A few weeks ago, the Obama administration discussed with local and regional parties the possibility of imposing additional sanctions on Iran. Al Arabiya was informed of two key elements that pushed the American administration to reconsider its stance: first, the alleged assassination attempt against the Saudi ambassador, Adel al-Jubeir, in Washington. And second, Iran’s capacity to build a nuclear bomb in the near future. The nuclear element is seen as dangerous, since it destabilizes the balance of power in the Gulf and Middle East and threatens international peace and security.
A new report and more enriched Uranium
The International Atomic Energy Agency is expected to hold a meeting in early November on the Iranian nuclear project. The report will definitely point to the increased quantity of enriched uranium in Iran. Some information received by Al Arabiya noted that until September, Iran had enriched 70 tons of Uranium to 20 percent concentration, and might even have produced more than 150 tons of 20 percent- enriched uranium.
Furthermore, it is easy for Iran to enrich this quantity further to 90 percent, which would give Iran 200 tons of highly enriched uranium, enough for a nuclear weapon.
This first scenario is highly controversial among U.S. stakeholders and Western and Middle Eastern governments’ representatives. However, it is important to note that the American administration is currently discussing with its allies the measures to be adopted by Washington and the U.N. Security Council after the International Atomic Energy Agency releases its report on Iran in a couple of weeks.
Iran’s fiercest opponents suggest a package of severe sanctions against Tehran, including:
•Sanctions against the Iranian Central Bank
•Sanctions against Iranian oil derivatives imports
•Intensified sanctions against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards
•Banning Iran from importing all kinds of weapons
The Obama administration has already started to talk with its European allies about imposing sanctions on the Iranian Central Bank. However, Europe has great financial interests in Iran and the sanctions against the bank would also affect the European economy. But Washington believes that it can easily impose additional sanctions on the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. However, imposing “sweeping sanctions” against Iran would not an easy task for Washington.
The big stick policy
Michael Singh, who was in charge of Iran file at NSC during the time of President Bush said “The engagement policy with Iran did not succeed, but it is difficult for any administration to make a total shift and go the opposite way and this is the nature of things.”
Singh blames the current administration for giving Iran a two-and-a-half year period, during which Iran applied its policies including enriching uranium while the new American administration was stuck reviewing it
But now, the U.S. policy toward Iran has reached a deadlock. It was revived by the alleged assassination attempt against the Saudi ambassador, but it did not overcome the deadlock.
The U.S. administration should take decisive action, because international and American experts have unanimously agreed that Iran could build a nuclear weapon in two years, or at least by 2015. The experts also noted that Iran must not be given any additional time, which would allow it to continue its enrichment operations. Getting closer to building a nuclear weapon allows Iran to possess such a weapon even under a complete blockade and sweeping sanctions in 2015. Therefore, Iran’s opponents are calling for sanctions against Tehran, so that the world and the Middle East can be protected protect from the next Iranian nuclear threat and from the arms race that includes Egypt and the Gulf countries.
What Iran fears the most
In the general frame of dealing with Iran, Singh said that there are three things that frighten Iran: one, a military campaign on the infrastructure of revolutionary guard and the nuclear sites, two, a popular uprising and three a ban on Iran from exporting oil. The current administration does not consider any of those options and at least does not give the impression that it is willing to take any of them.
Singh recalled that President Bush used to send carriers to the gulf and do military maneuvers to show the Iranians he is serious in using military power. However, President Obama does not show he is serious in using force so Iranians do not take his words seriously regarding all the options on the table.
Concerning a popular uprising against the regime, the U.S. does not have a major role to play. As for banning Iran from exporting oil, it would cause prices on the global market to rise, which would be an unwelcome event.
The U.S. administration does have one thing it could do, after the IAEA issues its report on Iran: Washington, and perhaps Europe, could implement severe measures to stop Tehran’s advance. But in the next six months or so it is vital to stop the deterioration in the dialogue about Iran, which will intensified international efforts, especially in the U.N. Security Council.
(The article was translated from Arabic by Stanella Khalil.)