Options in Dealing with Iran's Nuclear Program

During the early days of his administration, President Obama had said he would give Iran until the end of 2009 to change their policy on nuclear weapons development. As reported by Reuters on Jan 29, 2009, the U.S. said that all options are on the table to deal with Iran, clearly implying the options range from diplomacy & dialog, sanctions & containment, active defense and deterrence, to a pre-emptive military strike on the Iranian Nuclear Facilities. But the end of 2009 came, and while the Obama administration had focused on diplomacy on the Iran question, the Iranian regime continued its policy.

On 21 September 2009, Iran informed the IAEA that it had decided to construct a new pilot fuel enrichment plant, the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP), located near the city of Qom. The Agency verified that FFEP is being built to contain sixteen cascades, with a total of approximately 3000 centrifuges.  On Sept. 25, 2009, President Obama and leaders of Britain and France accused Iran of building the covert underground plant to manufacture nuclear fuel, saying the country has hidden the operation from international weapons inspectors for years.

In talks with the United States and other major powers on Oct.1, the first such discussions in which the United States has participated fully, Iran agreed to open the newly revealed plant to IAEA inspection within two weeks. Iran also agreed in negotiations with the P5+1 (five permanent members of the UNSC plus Germany) to ship most of its declared Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) for further enrichment that can be used in the Medical Research Reactor facility in Tehran.

A month later, Iran stated that it would want the nuclear fuel to be delivered to Iran and its handing over of the LEU Stockpile to take place simultaneously in Iran. The P5+1 have been insisting that Iran ship all of its LEU before any reactor fuel is transferred to Iran. Iran also notified the IAEA of plans to produce 20% enriched uranium, saying that based upon its proposals it could not wait any longer to reach an agreement. This move by Iran drew strong criticism from U.S. President Barack Obama, who reacted by stating that Washington and its allies would begin developing "significant" new sanctions against Iran. U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton went on to say that the U.S. administration will work to impose a “crippling” sanctions regime on Iran “in the event that the offers presented are either rejected or the process is inconclusive or unsuccessful.”

There is the suspicion in the West that Iran wants to start an open ended dialog and negotiations to buy time to reduce pressure for sanctions, and use it as a screen to crush all domestic opposition and unrest, with no commitments to terminate its pursuit of nuclear weapons.  Iran will use the process domestically showing that the hard line stance of the regime, in not making any concessions, has made the West respect and acknowledge Iran’s sovereign right to pursue Nuclear Power and its own enrichment program.

In addition, to show that there is cooperation with the IAEA, it accepts a limited freeze, making sure it does not alter its fundamental aim and program in developing knowledge in the enrichment of Uranium. An enrichment program in Iran will give it the option to “breakout” of the NPT, and move towards the production of nuclear weapons. Furthermore, Iran will not accept any “Rollback” of its enrichment program.

The study outlines Iran’s threat perceptions and their actions in dealing with them, and consequently the U.S. response to these Iranian actions. The study outlines as well the West’s perceptions of the Iranian threat and what options are available to deal with them. Finally what could cause and accelerate a pre-emptive strike on Iranian Nuclear Facilities.

The study looks into all the options that are on the table in dealing with Iran’s Nuclear Program and what the military capabilities are of the three main parties, United States, Israel, and the GCC, and what could be the possible strike scenarios, mission success, and the Iranian response. The study can be found here: https://csis-website-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/legacy_files/files/publication/100323_Options_todealwith_Iran.pdf

The study concludes that, if all peaceful options have been exhausted and Iran has left no other means to convince it to stop or change its course in pursuing Nuclear Weapons, the U.S. is the only country that can launch a successful Military Strike.

The Arab States position is that controlling Iran’s Nuclear Program using all options available are necessary but not sufficient conditions to establish peace and security in the Middle East region. In fact, a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through a two state solution, and for a regional peace based on the Arab Peace Initiative, are central and fundamental to establishing peace and security in the Middle East region.