WASHINGTON – A former White House Iran adviser said Monday that for Tehran to prove its seriousness in new talks over its nuclear program, it must take a step that “stops the clock” on its uranium enrichment.
Dennis Ross, who served as a senior adviser on Iran until late last year, said that Iran would need to agree to steps such as a “significant shipout” of its piles of enriched uranium. He specified that it must include not only the currently discussed 20 percent enriched uranium, but also significant amounts of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium as well.
He stressed, though, that he didn’t expect a breakthrough at the next round of talks on May 23 in Baghdad, adding, “I don’t think we should set ourselves up for that being the standard.”
But Ross, who was part of panel addressing Iran at the Bipartisan Policy Center, said that talks needed to be held regularly and frequently if they were expected to make progress.
“This is not a serious process if it meets once a month,” he said.
Still, Ross said that it was important the US make a credible offer to Iran so that any failure in talks and subsequent use of force would be blamed on Tehran, and not the West.
“There is no military solution,” Ross said, arguing that even in the case of an attack, the Iranian nuclear program would be set back but not ended, so the United States would need to still be in a position to rally an international regime to maintain sanctions and other measures to keep Iran from quickly rebuilding.
He predicted that in the short term, Iran was looking to divide the P5+1, the group of six world powers now handling negotiations with Iran comprised of the United States, Britain, Germany, France, Russia and China.
A top Bush administration official also participating in the panel Monday warned that recent political developments could make maintaining the international resolve on Iran harder.
Nicholas Burns, who served as an under secretary in the State Department during the Bush administration, said the new French president might have a different mindset than his predecessor.
“I doubt that President François Hollande can be as tough-minded as Nicolas Sarkozy was, and he was the steel in the P5+1,” Burns assessed.
Burns also said that that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak deserve credit from the international community for making the threat of a military attack credible – a threat which was key to building momentum for sanctions and diplomatic efforts.
At the same time, he contended that any military action should be undertaken by the US, calling an early Israeli strike “unwise.”
“The United States has greater military capacity, and the United States can exercise a combination of diplomacy and the threat of force I think more skillfully and more credibly than anybody else,” he said.
“I think it would be better for Israel and Israel’s long-term security interests.”