Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, November 2008, page 58

Waging Peace

No Military Answer to Iranian Nonproliferation

  • David Albright calls for a diplomatic strategy with Iran (Photo N. Hamedani).

LEADING NONPROLIFERATION expert and Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) president David Albright discussed Iran’s nuclear facilities and the need for “robust diplomacy” versus military action at a Sept. 5 forum at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC.

In his introductory remarks, Robert Litwak, the Center’s director of international security studies, noted that the “trillion dollar foreign policy question looming out there” is whether a U.S. or Israeli military strike would successfully destroy Iran’s gas centrifuge program.

Albright pointed out that the gas centrifuges on which Iranian nuclear development relies are “small, easy to hide, and replicable...and very unlike a nuclear reactor.” The success of past strikes on nuclear reactors—both conducted by Israel—were heavily dependent on the fact that they happened while the programs were in their early stages (in Iraq in 1981 and Syria in 2007). Iran, Albright said, has “passed that point when it comes to their centrifuge program.”

The scientist explained that Iran has declared several civilian-sized facilities with underground buildings and tunnel networks. These features, he said, have led ISIS to conclude that “the military option may not deliver the knockout punch” so popularly espoused by Washington and the mass media. “Diplomatic strategy is the best one right now,” Albright emphasized, “and the military option is getting too much attention.”

He further noted that, due to “redundancy” in Iran’s program, there is no guarantee that military action would “set back the Iranian nuclear program at all.” In fact, Albright cautioned, an ineffective military action would actually accelerate Iran’s program, and could turn a civilian program into weapons-grade enrichment for defensive purposes. Furthermore, he warned, a hypothetically successful military raid would have to be of such a large scale that “you’d have to attack all of Iran,” inevitably leading to a full-scale war.

Confident that Iran’s nuclear program is “not moving that quickly,” Albright concluded that it’s time instead for a “much more aggressive diplomatic strategy...[that] push[es] aside the military option and delinks the two.”

Nina Hamedani

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