Approach Tehran with Sticks, Not Carrots

[New Republic/Washington Institute for Near East Policy] Dennis Ross - As Iran pursues nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia and Egypt won't be far behind. Senior Egyptian officials have told me that, if we cannot stop Iran from going nuclear, it will spell the end of the nuclear nonproliferation regime. It is now reasonable to assume that Iran will be able to reach its aim of manufacturing 3,000 centrifuges before the end of this year. Once Tehran has that many centrifuges operating efficiently, it will only need about nine months to generate sufficient fissile material for one nuclear bomb. The diplomatic track is slowly having an impact on Iran's leadership, but at a pace that continues to be outstripped by the country's nuclear advances. The key, then, is to find a way to alter the behavior of Iran's rulers more quickly. Penalties, more than inducements, are the key to altering the Iranian position. When inducements have been put on the table, the Iranians have had little trouble rejecting them. Yet, when even the threat of UN sanctions appeared real, we began to see signs of a sharp internal Iranian debate. The Iranians must know that they will pay a high price for pursuing nuclear weapons. This argues for an approach focused on squeezing Iran economically - a strategy in which the Europeans and Japanese will have to assume the lead. So long as the Europeans are providing approximately $18 billion in loan guarantees for companies doing business in Iran, the Iranians won't be convinced they are on the brink of seeing their economic lifeline severed. Since the Saudis see Iranian nukes as a profound threat, we should be encouraging Riyadh to use its financial clout with the Europeans, the Japanese, and even the Chinese to choke off Iranian access to the international economic system.

2007-04-20 01:00:00

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