Why West struggles to rein in Iran's nuclear program
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is set to attend the Non-Proliferation Treaty conference next week in New York. Sanctions have slowed – but not arrested – Iran's nuclear program.
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"It's difficult to muster the kind of sanctions that drive changes in strategy on the part of Iran," Levi says. "[But] anything that we do that makes Iran run its programs based on political considerations … based on worries about sabotage and infiltration, makes them less able to run it as a proper technical engineering program."Skip to next paragraph
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Progress is slowed; can it be stopped?
But slowing down a nuclear program is not the same as stopping progress. Iran argues that under Article IV of the NPT, it has a right – like all signatories – to the entire nuclear fuel cycle and all nuclear technology required for a peaceful program to produce energy.
That provision has been recognized for decades as a loophole in the NPT, which enables a nation to legally reach the brink of technical ability for a bomb – under the guise of a peaceful program – then "break out" of the treaty. North Korea did exactly that in 2003.
To prevent Iran from doing the same, key Western powers, led by the United States, argue that doubts about Iran's nuclear intentions forestall the Islamic Republic's right to the full fuel cycle.
But with the only means of enforcement a divided Security Council, "that leaves the way open to anyone who wants to play the game of hardening or softening, saying they are willing to negotiate and not negotiating, delaying, opening to inspections and [then] closing down, restricting access," says Shahram Chubin, a Geneva-based Iran expert for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
"There is really nothing you can do if the sanctions don't work, other than to use force," says Mr. Chubin, author of "Iran's Nuclear Ambitions" in 2006. "And since everybody agrees that … would be counterproductive – because it would drive [Iran's] program underground, reinforce a sense of victimhood, unite the regime, and so forth – there is really nothing you can do."
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