Cripple Iran with Sanctions

World powers must take the IAEA report seriously, assume the worst about Iranian intentions and work to place another round of stricter sanctions on it.

IAEA report (photo credit: Reuters)
IAEA report
(photo credit: Reuters)
The International Atomic Energy Agency’s report released on Tuesday on Iran’s progress toward obtaining and using nuclear weapons should result in a fundamental change in the world’s approach to the Islamic Republic.
The central problem remains that the concerned parties, including the US, Israel, several Sunni Arab states and the European Union, have traditionally been unable to act in concert, and current sanctions toward Iran have not resulted in a change in the country’s long-term goal of acquiring nuclear capabilities.
According to the IAEA report, “Iran has not suspended its enrichment-related activities” and currently maintains 15 declared facilities and nine other locations involved, in various ways, with nuclear material. The report details numerous areas where Tehran has continued to develop and operate nuclear-related projects.
For instance, Iran is continuing to build a heavy-water research reactor; at Esfahan, it is continuing to conduct uranium conversion and fuel fabrication. Most important, according to the report “the agency is unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.”
The document indicates that the agency not only received information from other states about Iran’s efforts but also did its own due diligence to follow up on reports that its nuclear program had military implications.
For instance, “In an interview in 2007 with a member of the clandestine nuclear supply network, the agency was told that Iran had been provided with nuclear explosive design information.”
The findings of this latest report once again put the world spotlight on the Islamic Republic. In the Israeli media, however, there has been increased discussion about potential plans to attack Iran since more than a week ago.
This public debate has little bearing on the reality, which is that the struggle to prevent Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon and a delivery system for it that could threaten Israel and the Gulf Arab states, is of concern to the world community, especially Israel’s friends and allies.
However, the support for the full court press that has been drastically needed is sorely lacking.
The White House has stood by its National Intelligence Estimates over the past several years that indicated Iran had halted its nuclear program, or at the very least dismantled its administrative structure. The Christian Science Monitor reported that a senior administration official responded, “the IAEA does not assert that Iran has resumed a full-scale nuclear weapons program, nor does it [say] how advanced the programs really are.”
The UN has imposed four sets of sanctions on the country that restrict the sale of material related to the making of nuclear enrichment and ban dealings with certain Iranian banks. The US has been particularly strict in cutting off the flow of money to Tehran and going after individuals and companies that trade with Iran.
However, Iran has continued to mislead the inspectors and Western governments through obfuscation and playing various diplomatic games over the years, such as saying it would halt certain activities in exchange for concessions.
This means that every year brings new hand-wringing over the nuclear program while Iran moves closer and closer to acquiring the most dangerous technology. Israel bears the brunt of this threat while having the least influence over the matter, short of using military means against Iran, which some say would plunge the region into a major crisis.
Yet hidden allies exist; Saudi Arabia fears that Iranian tentacles are reaching deep into the Gulf Arab states, Iraq and Yemen, not to mention fears regarding Iranian influence over the Arab Springs street protests.
The news that Tehran was cooperating with Ankara to fight Kurdish insurgents is not good news, while Turkish threats against the Iranian-allied regime in Syria point to a positive development.
Another positive development has been the fact that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has faced internal threats to his regime from traditional elites seeking to remove him from power for corruption.
The most important next step remains for the world powers to read the latest report and to take it seriously, assuming the worst about Iranian intentions and working to place another round of stricter sanctions on the country.