Thursday, July 22, 2004 Force Would Not Stop Any Iran Nuke Plans: Experts

International News Article | "Force Would Not Stop Any Iran Nuke Plans: Experts
Thu Jul 22, 2004 10:13 AM ET

By Louis Charbonneau
VIENNA, Austria (Reuters) - A military strike on Iranian atomic facilities would delay but not destroy the development of any nuclear weapons program, diplomats and analysts said.

"Military action is not the answer," said a senior international diplomat involved in the investigation of Iran's nuclear plans.

"It would only push them underground, like in Iraq," said the diplomat, who declined to be named. Israel has hinted it could use air strikes to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities, which it and Washington believe are part of an attempt to acquire atomic weapons under cover of a civilian nuclear power program -- a charge Iran denies.

Convinced that Saddam Hussein was developing nuclear weapons, Israel bombed Iraq's Osiraq nuclear reactor in 1981. But instead of stopping him from pursuing the bomb, Saddam went underground and worked in secret until the program was uncovered by the U.N. nuclear watchdog in 1991.

Several analysts and diplomats said Iran learned from Iraq's mistakes and may be hiding nuclear sites from U.N. inspectors, who have been probing Tehran's atomic program for nearly two years to verify that it is peaceful as Iran insists.

"I think it's impossible to take out Iran's nuclear weapons program with military strikes," a defense industry expert, who declined to be named, told Reuters. "They can recuperate."

But Gary Samore, director of studies at the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London and a former adviser to ex-President Bill Clinton, said military action could significantly delay any Iranian atomic weapons program.

"Military action could delay the development of nuclear weapons, assuming they know the right sites. It could buy them a considerable amount of time," Samore said. "At least part of Iran's clandestine program is now public. The question is whether there are parts we don't know about yet."


The United States has not threatened Iran with military action.

For over a year, Washington has tried unsuccessfully to push the International Atomic Energy Agency to report Tehran to the U.N. Security Council, which could impose painful economic sanctions, for hiding its uranium-enrichment program for nearly two decades.

U.S. officials say this was a blatant violation of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but its call for reporting Iran to the Security Council has met with strong opposition from the European Union's three biggest states.

Israel Elad Altman, director of studies at the Institute for Policy and Strategy in Herzliya, Israel, said the French, German and British "carrot and stick" approach has failed and sanctions are needed. The European trio promised Iran peaceful nuclear technology in exchange for suspending its uranium enrichment.

Iran pledged in October to fully suspend the program but recently said it would resume the manufacture, assembly and testing of enrichment centrifuges, which can be used to enrich uranium for weapons.

"We must impose sanctions that really hurt," Altman said. "Iran needs sanctions that make them pay a price. If sanctions don't work, then they'll have to use military strikes. They don't need to hit every facility. It would just be symbolic."

Iran has already warned that military action would mean the end of cooperation with the IAEA. The agency has uncovered many potentially weapons-related activities in Iran, but no clear proof that Washington is right about Iran -- no "smoking gun."


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