Cooperating on Iran
|As the Bush administration wrestles with changes in the U.S.-Russia relationship, the issue of Iran's nuclear proliferation has | |re-emerged as the most important source of tension between the two states. This past weekend, the U.S. State Department imposed sanctions| |against two Russian firms based on "credible information" that they were selling equipment that could assist Iran in its quest for | |weapons of mass destruction. | |The bogeyman of Russians providing Iran with "the bomb" remains alive and well in Washington. Indeed, at a hearing convened by the House | |International Relations Committee on March 18, the question of Russian support for Iran's nuclear program was repeatedly raised by | |members of Congress and cited as a major stumbling block for the development of partnership between the two countries. Successive U.S. | |administrations have viewed Russia as Iran's foremost nuclear supplier and thus believe that getting Moscow to cease all cooperation with| |Iran -- even in areas permitted under the Non-Proliferation Treaty -- is the principle counter-proliferation measure. | |However, given Iran's rapid pace toward self-sufficiency, cutting off Russian assistance will no longer have a material impact on Iran's | |nuclear path. Iran can cross the nuclear threshold without receiving a single addition piece of Russian-manufactured dual-use technology.| | | |Over the past few years, a series of revelations have revealed that the Islamic Republic is increasingly employing its civilian nuclear | |research program to gather sufficient knowledge and expertise to achieve a nuclear weapons capacity. The first shock came in August 2002,| |when U.S. intelligence reported that Iran had built extensive facilities for enrichment of uranium in Natanz. The Natanz installation | |currently contains 160 centrifuges needed for this purpose, with another 1000 under construction. The plan is to have 5000 operational | |centrifuges within three years. | |In addition, it appeared that Tehran was completing another facility at Arak for heavy water production. The most recent IAEA inspection | |team has ominously found many traces of concentrated fuel suggesting that Iran has largely completed an indigenous fuel cycle. Given the | |sophisticated nature of Iran's program, traditional tools of counter-proliferation such as pressuring Russia and other countries not to | |engage in trade with Iran and instituting a more rigorous export control policy are unlikely to succeed. | |Given that neither IAEA's more intrusive inspections nor pressure on Iran's suppliers is likely to obstruct Tehran's path, Washington has| |to devise a new strategy of pressure where Russia is an active participant. Tehran will only abandon its WMD program if it is made clear | |that violation of clearly demarcated red-lines -- including the testing and deployment of nuclear weapons -- would lead to Iran's total | |economic and diplomatic isolation. | |The Islamic Republic remains vulnerable to multilateral economic pressure, particularly from its more reliable commercial partners such | |as the EU and Russia. Indeed, it was only after the European states suspended their trade discussions with Iran that the mullahs agreed | |to sign the additional protocols. | |And this is a threat that the regime cannot ignore....
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