The revelation that Iran has been secretly building an underground uranium enrichment facility may have raised expectations that last Thursday’s meeting in Geneva would be a showdown between the United States and Iran. However, the meeting between Iran’s nuclear negotiator and representatives of the United States, China and Russia is more likely to be the beginning of a dialogue that will continue for months to come. Whether this dialogue will result in anything is yet to be seen.
The beginning of renewed talks with Tehran follows President Barack Obama’s warning to Iran that it must discuss Western concerns over its nuclear program or face a new round of sanctions. Following Obama’s warning, Iran wrote to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to reveal it has been secretly building a uranium enrichment facility in the mountains near Qom.
Despite objections from the United States and its allies towards the development of the uranium enrichment facility, Iran continues to state that it is simply exercising its right to develop a nuclear energy infrastructure as stated in the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Iran’s approach to the uranium enrichment issue has been to try and deal with the nuclear issue exclusively through the IAEA and to reject U.N Security Council demands that it halts its enrichment program. While declaring its refusal even to discuss the development of the Qom plant at Geneva, Iran has indicated that it will eventually open the site to IAEA inspectors “in the near future.”
Iran’s insistence on its nuclear rights is a statement of its rejection of Western demands that it give up the right to enrich uranium, even for peaceful purposes, due to concerns over Iran’s true intentions.
Regardless of Iran’s true intentions behind its uranium enrichment program, the current administrations only option is to take the diplomatic road, because the United States’ “or else” options are completely limited in this era. China and Russia understand that strong sanctions such as a ban on Iranian oil exports or refined gasoline imports could force Iran to the bargaining table.
However, such sanctions could cause server economic harm to both Russia and China. Additionally American and Israeli diplomats have recognized that no amount of sanctions will prompt a regime that has invested so much in developing a nuclear program to simply reverse course. Instead, the United States and its allies must decide between preventive military strikes or accepting a nuclear Iran. And considering the Pentagon’s opposition to military strikes, for fear that bombing Iran’s nuclear sites would not stop the country’s progress and possibly prompt a backlash that could dramatically destabilize the region, the United States’ only logical option is to play the diplomatic game.
The diplomatic option, although considered both economically and militarily beneficial, is unlikely to produce satisfactory or quick results. This means that Western powers to accept more limited goals.
Regardless of its dearth of options, the U.S. and its allies will and should insist that Iran demonstrate a credible commitment to answer all concerns over the true intent of its uranium enrichment program. On September 25th President Obama warned at the Geneva meeting “Iran must be prepared to cooperate fully and comprehensively with the IAEA to take concrete steps to create confidence and transparency in its nuclear program and to demonstrate that it is committed to establish peaceful intentions through meaningful dialogue and concrete actions.”
Although we can never be too sure of what the future holds, the past has shown us that the use of threats and force have rarely helped the United States achieve its goal in the last decade. Therefore the Untied States only option of successfully deterring Iran from going nuclear is through diplomacy and peaceful dialogue. If history has taught us anything is that diplomacy can and will succeed.
Natalie Goudarzian is a fourth-year international studies major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Filed Under: Opinion