Experts: Concerns About a Nuclear Iran Will Remain Even If Accord Is Reached

By Allyson Versprille

Arab countries will continue to be concerned about the possibility of a nuclear Iran even if Tehran reaches a diplomatic accord with the West, experts said June 7.

There are aspects of the prospective agreement being worked on between Iranian and Western nuclear negotiators that are troubling to some observers, analysts noted at a panel discussion at the Atlantic Council, a Washington, D.C., think tank.

“With or without a deal, there will be elements of an Iranian nuclear program that remain intact,” said Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations.

One concern is the lack of constraint on Iranian centrifuges and uranium production 10 to 15 years from now, he said.

Completely removing Iran’s capability to enrich uranium is not a viable option at this point, said Bilal Y. Saab, a Middle East analyst at the Brent Scowcroft Center for Security, which is affiliated with the Atlantic Council.

The accord with Iran would only deal with specific nuclear capabilities, analysts noted. It will not cover launch vehicles, nor will it deal with the non-nuclear challenges posed by Iranian foreign policy, Haas said.

He opposed the deal, arguing that lifting international sanctions against Iran would enable its leaders to further fund destabilizing activities in the region.

Other experts are hopeful that an accord can be reached, arguing that it would serve U.S. national security interests.

“The deal would drastically reduce proliferation” said Barry Posen, director of security studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Without an agreement, concerns about Iran’s nuclear capabilities will only increase, he said.

If Iran is seen as continuing to progress toward a nuclear capability, other nations in the region will begin to examine nuclear options, Saab said.

“The Saudi’s don’t miss an opportunity to warn the world that they will start their own nuclear program,” he said, noting that scientists and policy analysts disagree about the feasibility of this option for Saudi Arabia.

If the deal falls through, managing the nuclear ambitions of Arab nations in the Middle East would become a major challenge of U.S. statecraft, Haas said.

The U.S. would also have the “diplomatic task” of trying to maintain sanctions on Iran, said Posen. Doing so would be especially difficult if the United States is perceived by the international community to be at fault for the impasse, he added.

In addition, depending on subsequent actions taken by the Iranians, there could be “constituencies here and abroad” that will call for war, Posen said.

Topics: International

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