send a message that further attacks could occur if Iran persists in developing nuclear capacity.
• It could demonstrate the vulnerability of Iran to Western superior military technology.
CON: (overall see: http://www.csis.org/media/csis/pubs/090316_israelistrikeiran.pdf). An attack on Iran could:
•Actually promote a weapons program
•Attacks would only delay an Iranian nuclear weapon by 1-3 years (see Gates ref. above)
• Fearing future attacks, Iran would abandon its policy of not developing nuclear weapons, drop out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and its inspection requirements, and begin a crash program to develop nuclear weapons.
•Cause massive civilian casualties
Attack on two cities invariably proposed for attack because of nuclear facilities, (Isfahan, population 1.5 million and Arak. population 511,000), could cause massive civilian casualties, enraging the Muslim world
•Produce disastrous radioactive fallout. Even conventional attacks on sites containing radioactive elements (e.g. Bushehr atomic plant, Isfahan conversion plant) could produce radioactive clouds affecting Persian Gulf nations and US bases (from Bushehr) , as well as spread killing or injuring tens of thousands of Iranian citizens (especially in Isfahan). The worldwide reaction would be devastating to US and Israeli interests.
• Bolster Iranian religious and military hardliners
• It is likely the Iranian people would unite behind hardliner theocracy. For instance, even fierce formerly imprisoned critics of the Iranian regime, such as Ahmad Batabi, say that if Iran were attacked, they would go back and fight http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/13/world/middleeast/13dissident.html?adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1239915704-mO1IDUU/cKmKf5o70EFKBg
• Internal regime change would then probably be delayed for many more years, say Iran human rights activists.
• Spur retaliation against U.S. military forces or against Israel – increasing the length and costs of war
• Iran could encourage military attacks on American soldiers by Iraqi Shiites and pro-Iranian Afghanistan forces, perhaps even the Taliban. This could lead to indefinite guerilla war in both countries.
• Iran could attack vulnerable American naval forces in the Persian Gulf, American military bases in Gulf countries and/or the oil resources of those countries.
• Iran could attack Israel which would likely lead to a counter-attack — perhaps a nuclear holocaust in Iran (see, for example, the statement of Israeli historian Benny Morris http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/18/opinion/18morris.html ) . A recent study by Israeli Defense Ministry researcher Dr. Moshe Vered predicts that a war between Israel and Iran will be prolonged and "will be measured in years, not in weeks or days" because of Iran’s willingness to sacrifice large numbers of its citizens in a war it considers just (as shown in the 8-year Iran-Iraq war). (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1126421.html)
• Spur retaliation against Western economic targets
• Iran has threatened, if attacked, to close the Straits of Hormuz through which passes one third of the world’s oil and much of its natural gas supplies, leading to at least $300/barrel oil, increased natural gas costs, and major world economic disruption — at least until the Straits could be re-opened. Iran could also choose to cut off oil shipments to Western countries, but this would depend on world demand for oil, right now greatly reduced.
• Promote terrorism
• Spur the rise of religious fundamentalists around the world
• Shiite (and probably general Arab) outrage against governments which permitted another Western attack on the Muslim world would lead to de-stabilization and possibly the rise to power of more fundamentalist and militant forces or governments.
• Muslim world anger would lead to increased recruitment and more anti-Western terrorism.
• Muslim world anger would increase the recruitment and power of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza and the West bank (as Fatah are seen as Western puppets).
• Muslim world anger would increase attacks on Israel from Hamas and Hezbollah, and suspension of any Israel-Palestinian peace process.
• Decrease the stature and leverage of the United States
• Another pre-emptive attack on a sovereign country that has not threatened or attacked the United States would likely raise the ire of people around the world, reducing the moral authority of the U.S. in its other endeavors.
• Spur discontent in the United States
• Many Americans would be angry about high gas prices, military losses, and further skyrocketing budget deficits, and would blame Congress, the Administration and the Israeli government for their military policies. They would see precious funds taken away from dire domestic needs such as health care, education, and economic recovery.
