President Obama’s announcement this morning that Iran is constructing a second uranium enrichment facility is troubling and raises questions about his administration’s policy of engagement with Iran.
This is the third time that Iran has been caught trying to hide covert nuclear activity. Today’s revelation makes clear that Iran cannot be trusted to possess uranium enrichment technology. The only resolution to the Iran nuclear crisis that eliminates the threat posed by a nuclear Iran will be one that ensures that there is not a single centrifuge spinning on Iranian soil.
President Obama stated that the size and configuration of the facility is inconsistent with a peaceful nuclear program. This is a damning statement and raises questions about whether the U.S. intelligence community has now reversed its 2007 judgment that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003. Despite this accusation, however, he seems interested in relying only on diplomacy and international institutions to resolve these concerns.
Asking the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to investigate the site will likely serve to only drag out this episode. Iran will stonewall the investigation, much as it has done the IAEA’s investigation into its pre-2003 covert military program.
The question for President Obama is: If he is so convinced that this is evidence of Iran’s malign intentions, why did he not use the United Nations Security Council meeting he chaired yesterday to pressure Russia and China to support the “crippling sanctions” his administration has previously threatened if Iran did not halt its nuclear activities?
More talk and reliance on international institutions will not prevent Iran from going nuclear. The Obama administration needs to use today’s damning revelation to energize international opposition to Iran’s nuclear activities, not as an entrée to more engagement.
– Jamie M. Fly is executive director of the Foreign Policy Initiative.