Sammy Salama and Elizabeth Salch
June 2, 2006
As direct negotiations between the United States and Iran may finally materialize, it is critical to remember that armed conflict is both unnecessary and would be mutually destructive. Following the decision to report Iran to the United Nations Security Council, rhetoric emanating from both Iran and the west, together with Iranian military exercises in the Gulf, Tehran's uranium enrichment announcement, and extensive media reports in early April of alleged U.S. administration war planning for an attack on Iran, gave the impression that a military confrontation over Iran's nuclear program was inevitable. Numerous worst case scenarios have been aired portraying Iran as on the verge of obtaining nuclear weapons, at the same time that reports of alleged Iranian support or cooperation with al-Qa'ida are increasing. Furthermore, discussion of regime change in Iran has grown as well. Not surprisingly, the rhetoric largely outpaces the evidence regarding the actual state of Iran's nuclear program, while there is as yet little credible evidence demonstrating concrete ties between Iran and al-Qa'ida.
This report examines the current impasse surrounding Iran's nuclear program. Specifically, it asks how close Iran is to enriching sufficient uranium for nuclear warhead production, assesses whether the increasing international alarm accurately reflects the state of Iran's nuclear program, explores increased Arab concern over Iran's nuclear program, and reviews the merits of allegations of Iranian support to al-Qa'ida and insurgents in Iraq. Western diplomatic efforts to hinder Iran's eventual attainment of a nuclear weapons capability have made significant gains in recent months. These include finding Iran in non-compliance of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), reporting Iran to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), causing internal division among Iran's elite, and increasing regional opposition to Iran's nuclear program. As a result, military action against Iran remains unnecessary and would be quite risky at this juncture. Despite the heated rhetoric, cooler heads need to prevail. Diplomacy and negotiations with Iran should be given time to succeed.
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