Navigating IAEA Report on Iran

August 30, 2012

Today, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) published its quarterly report on Iran. While the report reveals some troubling developments, it is not a ‘game-changer.’ Time and space remain to pursue diplomacy, which security experts believe is still the best path for U.S. and Israeli security.

Calm assessment of the facts serve our interests best:  IAEA says Iran has more equipment but no increase in rate of enrichment or stockpile – thus no change in timetable. Tom Collina and Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association explain, “The IAEA’s latest quarterly report on Iran, now in circulation, finds that Tehran has installed more machines for uranium enrichment in its Fordow underground facility, but has not started to use them. This means that Iran has not significantly increased its rate of enrichment at this facility since the IAEA’s previous report from May. Moreover, although Iran has enriched additional uranium to almost 20%–a level that could be more quickly turned into weapons material–Tehran has converted much of this material to reactor fuel. Thus Iran’s available stockpile of 20% enriched uranium (91 kg) is essentially unchanged from May.”  They add, “Although, the August IAEA report is another troubling reminder of Iran’s proliferation potential, it is not a ‘game-changer’ in terms of Tehran’s capability to build a nuclear arsenal if it were to decide to do so.” [Tom Collina and Daryl Kimball, 8/30/12]

Iran is under pressure; security experts say we have time to use diplomatic path.  The fact is that economic and political pressures are growing against Iran as oil sales collapse. David Ignatius explained last month, “Sanctions have pounded its [Iran’s] currency, financial markets and commercial activities, and a new round that took effect [in July]… could slash oil exports.” Reuters also reported, “Tough Western sanctions are forcing Iran to take drastic action and shut off wells at its vast oilfields, reducing production to levels last seen more than two decades ago and costing Tehran billions in lost revenues.” This pressure leaves time for diplomatic efforts to be pursued. As Senator Jack Reed explains, “This [Iran] is not a threat we can ignore, but the way to pursue it is through this very careful, pain-staking diplomatic approach.” The White House stated this month, “We continue to believe that there is time and space for diplomacy.” [David Ignatius, 7/2/12. Reuters, 7/10/12. Jack Reed, 6/8/12. Jay Carney via NY Daily News, 8/14/12]

Military and intelligence leaders from both the U.S. and Israel agree: with strong U.S. support for Israel, airstrikes are not what’s needed and would likely be counterproductive. Israeli and American security leaders say that cooperation – and America’s dedication to the security of Israel – is stronger than ever. In a time of change and uncertainty in Middle East, as Newsweek wrote, the two militaries and security establishments have drawn “increasingly close.” Colin Kahl, the former Defense Department official with primary responsibility for enhancing Israel’s defense capabilities and deepening joint military cooperation recently wrote, “No president in history has done more for Israel’s security than Obama.” This same message has come from Israel, with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak saying: “I can hardly remember a better period of support, American support and backing and cooperation and similar strategic understanding of events around us than what we have right now.”

Leaders are also firm in saying that airstrikes will not end Iran’s nuclear efforts and instead make a decision to build a bomb more likely:

Dennis Ross, who served in high-level positions under Democratic and Republican administrations and is the co-founder of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy: “You have military means, but you do not have a military solution” to the Iran nuclear threat. [Dennis Ross via al Monitor, 8/16/12.]

Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as State Department Chief of Staff in the Bush administration: “Virtually all of America’s national security leaders, from Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and his predecessor Robert Gates, to Bush administration intelligence chief Gen. Michael Hayden, have stated that the idea of ending Iran’s nuclear program with military strikes is a fiction and that a negotiated solution, backed up by international pressure, represents our best strategy.” [Lawrence Wilkerson, 5/23/12]

Michael Hayden, CIA Director in the Bush administration: “When we talked about this in the government, the consensus was that [attacking Iran] would guarantee that which we are trying to prevent — an Iran that will spare nothing to build a nuclear weapon and that would build it in secret.” [Michael Hayden via the Cable, 6/20/12]

Meir Dagan, former Mossad chief, concluded, “If Israel will attack, there is no doubt in my mind that this will also provide them with the justification to go ahead and move quickly to nuclear weapons.” [Meir Dagan via the Atlantic, 6/13/12]      

Yuval Diskin, former Chief of the Israeli Shin Bet Internal Security Agency: “Attacking Iran will encourage them to develop a bomb.” [Yuval Diskin, 4/27/12]

Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff:  “A conflict with Iran would be really destabilizing, and I’m not just talking from the security perspective. It would be economically destabilizing.” [Martin Dempsey via National Journal, 1/26/12]

Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense under Presidents Bush and Obama: “If you think the war in Iraq was hard, an attack on Iran would, in my opinion, be a catastrophe.” [Robert Gates, 3/21/12]

[NSN, 7/26/12. Colin Kahl, 8/16/12. Ehud Barak via Fox News, 8/3/11]

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