Gold warns West against giving Iran time

Former Israeli diplomat urges adherence to September deadline for direct engagement.

dore gold  248 88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
dore gold 248 88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Former Israeli diplomat Dore Gold railed against the West's "rising complacency" at the specter of a nuclear Iran Tuesday and warned that any engagement with Teheran should last only a few weeks lest it allow the Islamic Republic to achieve a nuclear breakout. Gold, who served as Israel's ambassador to the UN during the first term of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, whom he continued to serve as a foreign policy adviser through his recent campaign, contended that Iran's rulers would take full advantage of any period of engagement to advance its nuclear program, as had occurred in past negotiations conducted by the European Union. On similar grounds, he urged the West to stick to the September deadline it had given Iran to respond to its offer of direct engagement. US President Barack Obama, who has made diplomatic outreach a cornerstone of his Iran policy, had indicated he would reconsider that approach if Iran had not accepted by then. Gold noted that in the wake of the domestic challenges to the Iranian government's authority following the June presidential elections, Obama seemed to be reviewing the US posture. He warned that if the upshot were to extend the September deadline by half a year, "Those six months will be fully exploited to move Iran closer to the nuclear finishing line." Gold spoke at Washington's Heritage Foundation at an event marking the publication of his latest book, The Rise of Nuclear Iran, which details previous failures in diplomatic engagement as well as Iran's development of its nuclear program and how its acquisition of a nuclear weapon could affect the Middle East. Gold, who now heads the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, also addressed whether deterrence could work against Iran, an approach he said Western officials repeatedly mentioned in the context of the Cold War's successful use of the strategy. Gold, however, rejected an equivalence between the two circumstances, describing the Iranian regime as motivated by a religious ideology in stark contrast to the secular Soviet Union. "I don't remember communist suicide bombers," he said, noting that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad not only encourages terrorism throughout the Middle East, but has backed an end-of-days ideology that begins with "chaos." The strategic situation of the Middle East is also different, according to Gold, as Arab countries would likely pursue nuclear capabilities as a result of the hegemonic threat from Iran, making for a multi-polar deterrence program. Yet he listed the growing traction of deterrence as one of the key reasons for the lack of urgency on the part of the Western world at the prospect of an Iranian bomb. He also blamed the talk of engagement, with many players taking the position that "it will work out" through effective US diplomacy. Though Gold didn't put much stock in the engagement strategy, he still maintained that there was time to stop an Iranian nuclear weapon. Gold was reticent on the possibility of an Israeli military attack, saying only that "all the states in the Middle East have the right of self-defense," and focused his attention on the use of strong sanctions. He pointed to an initiative in the US Congress to severely restrict oil imports to Iran should engagement fail. Noting that some have criticized the move as being insufficient, he stressed, "It's a positive step that can be taken, but it has to be done quickly, and it has to be done effectively." He added that the US should avoid working through the United Nations and instead seek arrangements with the European Union to impose sanctions. He argued that these measures could be effective on their own while the UN Security Council would allow Russia and China to play the role of spoiler. He said of the US and EU working in concert, "That's huge leverage regardless of what the Chinese and Russians do at the Security Council."