UPDATES

Can we force Iran to abandon its nuclear plans?

Oct 2, 2012 | Ahron Shapiro

Can we force Iran to abandon its nuclear plans?
news_item/dm-wide-canweforce-20121001174700262183-620x349.jpg

Iran has enough uranium to create five nuclear bombs

 

Ahron Shapiro

Canberra Times – October 2, 2012

 

Where must we draw the line on Iran’s dangerous and illegal nuclear weapons program? At what point should the strongest measures, including military strikes, be implemented in order to derail it?

This is the question at the heart of a subtle yet significant disparity in diplomatic language regarding the Iranian nuclear threat, as the possibility increases that ongoing economic sanctions may be insufficient to cause Iran to abandon its goal of nuclear arms capability.

At the United Nations last week, US President Barack Obama said ”the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon”. While rejecting the option of containment, Obama continued to avoid imposing practical red lines or ultimatums upon Iran short of the bomb itself.

On the other hand, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has consistently stressed the need to stop Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability. As he explained to the UN last week: ”The red line must be drawn on Iran’s nuclear enrichment program because these enrichment facilities are the only nuclear installations that we can definitely see and credibly target.”

The dichotomy between Netanyahu’s and Obama’s red lines regarding Iran has been mirrored within domestic US politics through Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Like Netanyahu, Romney has underlined the need to prevent ”Iran from building and possessing nuclear weapons capability”.

So why does the word ”capability” matter? The concern is that by drawing the red line at a ”nuclear weapon”, one could infer that all the preparatory work that goes into nuclear weapons development, such as weapons-grade enrichment, is acceptable. One could even conclude that it may be likewise acceptable to prepare all the elements of a nuclear weapon in their unassembled state, just so long as final assembly does not occur. Such a policy would be foolhardy. A nuclear-capable power must be understood to be just as hazardous to confront as one that actually possesses nuclear weapons. All of the dangerous consequences of a nuclear-armed Iran would apply as soon as Iran develops all the components of a weapon. It would then be too late to stop it.

Iran essentially argues that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty – to which it is a signatory and which bans signatories that are not already nuclear weapons states from weaponising nuclear technology – gives it a right to what amounts to a nuclear weapons capability. Its argument is that until all components of the bomb are put together into a working weapon, it is not violating the treaty.

Meanwhile, some analysts committed to the idea that a diplomatic settlement should be reached on almost any terms have embraced this Iranian position, arguing the West should agree to whatever ”capability” Iran wants, as long as the Iranians don’t actually produce weapons. This ”solution” would achieve nothing except to preserve the illusion that the treaty was not being violated, while stripping the treaty of all value as a means of preventing nuclear proliferation.

This sentiment, however, has been soundly rejected by the American political mainstream and most international actors. In May, the US House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill ”regarding the importance of preventing the government of Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability” – by the overwhelming margin of 401-11. In July, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said ”if [Iran] obtains nuclear weapons capability, then I think other nations across the Middle East will want to develop nuclear weapons”.

Meanwhile, Wikileaks cables have revealed that Iran’s Sunni Muslim Arab neighbours are terrified of a nuclear-capable Iran, and would prefer to see the US or Israel strike Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.

These actors recognise the obvious: Iran, a confirmed state-sponsor of terror groups including Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas, must never be able to develop a nuclear weapons capability that would allow its proxies the freedom to operate under a nuclear umbrella, spark a regional nuclear arms race and hold hostage global oil supplies. It is clear from recent nuclear talks that Iran’s leaders appear to believe they can gain most of the benefits of a nuclear arsenal by essentially stopping just short of the final step of assembling highly-enriched uranium and bomb components into warheads. Then, whenever the time seems propitious, Iran can simply put its nuclear components together and ”officially” go nuclear.

We are now at the point where Iran has enough low-enriched uranium to create five nuclear bombs if further enriched: a process that could take as little as two months for the first nuclear device.

If, as Obama contends, nuclear containment is not an option with Iran, the time has now come for Iran’s interlocutors to specify where the actual red line is.

Ahron Shapiro is a policy analyst at Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council.

 

 

RELATED ARTICLES


(Photo: Shutterstock)

The politics of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar

Nov 22, 2022 | Update
Taraneh Alidoosti, one of Iran's most famous actresses, appearing publicly without her headscarf and holding a sign with the Kurdish words for "Women, Life, Freedom". Despite the regime's bloody repression, Alidoosti has vowed to remain in her homeland "at any price" and support the families of those killed or arrested in the protest crackdown  (Photo: Instagram)

Iran’s protest wave continues 

Nov 11, 2022 | Update
8c2ebfa2 C3e1 A33a 9cdc 07bd16e00b2f

After election win, Netanyahu set to be Israeli PM again

Nov 4, 2022 | Update
Israelis are going to the polls yet again on Nov. 1, the fifth Israeli election in less than four years. Will this vote break the political deadlock? (Image: Flickr, IDF)

Israel goes to the polls – again

Oct 28, 2022 | Update
The complex Israel-Lebanon maritime boundary dispute appears to have been settled after many years of negotiations, with Israel accepting the green line in the above diagram, except within five kilometres of the coast (This map was originally published on the MEES website).

Israel-Lebanon maritime border agreement

Oct 13, 2022 | Update
A screenshot from a video posted on Sept. 17 shows an injured protester in Saqqez, Iran, being rushed to a medical facility. (Video: Twitter)

Insights into Iran’s protest movement

Oct 7, 2022 | Update

SIGN UP FOR AIJAC EMAILS

RECENT POSTS

Image: Twitter

Apparent mass amnesia at Brighton Secondary College hearing

Left to Right: Russian President Vladimir Putin, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi

The Russo-Iranian alliance comes to Europe

International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Rafael Grossi (source: Dean_Calma)

UN nuclear watchdog head’s shocking statement on Iran

(Photo: Shutterstock)

The World Cup and Qatar’s Hypocrisy

Image: Twitter

New Government will confront terror wave 

Image: Twitter

Apparent mass amnesia at Brighton Secondary College hearing

Left to Right: Russian President Vladimir Putin, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi

The Russo-Iranian alliance comes to Europe

International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Rafael Grossi (source: Dean_Calma)

UN nuclear watchdog head’s shocking statement on Iran

(Photo: Shutterstock)

The World Cup and Qatar’s Hypocrisy

Image: Twitter

New Government will confront terror wave 

SORT BY TOPICS