This week nuclear experts arrived in Tehran to inspect a plant that had been denied to them for years. The team from the International Atomic Energy Agency will look into the Arak heavy-water system. Iran insists the plant is for energy production, but has the capacity to produce plutonium for a nuclear weapon.
While the inspection is an important first step, concern remains for whether the recent six month agreement with Iran is a breakthrough or a “bad deal” as the Prime Minister of Israel Netanyahu claims. U.S. envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross recently said that the United States and its allies must be prepared to escalate sanctions if change doesn’t occur. Ross believes three procedures must follow.
- If there are any loopholes in the Geneva agreement, they must be plugged during this 6 month waiting period.
- The West must make it clear that if the agreement isn’t fulfilled, the sanctions will be increased.
- Iran must understand they can’t evade sanctions that will be intensified.
The real issue is whether the Iranians will roll back their nuclear program. Everything depends on this singular factor. The negotiators must remember Iran’s leadership is aggressive, anti-American, anti-Semitic, duplicitous, and murderous. The ultimate decisions lay in the hands of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and he has been consistently opposed to negotiations. However, the Iranians have not been irrational or imprudent. The only reason the new president Hassan Rouhani has come to the bargaining table is that it has become too costly to their economy not to do so.
However, there are other factors at work. If they completed a nuclear weapon, Saudi Arabia would follow suit. With the Sunni-Shiite controversy between the two countries, Iran knows this would be a more than justifiable reason to stop short of weaponization. Moreover, Israel has the capacity of a nuclear option. While this is unthinkable, it still stands in the wings. When it is all said and done, economic pressure remains the number one leverage that the West has used successfully. Iran’s economy is hurting too greatly to not pay attention to the consequences of further sanctions.
This isn’t’t a time to take the American hand off the cash register. Let’s not let up.