The Iranian Nuclear Crisis: Steps Toward a Multilateral Solution
A recommendation from fellows of the Center on International Security
at the Roosevelt Institution, Stanford University
Military action does not appear imminent if Iran continues to adhere to the freeze on enrichment. Based on Iran’s history and current policy direction, however, Iran will likely violate the freeze on enrichment. The Bush administration currently stands against any Iranian acquisition of highly enriched uranium. We suggest that the United States modify its stance to permit Iran to resume enrichment contingent on Iran’s consent to extremely stringent international monitoring under the aegis of the IAEA. We see this shift in policy as advantageous, as it gives us insight into Iranian behavior and a better estimate of their capability to acquire nuclear weapons.
A resolution could be reached if, in addition to submitting to strict international monitoring, Iran agrees to cease support for Hezbollah and Iraqi Shiite insurgents. In exchange, the United States would agree not to take military action and to dissuade Israel from a preemptive military strike. Such an accord would assuage international concerns over nuclear proliferation while allowing Iran to pursue its stated goal of civil nuclear energy development. If Iran resumes enrichment without a multilateral agreement, the matter will be referred to the UNSC by the IAEA, with the support of the United States, France, and the United Kingdom. We foresee the following chain of events if UNSC becomes involved:
- Economic sanctions will be difficult to enact and enforce due to the economic interests Russia and China hold in Iran.
- Therefore, the United States and European powers should avoid diplomatic defeat through a Russian or Chinese veto by actively preventing the issue from falling to the UNSC.
- Avoiding a UN stalemate, the United States and Europe should work with Russia to reach an accord, by offering economic incentives to the Kremlin to mitigate the impact of sanctions on Russia.
- Such an accord could offer Russia complete control of the Iranian nuclear cycle, allowing Iran the pursuit of nuclear power and Russia economic benefits.
- Complete Russian control of the Iranian nuclear cycle would be phased out within 5-10 years, i.e. allowing for a positive change in Iranian leadership, with the following multilateral provisions:
1. Iran must fully comply with IAEA standards and safeguards;
2. Security assurances toward Iran from the United States;
3. Swift action to initiate a new coöperative threat-reduction plan with Russia to secure its nuclear facilities, providing Russia incentives for its involvement while contributing to the American global war on terror.
Iran’s refusal to commit to a multilateral agreement would render a military response more likely.
- International support for military force will be highest if the United States and Israel could prove that Iran is close to achieving the production of weapons-grade uranium. Israeli intelligence estimates suggest that once Iran reaches HEU, they are about two years away from developing a bomb.
- If diplomatic efforts fail, a military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities is likely. Israel remains committed to its perception of security regardless of long-standing alliances. Regardless of the American actions, the United States would likely be implicated in an Israeli preëmptive strike.
Therefore, diplomatic engagement is imperative. Gaining Russian involvement, though problematic, offers the most viable chance for a peaceful resolution. Ultimately, unless a reformist Iranian government shows the determination to commit to non-proliferation a military conflict becomes increasingly probable. Ultimately, the best resolution comes through immediate U.S. diplomatic engagement, especially prior to contested elections where reformists are struggling to change Iranian government. Immediate engagement prior to the June 17th elections would strengthen the hands of moderates and offer greater chances of reaching a non-proliferation agreement.
Brian Burton, Marwan Chaar, Elaine Choi, Martine Cicconi, Marissa Cramer, Nicole Gomez, Noel Foster, Andrew Leifer, Henry Liao, Jeffrey Love, Matthew Loveless, Megan Stacy, Judy Wang and Lauren Young