chapter  4
16 Pages

Ten regrets: America’s non- proliferation efforts against


Overview When it comes to assessing Amer ica’s efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring the bomb, there is a nat ural tend ency to demur and argue that the jury is still out. Perhaps, but for many, Iran already has become a virtual nuclear state. Yes, Tehran is not operating all of its centrifuges and, yes, it might take it another year to get its first bomb. But (a) that’s not much time; (b) this is hardly as far along as Washington ever wanted Tehran to get; and (c) Washington’s abil ity to block Iran from taking the final steps to acquiring its first bomb is now mar ginal at best. For all these reasons, then, it’s not too early to ask whether or not Washington could have done better in its efforts to scotch Iran’s march toward the bomb. Certainly, if the United States wants to avoid future Irans, which some experts insist is about to happen, it’s not too early to answer this question now. How well has Washington done? The short answer is it fumbled on several fronts. The long answer is that on ten specific points, it could have done better. Washington officials certainly could have pub licly articulated earl ier, more consistently and clearly how great a threat the Iranian regime was to its neigh bours, the US and its allies; and what the US and other states needed to do to block the threat. In addition, Washington has been far too reluct ant to spell out the limits of IAEA inspections. On the other hand, the US has been too enthusiastic in promoting the peaceful bene fits of nuclear energy in the Middle East to help it hedge diplomatically and milit ar ily against Iran’s nuclear misbehaviour. Beyond these shortfalls, Amer ica’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have tended to crowd out ser ious thinking about other ser ious secur ity concerns like Iran. This and other factors have encouraged Washington to rely too much on milit ary threats, covert opera tions, and manipulating intelligence assessments in its efforts to manage the Iranian nuclear threat.