Iran's nuclear program: talk of international consortium
Western and Iranian officials consider new framework as Iran program progresses.
(Page 3 of 3)
The article's call for direct talks and exploring a compromise was supported by letters from Senators Dianne Feinstein (D) of California and Chuck Hagel (R) of Nebraska, who said the US "cannot afford any longer to refuse to consider the strategic choice of direct talks with Iran."Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
But David Albright, head of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) in Washington, says it is too soon to "give up and find a face-saving way" when further isolation might work.
"Right now it's a question of who is going to win," says Mr. Albright, who closely tracks Iran's program. "Is the West and its allies in the Security Council going to be able to ratchet up enough pressure? Or is Iran going to be able to undercut them and create a new grouping that it deals with?"
One cause of concern, he says, is Iran's handling of what the IAEA calls the "alleged studies" – intelligence provided to the agency by the US, much of it from a stolen laptop that held missile and explosive test designs. Iran has dismissed the data as fabricated and will not address them.
"Iran never gives the West – never gives anybody –the opportunity to believe that nothing is going on, that they have turned the corner," says Albright. Reaction to the studies is "increasing suspicion that in a couple of years, they will decide to build a nuclear weapon, once they are comfortable operating several thousand centrifuges."
Carah Ong, the Iran analyst for the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington, speaking in Tehran, says that continued efforts to isolate Iran are "pointless" because they cement Iran's stance. "We're at a point where the positions [of the US and Iran] are so hardened that it's going to be difficult to break that impasse," she says. "The more openness you have, the more difficult it becomes for nefarious activities to occur."
Iran's nuclear program has become part of the identity of the Islamic regime, analysts here say. Indeed, Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme religious leader, suggested last month that the nuclear program has divine protection: "The Iranian people openly announce that they will defend their rights [to nuclear technology]. God will reprimand them if they do not do so."
Few issues are more sensitive in Iran, with newspaper editors ordered by the National Security Council not to report any negative news about the program, such as the impact of sanctions.
"The Iranian mind-set is always to project excessive toughness, because they are dealing with a superpower," says a political scientist in Tehran who asked not to be named. "They may say: 'Let's sit down and talk about global management of Iran's enrichment program,' and then go for a year-long delaying tactic."
But others argue that Iran is ready to talk. "Any amicable settlement that would show Iran as victorious would be accepted," says an Iranian political analyst who also asked not to be named. "They have nothing to lose at this point [by accepting a consortium]. It's not impossible to bring Iran to its knees, but it's almost too late."