Option 3. Negotiate limited uranium enrichment with highly intrusive inspections and safeguards
There are several variations of this general idea, some involving an International consortium overseeing Iran’s uranium enrichment, and all requiring verifiable monitoring of Iran’s nuclear programs. To be successful, negotiations probably would require that Western powers offer to phase in reduction of sanctions and to provide security guarantees. Arms control experts are also considering safeguards to minimize later conversion of Iranian nuclear facilities to bomb production, e.g. centrifuges that would self-destruct if required to do weapons-level uranium enrichment.
OVERALL: Negotiations leading to verifiably inspected and perhaps limited nuclear capacity is the option most likely to be accepted by Iran, and to provide assurance against development of an Iranian nuclear weapon.
• Enable intrusive inspections
• Western countries would have far more assurance and intelligence about Iran’s nuclear programs than it does now.
• Any efforts to “break-out” (to begin production of nuclear weapons) would be readily detectable.
• Enable an honorable solution for all sides
• Iran regards nuclear enrichment as a treaty-given right, which it will not sacrifice. Recently, some American leaders such as Sen. John Kerry have begun to recognize thisreality.
• Even Iran has already proposed agreements along these lines, offering to prove to the West by transparency that its nuclear program is peaceful. Experienced American diplomats and arms controls experts, some with continuing informal contacts with Iranian officials, have also made similar proposals
(e.g. http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/03/03/opinion/edluers.php?page=2), challenging Iran to prove its peaceful intent.
• Recently it was reported that the Obama administration may be considering an international atomic fuel bank in Kazakhstan. However, Iran may continue to reject such offers because of its past negative experiences with previous nuclear contracts with the U.S., Germany, France and Russia. These have created distrust and a push for self-sufficiency.
• Iran could prolong negotiations until it had attained at least nuclear weapons capacity
• It is true that 7 years of Western negotiations with Iran have produced no satisfactory agreement, and that in the meantime, Iran has greatly developed its nuclear and missile programs. However, as noted above, the precondition or condition that Iran abandon Uranium enrichment has been the key reason for lack of progress. In addition, despite delays due to change of US administration and Iranian elections, the U.S. still publicly insists that cessation of Iranian enrichment is non-negotiable (Gen. James Jones, head of US National Security Council, 11-27-09), and views negotiations only as a means for Iran to accept “the right choice”. Until there is some alternative agreement on this issue, negotiations and development of a plan for intrusive inspections, will remain stalled. Former US State Department official Hillary Mann Everett, who negotiated with Iran during the run-up to the Afghanistan invasion, points out that when US and Iranian interests were aligned, negotiations were swift and effective.
• It is also true that the internal Iranian political situation has muddled Iran’s international negotiating stance. Thus, when even hardliner Ahmadinejad favored the recent trade of much of Iran’s low-enriched Uranium for more highly enriched fuel rods, his parliament and reformist opposition opposed it as a “sell-out” to the West. This opposition makes it virtually impossible for negotiations to succeed if they seem to eliminate Iran’s Uranium enrichment program.
• Iran could violate or abandon the negotiated agreement
• As long as Iran continues to enrich uranium, it could use its increasing knowledge to develop a clandestine bomb despite intrusive inspections. A discovery of cheating would, however, destroy the entire regime’s credibility, already shaky after the recent elections.
• Iran’s growing knowledge of the nuclear cycle would enable it to “break out” of NPT controls and inspections, and develop a bomb at a later time. But with strict, intrusive inspections, this would be virtually impossible unless Iran abandoned its NPT obligations (and threw out the inspectors), which would then give the world notice of its intentions.
Option 3+1. Fold Option 3 into a broader set of “transformative” diplomatic initiatives
Many Iran experts, most recently John Tirman of the MIT Center for International Studies, have argued that attempts at piecemeal solutions of individual problems, such as the nuclear issue, are not likely to succeed in the absence of a far broader initiative. This would include “a new discourse toward Iran, one of due respect and trust building; lifting of most unilateral sanctions; normalizing relations as soon as possible; proposing innovative solutions on nuclear development; addressing regional security concerns in a multilateral forum; and cooperative endeavors on an array of issues.” http://web.mit.edu/cis/Publications/IRAN-Tirman_2009.pdf.
