Stopping a Nuclear Tehran

[Washington Post] Daniel R. Coats and Charles S. Robb - The first and most pressing national security issue the next president will face is the growing prospect of a nuclear-weapons-capable Iran. After co-chairing a recently concluded, high-level task force on Iranian nuclear development, we have come to believe that five principles must serve as the foundation of any reasonable, bipartisan and comprehensive Iranian policy. An Islamic Republic of Iran with nuclear weapons capability would be strategically untenable. It would threaten U.S. national security, regional peace and stability, energy security, the efficacy of multilateralism, and the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) regime. Simply obtaining the ability to quickly assemble a nuclear weapon would effectively give Iran a nuclear deterrent and drastically multiply its influence in the region. Allowing the Middle East to fall under the dominance of a radical clerical regime that supports terrorism should not be considered a viable option. We believe the only acceptable end state is the complete cessation of enrichment activities inside Iran. We foresee no combination of international inspections or co-ownership of enrichment facilities that would provide sufficient assurances that Iran is not producing weapons-grade fissile material. Indeed, the enrichment facility at Natanz is already technically capable - once Iran has a sufficient stockpile of low-enriched uranium - of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear device in four weeks, more than fast enough to elude detection by international inspectors. While a diplomatic resolution is still possible, it can succeed only if we negotiate from a position of strength. This will require better coordination with our international partners and much stricter sanctions. Negotiations with Iran would probably be ineffective unless our European allies sever commercial relations with Tehran. So that Israel does not feel compelled to take unilateral action, the next president must credibly convince Jerusalem that the U.S. will not allow Iran to achieve nuclear weapons capability. While military action against Iran is feasible, it must remain an option of last resort. The U.S. military is capable of launching a devastating strike on Iran's nuclear and military infrastructure - probably with more decisive results than the Iranian leadership realizes. Time may be shorter than many imagine, and failure could carry a catastrophic cost to the national interest. Former Senators Daniel R. Coats (R-IN) and Charles S. Robb (D-VA) are co-chairmen of the Bipartisan Policy Center's national security task force on Iran.

2008-10-23 01:00:00

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