In a new development on the ongoing monitoring of Iranian nuclear weapons capabilities, Alireza Jafarzadeh, an Iranian defector, reports that Iran is using “existing differences between the U.S. and Europe to their advantage and tries to drag out talks with the EU to buy time.”

Reuters also reports that “the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been investigating Iran’s nuclear program ever since Jafarzadeh announced in August 2002 on behalf of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an exiled opposition group, that Iran was hiding several massive nuclear sites from the IAEA.”

An intelligence analyst interviewed for the article stated “”it is a matter of several months, up to a year, most probably less than a year (for nuclear capability). By that time we think they will have enough feed material for the centrifuges so they won’t be dependent on foreign input.”

This new development poses several difficulties for the U.S:

1. Will the U.S. be able to work out it’s difficulties with the E.U. over who exactly is responsible for containing Iran’s nuclear weapons program?

2. Have we learned from our past mistakes? George A. Lopez has an informative piece in Foreign Affairs explaining that sanctions against Iraq were working, and had destabilized and almost completely destroyed Saddam Hussein’s WMD program. The catch, however, is that we did not know this for sure until we invaded Iraq. In Iran’s case, however, we have a wealth of knowledge that we did not have about Iraq.

3. What approach should we use? Although sanctions were working in Iraq, they did not come with out a cost. Lesley Stahl on Sixty Minutes in 1996 asked Madeline Albright, then Secretary of State when, about sanctions against Iraq: “we have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?” Then secretary of state Madeleine Albright replied “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it. ” To her credit, Albright did apologize for the comment latter. But the children still died. Perhaps there is an alternative to economic sanctions.

Rightly so, Ray Takeyh explains today in WAPO that there is: “the United States, by relaxing its economic sanctions and granting Iran a voice in the postwar Persian Gulf deliberations, could disarm clerical hard-liners who require American belligerence for perpetuation of the nuclear program. In exchange, Iran would have to accept verifiable restraints on its nuclear activities. Indeed, an Iran whose strategic environment is stabilized and enjoys expanding economic ties with the United States is likely to be a more constructive interlocutor on issues ranging from terrorism to human rights.”

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