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RAY SUAREZ: We get two views on today’s action by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Rose Gottemoeller was assistant secretary of energy for nonproliferation during the Clinton administration. She’s now a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. And Paul Leventhal is founder of the Nuclear Control Institute, an independent research and advocacy group in Washington that promotes nuclear nonproliferation.
Paul Leventhal, does this resolution put the world community on track for knowing what Iran is up to and keeping it in compliance?
PAUL LEVENTHAL: I’m afraid it might put the world community at risk, that Iran does not take seriously the IAEA’s action, and the Security Council’s lack of action after having violated the nuclear nonproliferation treaty for almost 20 years. The question is what message will Iran get from this and how much can we truly expect that Iran will give up — what has to be seen as a nuclear weapons program. The director general, ElBaradei, of the IAEA did not see it that way, he said there was no evidence of a nuclear weapons program, but pursuing the production of highly enriched uranium and separated plutonium in secret, when a country that belongs to the treaty is supposed to declare all activities to the IAEA, is a clear sign that that was a weapons program.
The question now is, will Iran take this seriously and should the Security Council have been brought into it? My feeling is, is that with that kind of a violation it should have been referred to the Security Council and the Security Council should have put Iran on notice that it faced extremely severe sanctions including the possibility of military action if the program is resumed. Iran seems to be taking the signal that it basically got off the hook and can look forward even to additional transfers of nuclear technology to it.
RAY SUAREZ: Rose Gottemoeller, is there any question in your mind about whether Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons?
ROSE GOTTEMOELLER: Well I think as Secretary Powell said last month we certainly can’t trust them on their record. Paul said a moment ago they’ve been working in secret to enrich uranium and separate plutonium. There’s no question that they were cheating on their obligations with regard to the nonproliferation treaty and their safeguards agreement. I, however, see that they have taken some considerable steps in the last month, particularly following the trip of the European foreign ministers to Tehran that they seem to say now they are ready to come clean, extend full transparency, very intensive inspection rights to the International Atomic Energy Agency, signing a new additional protocol that would give them a lot more inspection activity in Iran, and I think truly they are trying now to take steps to come clean.
The truth of the matter will have to be played out in the future. We can’t really say today what the results will be overall, but certainly Iran has taken some steps to come toward the international community. Now we have to press them hard and make sure that they fulfill the promises they’ve made.
RAY SUAREZ: If they had taken the harsher line suggested by Paul Leventhal, was there a risk that Iran would leave the NPT altogether?
ROSE GOTTEMOELLER: I think there is that risk certainly. We know that there are hard line clerics in Tehran who have said that those pursuing accommodation with the international community now are traitors, and they seem to be very, very concerned, although it seems to be a fairly small number. I read of several hundred protesters. But the public has been very interested in this program and very concerned about Iran somehow being muscled by the international community. So I think that the leadership in Tehran does have to step fairly carefully at the present time. But I think they’ve taken a hard decision and now they need to implement it.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, Paul Leventhal, Iran for its part said it’s infractions were only minor and it considers the matter closed, which would seem to buttress your point, but it also allowed snap inspections, which is seen as a significant concession.
PAUL LEVENTHAL: Well, but there’s only so much that snap inspections can do. And bear in mind that all that Iran has fessed up to, so to speak, is what was publicly disclosed by the exile community and then the IAEA with that information was able to go to the facility and use some fairly advanced techniques for detecting traces of highly enriched uranium. But those advanced techniques only work if you know where the facility is. And I have my grave doubts that Iran may still have clandestine activities that they will not acknowledge until they’re discovered. And this makes for an extremely dangerous situation.
I think it’s wrongheaded to assume that if Iran feels threatened, the hard-line critics will be further induced to go nuclear. I think it may be exactly the opposite. I think unless they feel threatened they will continue with their nuclear weapons program and that only the threat of severe sanctions and possible military intervention could induce the hard-line clerics to forego development of nuclear weapons out of fear of what was the consequences might be.
RAY SUAREZ: But people who are involved in the negotiations say that it was Iran’s intense desire to avoid Security Council sanctions that led to what concessions they were able to get.
