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An Ultimatum for Iran
Our options against a nuclear-armed Iran are bad. Doing nothing is worse.

Anthony Cordesman, military analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies

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Charles Krauthammer

2.  Make it clear to Iran that it has no successful options.

Either their program must be abandoned in a negotiated deal (see No. 1 above) on generous terms from the West (see No. 3 below) or their facilities will be physically destroyed. Ostentatiously let Iran know about the range and power of our capacities — how deep and extensive a campaign we could conduct, extending beyond just nuclear facilities to military-industrial targets, refineries, power grids, and other concentrations of regime power.

3. Give Iran a face-saving way out.

Offer Iran the most generous possible terms — economic, diplomatic, and political. End of sanctions, assistance in economic and energy development, trade incentives, and a regional security architecture. Even Russian nuclear fuel.

Tellingly, however, Cordesman does not join those who suggest yielding on nuclear enrichment. That’s important because a prominently leaked proposed “compromise” would guarantee Iran’s right to enrich, though not to high levels.

In my view, this would be disastrous. Iran would retain the means to potentially produce fissile material, either clandestinely or in a defiant breakout at a time of its choosing.

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Would Iran believe a Cordesman-like ultimatum? Given the record of the Obama administration, maybe not. Some (though not Cordesman) have therefore suggested the further step of requesting congressional authorization for the use of force if Iran does not negotiate denuclearization.

First, that’s the right way to do it. No serious military action should be taken without congressional approval (contra Libya). Second, Iran might actually respond to a threat backed by a strong bipartisan majority of the American people — thus avoiding both war and the other nightmare scenario, a nuclear Iran.

If we simply continue to drift through kabuki negotiations, however, one thing is certain. Either America, Europe, the Gulf Arabs, and the Israelis will forever be condemned to live under the threat of nuclear blackmail (even nuclear war) from a regime the State Department identifies as the world’s greatest exporter of terror. Or an imperiled Israel, with its more limited capabilities, will strike Iran — with correspondingly greater probability of failure and of triggering a regional war.

All options are bad. Doing nothing is worse. “The status quo may not prevent some form of war,” concludes Cordesman, “and may even be making it more likely.”

Charles Krauthammer is a nationally syndicated columnist. © 2012 the Washington Post Writers Group.



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