Will Obama's Hard-Line Deter Iran Nuclear Program?

If Iran can even develop them, that is

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President Obama, who came into office hoping for diplomatic engagement with the Iranian regime, has taken a much tougher stance of late. The U.S. is deploying a system of missile shields to nations bordering Iran, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates is calling for tough economic sanctions. On Monday, Iran has reiterated its goal of enriching uranium for a medical reactor. Many watchers suspect Iran actually seeks to build a nuclear bomb, leading the U.S., along with France and Russia, to demand stronger sanctions. Can it work?

  • Iran Calls Our Bluff  The Daily Beast's Michael Adler isn't optimistic. "Iran has reacted to the leverage applied against it by increasing its atomic work." "Washington's current strategy of holding out for engagement while moving toward sanctions may not be enough to break this cycle. [...] The United States may be trapped into a stillborn policy of doing too little, too late if it seriously seeks to rein in Iran's nuclear ambitions."
  • Think Big on Sanctions  Congressional Quarterly's Morton Kondracke says the White House has to get tougher with "a 'coalition of the willing' with Europe to impose tough economic Sanctions. One talked-of action is an international economic boycott of entities connected with the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps, the powerful political-military-clerical conglomerate that now controls the country, including much of its energy and nuclear program. Another is isolation of Iran’s central bank from international commerce, which could collapse the value of Iran’s currency."
  • Why Iran Won't Nuke Israel  Middle East blogger Gregg Carlstrom challenges fears that Iran's nuclear program is an existential threat to Israel, noting that Iran has spent decades championing the Palestinian cause. "If Iran did that, it would irradiate a large chunk of historic Palestine, rendering it uninhabitable for decades. Not a very effective way to help the Palestinians," he writes. "There's no evidence that Iran's nuclear weapons program is motivated by anything other than self-interest -- national pride, perhaps, or a (not unreasonable) sense of insecurity."
  • Iran's Slim Technical Capabilities  The Institute for Science and International Security assesses. "Iran may seek to project defiance, strength, and technical prowess, despite deficits in all but the first." Iran's plan requires enriching uranium to 20%, which they can do; fabricating fuel rods, which is possible but involves significant challenges; and building ten enrichment plants, which ISIS says is beyond Iran's capability "anytime soon."
  • Sanctions Will Never Work  The Weekly Standard's John Noonan suggests Obama leverage Iran's political turmoil. "He can start by treating revolutionaries like Reagan treated the Polish Solidarity movement, recognizing an Iranian government in exile, and initiating an underground logistical line of techno gadgets like laptops and cell phones with encrypted uplinks, radio-broadcasting equipment, GPS transmitters, even iPods to assist in messaging -- anything that will ensure that a democratic revolution, not atomic devices, is the only thing that reaches critical mass."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.