PAUL LEVENTHAL: I’m not so sure it was that as much as the expectation that if the current crisis could be diffused, then nuclear cooperation with Iran could continue. Russia apparently still intends to supply the Bushehr – or complete the supply of the Bushehr nuclear power reactor to Iran, and there’s a widespread notion that this may be the concession, the consolation prize to Iran to win its cooperation.
Yet bear in mind this reactor once it begins operating can produce a quarter ton of plutonium a year, which is enough for at least 30 atomic bombs, and that even a deal with Russia, which has not yet been concluded, to take the spent fuel back, might not last for 30 years, and other power reactors that are going to be built that have a lifetime expectancy of 30 years will provide Iran a major capability. And in my mind, the bottom line issue is, do we provide atoms for peace to a country that actively supports international terrorism and that could put our own cities and other western nation cities at risk?
RAY SUAREZ: How do you respond to what sounds like a pretty ominous bill of particulars?
ROSE GOTTEMOELLER: Yes, he certainly makes his case very well indeed. However, I think that the only way incentives work to drive a country away from a nuclear weapons program is if you have a big stick hanging over them, and I essentially believe that what was accomplished over the last few days at the IAEA was to clearly define a big stick.
We have the incentives package that was worked out by the Europeans, clearly it does include the possibility of technology cooperation, including energy technologies, perhaps even nuclear energy technologies. But at the same time, the United States made it very clear in the IAEA Board of Governors that if Iran should trip up or in any way continue to hide its programs from the international community, then the international community will come down very hard.
I think this is an opportunity for Iran to back away from a very dangerous confrontation with the international community. We should welcome that because Iran does not want to be North Korea, it has decided, I think, at a strategic level that it wants to engage with the international community, back away from its nuclear program and get some of the cooperation and interaction that its been looking for to achieve other goals such as openings to the market for its petroleum products. We ought to be encouraging that, we don’t want to drive Iran down the road of being another North Korea, that’s a bigger problem for the international community.
RAY SUAREZ: What do you make of the wrangling between the EU three, Britain, Germany and France, and the United States over just how to deal with Iran in this regard?
ROSE GOTTEMOELLER: That’s the only effective way, once again, you make an incentives package work, if have you the bad cop with the big stick standing in the background. I actually think although we have been wrangling with our European allies on this matter, nevertheless we have a very effective division of labor. They’ve been offering the sweeteners and we’ve been saying alright, if this does not work we’re ready to come in and really stick to it the Iranians, and I think that’s the way this is going to happen.
RAY SUAREZ: Do you see that relationship the same way, Paul?
PAUL LEVENTHAL: Well I must say, I wish very much I could agree with Rose’s analysis here. But I do believe Iran will be emboldened by today’s action, or I would call it inaction by the International Atomic Energy Agency. This is after all a Board of Governors that is heavily dominated by commercial nuclear interests. Members of the board, including the three European nations that cut the deal with Tehran and Russia, want to sell technology to Iran, they want to normalize trade with Iran. And Iran knows this. So I don’t see any big stick here.
What I was hoping very much was that one explanation of the U.S. going along with this compromise language was that it privately leaned very heavily upon the three European nations that worked out the arrangement with Iran and Russia to suspend and terminate any further supply. I mean there should be a price to be paid by Iran for violating the NPT for 20 years. But this does not seem to be the case. Only today the State Department spokesman signaled that in fact we may be easing the pressure on Russia not to proceed with the deal.
RAY SUAREZ: Let me get a quick response to that point. No price to be paid by Iran?
ROSE GOTTEMOELLER: Well, I think Iran is going to have to step up to the bar and fulfill its commitments and promises that it has made. If not, it is going to be in a very difficult situation with the international community. And I think it will face sanction in the U. N. Security Council. Furthermore, the Europeans have been very clear up to this point that they’re not going to go forward with their trade deal and with other inducements to Iran unless Iran cooperates on solving this nuclear problem. So I do think that there are some constraints in place, and that Iran will have to perform.
RAY SUAREZ: Rose Gottemoeller, Paul Leventhal, thank you both.
ROSE GOTTEMOELLER: Thank you.
PAUL LEVENTHAL: Thank you.