Western intelligence services believe that Tehran has not yet made a decision to build nuclear weapons, and it does not yet have the necessary ingredients for an effective nuclear arsenal. Bipartisan experts agree that preventive military strikes would be counterproductive. It might galvanize support around the current regime and spur the drive toward a nuclear weapon, not prevent it. On the other hand, sanctions can alter Iran’s calculus but cannot halt its program.
Diplomacy remains the best option. US negotiators must redouble efforts to limit Iran’s enrichment to normal reactor-grade levels, cap its uranium stockpiles, and give international inspectors greater access to ensure that Iran has halted all weapons-related work, all in exchange for a phased rollback of international sanctions.
To head off proliferation throughout the region, Washington must also work to bring key states, including Israel, Iran, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, together for talks on a process for creating a Middle East zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. The first meeting is to be held by year’s end.