Tuesday, October 20, 2009


5 Myths About Iran

In The Washington Post, Joseph Cirincione enlightens readers regarding five myths about Iran's nuclear "threat."

1. Iran is on the verge of developing a nuclear weapon.

Iran could kick out U.N. inspectors, abandon the Non-Proliferation Treaty and reprocess the gas into highly enriched uranium in about six months; it would take at least six more months to convert that uranium into the metal form required for one bomb. Technical problems with both processes could stretch this period to three years. Finally, Iran would need perhaps five additional years -- and several explosive tests -- to develop a Hiroshima-yield bomb that could be fitted onto a ballistic missile.

2. A military strike would knock out Iran's program.

" ... after such a bombing, the Iranian population -- now skeptical of its leadership -- would probably rally around the regime, ending any internal debates on whether to build a bomb. Iran would put its nuclear program on fast-forward to create weapons to defend itself. It could also counterattack against Israel or other U.S. allies. This month, a top official of Iran's Revolutionary Guard threatened to "blow up the heart of Israel" if the United States or Israel attacks first."

3. We can cripple Iran with sanctions.

"Some mix of sanctions -- whether restricting travel, making it harder for Iranian banks to do business, further limiting foreign investment or even denying Iranian citizens basic needs, such as gas -- may be necessary if Tehran does not restrain its nuclear program or live up to its pledges. But the key is to couple such pressure with a face-saving way out for the Iranian leadership. As the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran put it, a sanctions strategy must feature "opportunities for Iran to achieve its security, prestige, and goals for regional influence in other ways." These could include Iran's inclusion in regional security talks, the suspension of sanctions and a secure supply of reactor fuel, leading up to normalized relations with the West."

4. A new government in Iran would abandon the nuclear program.

Some believe that an irrational, apocalyptic government now rules Iran and that regime change is the only solution. But there is broad support across Iran's political spectrum for the right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

5. Iran is the main nuclear threat in the Middle East.

The real danger is not a nuclear-armed Iran but a Middle East with more nuclear-armed nations and unresolved territorial, economic and political disputes. That is a recipe for disaster, and that is why there is no country-specific solution; we cannot play nuclear whack-a-mole.

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