Call to 'Resist and Deter' Nuclear Iran Gains Key Support

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Inter Press Service

Call to 'Resist and Deter' Nuclear Iran Gains Key Support

by
Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON - A new report on how
the United States should "resist and deter" Iran's alleged ambitions to
acquire a nuclear-weapons capability by a think tank closely tied to
the so-called "Israel Lobby" has been endorsed by two key officials who
are expected to exercise major influence on Iran policy in the
administration of U.S. President Barack Obama.

The 10-page report,
which was released here Wednesday by the Washington Institute for Near
East Policy (WINEP), argues that the United States should engage with
Iran diplomatically but at the same time ratchet up pressure on many
other fronts if it fails to heed demands to suspend and eventually
abandon its uranium enrichment program.

Among
the carrots Washington should be prepared to offer Tehran for that goal
are co-operation on "shared problems, such as piracy and smuggling in
the Persian Gulf," and "participation in a regional security dialogue,"
according to the report.

At the same time, however, the report
stressed that failure to stop Iran's nuclear progress may well result
in a decision by Israel to carry out a military attack within the next
two years. Such a decision, it warned, could be hastened if Russia goes
through with the sale and delivery of sophisticated S-300
surface-to-air missile systems which "are seen by Israel as seriously
limiting its military options."

"Whatever Americans may think,
Israeli leaders seem convinced that at least for now, they have a
military option," the report asserts, adding that if Tehran deploys
such systems, Washington "should promptly provide Israel with the
capabilities to continue to threaten high-value Iranian targets - for
instance, with more modern aircraft."

"Time is short if diplomatic engagement is to have a chance of success," it asserts.

The
new report, which comes amid a major administration review of U.S.
policy toward Iran, is likely to be very closely read in European and
Middle Eastern capitals due to its endorsement by Dennis Ross, who
serves as Special Adviser on the Gulf and Southwest Asia to Secretary
of State Hillary Clinton, and Robert Einhorn, the senior State
Department official on non-proliferation matters.

While both
men resigned from the 17-member task force that helped draft the report
after they were asked to join Obama's presidential transition team,
WINEP stressed that they had formally endorsed an early draft which was
not substantially different from the final product.

Other
members of the task force, which was convened by WINEP's director,
Robert Satloff, and its deputy director of research, Patrick Clawson,
included a number of prominent neo-conservatives, such as Danielle
Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), and some who served
in senior posts under President George W. Bush, including former under
secretary of state for arms control and international security, Robert
Joseph; his immediate subordinate, Stephen Rademaker; and the former
chairman of the Defense Science Board, William Schneider.

Rep.
Gary Ackerman, a liberal Democrat who heads the House Subcommittee in
the Middle East and South Asia, and Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh, a member
of the Senate Intelligence and Armed Services committees who has been a
reliable supporter of the "Israel Lobby", also signed on to the report.

Ross's
endorsement, however, is particularly notable. While the State
Department has been vague about what his precise responsibilities will
be, it is understood that he is responsible for developing a diplomatic
strategy for dealing with Iran, particularly in how to marshal regional
and international pressure on Tehran in support of Washington's
positions.

Ross is expected to co-ordinate with Under
Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns, and Puneet
Talwar, who has the Iran portfolio on the National Security Council.
Both Burns and Talwar are considered less hawkish on Iran than Ross,
former President Bill Clinton's top Middle East negotiator who himself
has held senior positions in WINEP and who last September signed on to
another report by the Bipartisan Policy Centre drafted by hard-line
neo-conservatives.

Among other things, that report called for
Washington to be prepared to launch military strikes against Iran's
nuclear facilities and conventional military infrastructure if Tehran
did not accede to demands that it abandon its nuclear program.

WINEP,
which was founded some 25 years ago as a spin-off of the powerful
American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), is one of
Washington's most influential think tanks on Middle East policy,
although, like AIPAC itself, its views and perspectives rarely deviate
far from those of the Israeli government or national-security
establishment.

Indeed, the major message of the latest report is
that Iran's acquisition of a military nuclear capability, the
prevention of which is characterized as a "vital national priority" for
the U.S., would set off a "cascade of destabilizing reactions by other
states," which, it argues, would seek to emulate Tehran's achievement,
thus weakening the global nuclear non-proliferation regime and
increasing the risks of "...a nuclear confrontation, with horrible
consequences."

Yet the report omits any mention of the
universally accepted view - accidentally confirmed by Prime Minister
Ehud Olmert in a December 2006 interview - that Israel already has
nuclear weapons which may have had destabilizing consequences of their
own.

The report, which coincided with Secretary of State
Clinton's first Middle East trip during which she reportedly expressed skepticism about the likelihood that diplomatic engagement with Iran
would succeed but also invited Tehran to a conference on Afghanistan at
the end of this month, offers a number of hints for how Ross hopes to
carry out his diplomatic strategy.

It stresses that any offer on
the nuclear issue should come from the Permanent Five Security Council
members plus Germany - the group that has negotiated with Iran over its
nuclear program to date - "not from the United States alone." "Arab
countries, Turkey, and Israel" must also be involved so as to assure a
unified voice.

It also emphasizes that any deal should not
permit Tehran to enrich uranium on Iranian territory, arguing that such
a precedent would itself contribute to proliferation. Moreover, "the
international community ...should not foster debate among its members
about what a compromise (on enrichment) acceptable to Iran might be."
The report calls for a policy of "resist and deter" rather than
"acquiesce and deter."

Instead, Washington should "respond to
Iranian worries about ensuring access to fuel for its civilian nuclear
power plant" by following through on its "announced intention to bring
to fruition the international nuclear fuel bank (and) ...on the U.S.
commitment to negotiate a fissile material cutoff treaty."

While
it does not raise the possibility of gaining Russian support for U.S.
efforts by offering to cancel Washington's deployment of
missile-defense systems to Poland and the Czech Republic - a deal that
was reportedly alluded to in a letter from Obama to Russian President
Dmitri Medvedev last month - it suggests that China could be brought
along through pressure from "the Gulf states - especially Saudi Arabia"
due to Beijing's dependence on their "export markets and energy
supplies."

The U.S. should also consider offering a "nuclear
guarantee (or 'umbrella')" to its allies in the region as part of a
deterrence strategy and should, in any case, build up their defensive
capabilities if Iran persists in its nuclear programme. In such a case,
the report also calls for a rapid build-up in economic sanctions,
including efforts to discourage countries and companies from building
oil refineries in Iran or exporting refined petroleum products to the
country.

*Jim Lobe's blog on U.S. foreign policy can be read at http://www.ips.org/blog/jimlobe/

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