Thus, the continuing failure of sanctions alone to alter Iran’s actions (discussed above) suggests that lifting commercial non-military US unilateral sanctions would lose nothing, since the sanctions don’t work in any event. On the other hand lifting some sanctions would show the US’ serious intent to develop a new relationship. Again, the ideas of Option 3 on ways to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is non-military, would strongly benefit from being folded into a larger initiative. This is because Iran could not accept intrusive inspections if it had reason to believe the US or Israel was reserving the right to attack at any time. In addition, if Iran’s security concerns over America’s military presence in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Persian Gulf were addressed by new multilateral cooperative security agreements, that would also diminish any pressure Iran feels to have nuclear weapons.
CON: (American Iranian Council White Paper, http://american-iranian.org/publications/articles/2009/02/aic-whitepaper-toward-an-obama-policy-for-better-usiran-relations.html)
“…the experts and pundits have failed to detect the most important of Iran's tactics with respect to the U.S.-Iran relationship: to maintain the "no-war no-peace" status quo. They have been unable to realize that Iran does and will do everything that preserves the status quo at the expense of more conflict or normal relations with the United States. Thus, Iran would "negotiate" with the U.S., if offered, regarding Iraq, Afghanistan, drag trafficking, and even uranium enrichment. However, what Iran will not be prepared to do is to utilize these negotiations to normalize relations with the U.S. at this time. From the perspective of the Islamic Republic, the time has perhaps come for better relations with the U.S. but not for normal relations, which it sees as being tantamount to ending the Islamic revolution.”
THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION IS RAMPING UP THE RISK OF WAR WITH
CONGRESS NEEDS TO ACT BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE
The Bush administration is distorting intelligence about
· Without evidence, Bush and Cheney are telling Americans that
· A CIA classified report (according to Seymour Hersh) says there is no definite evidence for Iranian nuclear weapons development;
· The International Atomic Energy Agency reports concur (although have unanswered questions and ask for more transparency);
· The 2005 National Intelligence Estimate and former Intelligence Czar Negroponte say it’s 5-10 years before
· Bush wants to replace Negroponte with a more compliant McConnell
· Pentagon has an “Iranian Directory” to quash and cherry-pick intelligence
· Bush never tells Americans that Ayatollah Khameini, not Adhmadinejan, decides Iranian foreign and nuclear policy, and that Khameini has issued an edict abjuring nuclear weapons (although he firmly supports
· The mainstream media mostly reinforces the Bush-Cheney assertions
The Bush administration is taking actions which could provoke a cassus belli
· They have sent an armada with 2 aircraft carriers, destroyers, & submarines all carrying offensive missiles and all close to the Iranian coast
· Three episodes of kidnapping Iranians in
· Bush tacitly encourages
Neither Bush nor the mainstream media have explained the disasters that would follow an Israeli or American attack on Iran: for starters, slaughter of American troops and worsening of civil war in Iraq, disruption of oil supplies and skyrocketing prices, more recruits for jihadists, more attacks on Israel and the end of any hopes for Peace negotiations
The Iranians repeatedly offer negotiations to address American concerns as well as Middle Eastern stability, asking that their security concerns be addressed (which the Bush Administration has refused to do). The Administration rejects open-ended negotiations.
We ask that Congress:
· Have immediate hearings on:
o What undistorted intelligence says about
o Opportunities and possibilities of broad negotiations with
o Expected consequences of an attack on
o Whether McConnell would be an independent CIA Director, if approved
· Issue a formal statement demanding congressional approval of any preemptive attack against
· that Congress does not support a pre-emptive attack on
H.J.Res. 14 Concerning the use of force by the
Sam Gardiner (ret. USAF Colonel,
Flynt Everett (former CIA, Nat. Security Council), Assessing US Diplomatic Options toward