Vice-President Joe Biden is in Israel today where he reiterated that the US is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. But some analysts say the US would do better to cool its rhetoric and prepare to live with Iran as a nuclear power. The World’s Jeb Sharp reports.
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MARCO WERMAN: Vice President Biden wasn’t just talking to the Israelis today about negotiations with the Palestinians; he also brought up the issue of Iran’s nuclear program.
VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: We’re determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. And we’re working with many countries around the world to convince Tehran to meet its international obligations and cease and desist.
WERMAN: The Obama administration had hoped to negotiate with Iran on this issue. Instead it finds itself spearheading efforts to get the U.N. Security Council to impose stricter sanctions. Still, as the tough talk on Iran’s nuclear program escalates, there are some voices saying the dangers are exaggerated. The World’s Jeb Sharp reports.
JEB SHARP: One of those voices is that of Frank Gavin. He’s the Director of the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas at Austin. In an op ed that appeared in the Los Angeles Times today Gavin argues that fears about Iran’s nuclear program are overblown.
FRANK GAVIN: I would prefer a world that Iran didn’t have nuclear weapons. I don’t argue that they should have nuclear weapons. But I think on the list of problems we have in the world, it certainly doesn’t rank with some of the others and I think, more importantly, the policies that we might take to try to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons has the possibility of creating a far more dangerous world.
SHARP: Gavin says the West assumes Iran is behaving irrationally when in fact; it’s behaving as any other state would in the same situation.
GAVIN: When you have the largest country in the world pressuring you, when you live in a neighborhood that has several countries, India, Pakistan, Israel with nuclear weapons, when you have conflicts on several of your borders, it’s not irrational that they want these.
SHARP: Frank Gavin thinks the U.S. rhetoric should be much quieter and more matter-of-fact. We don’t want you, Iran, to have nuclear weapons and if you pursue them there will be consequences. But he doesn’t like the idea of more sanctions and he thinks threats and pressures could backfire. He also thinks they help bolster the Iranian regime by giving it an external threat to rally domestic support. But Jacqueline Shire of the Institute for Science and International Security says one reason it’s important to keep up the pressure for sanctions is precisely to keep open the possibility of talking to Iran.
JACQUELINE SHIRE: What’s important to remember is that if you completely take sanctions off the table, you’re left with either capitulation or military strike and we don’t want to see that binary choice. We want to see diplomacy, negotiation, further talks, perhaps some sanctions if that’s necessary, but what we really want to do is get Iran back into the talks with the United States and its European partners.
SHARP: As for military strikes, Shire says you can’t really take that option off the table either.
SHIRE: There are circumstances under which the United States and maybe other countries in the region, in particular Israel, would consider using military force, perhaps legitimately if it was believe that Iran was on the verge of having and wielding a nuclear device, right? Because ultimately it’s about our own peace and security, U.S. interests are driven by that. But that’s not where we are right now, so I think it’s important to, knowing that, focus on the route of diplomacy and sanctions.
SHARP: Even as the U.S. focuses on diplomacy though, there’s a growing recognition that Iran may have a nuclear weapon one day relatively soon. Frank Gavin says there have been rogue states with nuclear weapons before. He includes the Soviet Union and Mao’s China during the cold war.
GAVIN: And they were infinitely more rogue than today’s Iran. The kind of things that Mao’s China did in the 1960′s dwarfs anything that is going on in Iran today. Yet we learned to live with China.
SHARP: Gavin says that doesn’t mean Iran having nuclear weapons would be a good thing just that it doesn’t have to be the apocalyptic threat people make it out to be. But that’s still a distinctly minority opinion in U.S. foreign policy circles. Again, Jacqueline Shire.
SHIRE: This is not a road we want to go down and I think every effort has to be exerted to prevent that from happening.
SHARP: For its part, Iran continues to insist that it’s not building a nuclear arsenal. For The World, I’m Jeb Sharp.
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