This week the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will present a report with new details on components of Iran's nuclear program that have long been a concern. The report will not, apparently, contain a "smoking gun," and it will not answer what intelligence officials say is the critical question: has Iran made the political decision to obtain a nuclear weapon. Before the report is even out, bellicose rhetoric has ramped up, based on what security experts say is the false assumption that a limited aerial strike - rather than a full-scale invasion - could eliminate the nuclear program and avoid harming America's security and that of our allies. Experts say that this saber-rattling may actually make an Iranian decision to weaponize more likely.
With today's endorsement from Condoleezza Rice, every living former secretary of state now supports New START. Last week, the secretaries of state for the past five Republican presidents laid out the case for ratification, with Colin Powell unequivocally stating, "I fully support this treaty and I hope that the Senate will give its advice and consent to the ratification of the treaty as soon as possible." With the unanimous backing of the United States military leadership and overwhelming bipartisan support, now is the time to ratify New START. This past weekend marked the one-year point of the expiration of the original START accord - meaning it has now been 367 days since we've had U.S. inspectors on the ground in Russia to inspect its nuclear facilities. New START preserves our ability to deploy effective missile defenses; it is accompanied by unprecedented long-term funding to ensure our nuclear stockpile remains safe, secure and effective; and it will reinstate a stringent verification regime that our military planners say is essential. Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the secretary general of NATO, has urged the Senate to support America's 27 NATO allies and ratify New START. The world is waiting; it is time for the Senate to act.
Iran's announcement today of an agreement with Turkey and Brazil to ship a portion of its uranium stockpile abroad left much unclear: as the deal stands, it does not address the full range of concerns put forward by the U.S. What is clear, however, is that the Iranian regime is under intense pressure coming from both external and internal sources. Externally, from multilateral efforts to place sanctions on the regime for failing to comply to internationally supported demands regarding its nuclear activities. Internally, from the domestic unrest dating back to last year's controversial Presidential elections. This latest measure demonstrates how much the regime wishes to escape this mounting pressure.
When delegates arrive in New York on Monday to begin the month-long Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, all eyes will turn to the United Nations. With Iran’s continued refusal to halt its production of enriched uranium and answer questions about its nuclear program, North Korea’s rejection of the NPT and subsequent nuclear tests, and a host of other ailments, challenges to the nonproliferation regime abound. But the Review Conference is just one of many opportunities to strengthen the international nonproliferation regime, not an end unto itself.
Yesterday, Brookings Institution scholars Michael O'Hanlon and Bruce Riedel published a powerful op-ed in the Financial Times opposing a military strike on Iran. Their arguments against such a policy were based on a clear-headed analysis of the costs versus benefits of such an action. In their view, not only would military action fail to eliminate Iran's nuclear program, but its mere mention lacks credibility. The arguments against potential American military action are compelling.
Concerns over Iran's nuclear activities are growing following the release of a new report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The report confirms Iran's lack of cooperation on its nuclear program, evasion which prevents the agency from confirming that the program is strictly for peaceful purposes. These findings raise troubling questions and show that Iran must be more forthcoming about its nuclear program. But they are not a cause for panic. In fact, they should create the opposite response, as Obama administration efforts to increase pressure on Iran are bringing more clarity and consensus about how to deal with this global challenge.
President Obama has put nonproliferation policy at the center of his vision of American security – and made significant advances to reduce the threat from nuclear weapons. Yesterday at the UN General Assembly, Obama not only pledged American leadership in the effort to strengthen international nonproliferation treaties, but gained Russian and Chinese support as well. Today, a meeting of the UN Security Council convened and chaired by Obama agreed to take significant steps to tackle the threat. These efforts directly relate to preventing rogue states like Iran and North Korea from developing nuclear weapons. And on this front, President Obama was able to gain Russian support for a unified international response if talks fail with Iran. The U.S. has embraced a path that meets the nuclear threat with tough negotiations, strong safeguards, and an approach that builds on the strengths of other nations, rather than excluding them.
Next week President Obama will travel to Moscow to meet with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. From the outset of his Administration, President Obama has sought to reset U.S.-Russian relations. Over the last eight years, U.S. policy rested on maintaining the superficial personal relationship between Bush and Putin, which failed to result in any tangible achievements and led to growing estrangement in U.S.-Russian relations. The Obama administration has sought to eliminate this superficiality and develop a more business-like relationship that is focused on core issues of mutual interest and concern that produces verifiable results.