WASHINGTON - Four US non-proliferation
specialists are urging the Barack Obama
administration to impose tougher economic
sanctions against Iran and issue more explicit
threats to destroy its nuclear programme by
In a 155-page report, the
specialists, who were joined by the head of a
right-wing pro-Israel lobby group, the Foundation
for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), said
Washington should declare its intent to institute
a "de facto international embargo on all
investments in, and trade with" Iran, excepting
food and medicine, if it does not freeze its
The calls come
amidst speculation over a critical meeting between
Iran and the five permanent members of the United
Nations Security Council - the United States,
Britain, France, China and Russia - plus Germany
(P5+1), which have met over the past two months in
an apparent effort to unify their positions
before meeting with Iran.
That meeting has not yet been scheduled, but most
observers believe it will take place at the end of
The report, "US
Nonproliferation Strategy for the Changing Middle
East", also said Washington should "increase
Iranian isolation, including through regime change
in Syria" and "undertake... overt preparations for
the use of warplanes and/or missiles to destroy
Iran's nuclear capabilities with high explosives".
Only if Tehran provided "meaningful
concessions", among them suspending all uranium
enrichment and heavy water-related projects,
closing the underground enrichment facility at
Fordow, and accepting a highly intrusive
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
inspections regime, should sanctions relief be
considered, said the report, which was co-authored
by FDD's president, Mark Dubowitz, and David
Albright, a physicist who heads the Institute for
Science and International Security.
that respect, the recommendations appeared to
reflect more the position held by Israel than that
of the Obama administration, which has suggested
that it will not necessarily insist on a total
suspension of uranium enrichment - a demand that
Iran has consistently rejected and which many Iran
specialists believe is a deal-killer - as a
condition for possible sanctions relief.
"The report does not offer a realistic
formula for negotiating a satisfactory agreement
on limiting Iran's nuclear program," said Greg
Thielmann, a senior fellow at the Arms Control
Association and a former top State Department
analyst on proliferation issues. "It would require
Iran to capitulate on virtually all fronts."
He noted: "Some of the measures it
suggests would be likely to disrupt P5+1 unity...
and the maximalist requirements it cites for an
agreement could convince Tehran that the US
objective is regime change, rather than full
compliance with its obligations to the IAEA."
In at least one respect, however, the
report departed from Israel's views. Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has repeatedly
threatened to attack Iran's nuclear facilities,
warned in September that Tehran could reach what
the report called the "critical capability" to
quickly build a bomb without detection as early as
this spring. The reported concluded that mid-2014
was more likely, although it noted an earlier date
was also possible.
"The focal point wasn't
to say, 'Saddle up, we're going to war in six
months,'" said Leonard Spector, deputy director of
the James Martin Centre for Nonproliferation
Studies and a co-chair of one of the five task
forces that contributed to the report. "This was a
more careful assessment of how much time we had,
and it allows the sort of [sanctions] pressure,
which has been mounting, to have more impact."
Iranian officials have suggested over the
past several months that they are willing to make
major concessions, including halting their
enrichment of uranium up to 20%, transferring a
substantial portion of their 20% enriched
stockpile out of the country, and accepting
enhanced IAEA inspections, provided they receive
major sanctions relief in exchange. But they have
also insisted that their right to enrichment of up
to 5% is nonnegotiable.
The P5+1 appear
divided over how much sanctions relief to offer
and in what sequence. Recent reports indicate that
Washington and Paris are pressing to require Iran
to implement all of these measures, as well as
closing Fordow and clearing up all questions
raised by the IAEA regarding alleged military
dimensions of Iran's nuclear programme, before any
major easing of sanctions can happen.
new report, which came out of a series of
"roundtables" that included presentations by
senior administration officials, clearly favors an
even tougher stance.
endorsed a letter - reportedly drafted by the
American Israel Public Affairs Committee - to
Obama signed by 73 US senators last month that
warned, "There should be absolutely no diminution
of pressure on the Iranians until the totality of
their nuclear problem has been addressed."
The report called for intensified
sanctions and more explicit military threats by
It also called for
stepping up covert action against Tehran's nuclear
and missile programmes and exerting greater
pressure on China, Hong Kong, Turkey, and the Gulf
kingdoms to halt all commerce with Iran.
While the report covered other
non-proliferation issues in the Middle East and
North Africa, it skipped lightly over Israel, the
region's only nuclear power, noting merely that
the Jewish state will consider disarmament
initiatives only after all its neighbors make
peace with it.
The dearth of attention to
Israel, which, unlike Iran, is not a signatory to
the Non-Proliferation Treaty, was described by
Thielmann as "conspicuous" given the intended
scope of the report.
The report also said
Washington should threaten the Islamist-led
government in Cairo with tough sanctions if it
takes steps to gain nuclear capability.
That the report's recommendations
coincided closely with Israel's positions may have
been due in part to the heavy involvement in the
project by staff members from both FDD, which has
been a leading proponent of "economic warfare"
against Iran, and the Dershowitz Group, a media
relations firm that shares office space with FDD
and reportedly cooperates closely.
Dershowitz account executives included in the
report's acknowledgments have previously been
associated with Hasbara Fellowships, a group set
up by the right-wing, Israel-based Aish HaTorah
International, to counter alleged anti-Israel
sentiment at US universities. IPS inquiries into
the project's sources of funding went unanswered.
The endorsement by Albright, who is
frequently cited by mainstream US media as an
expert on the technical aspects of Iran's nuclear
program, of the report's policy-oriented
recommendations, such as making a military attack
on Iran more credible, came as a surprise to some
proliferation experts, including two who
participated in the roundtables but asked to
remain anonymous because of the off-the-record
nature of the proceedings.
is a technical one, but this is mostly a political
paper," said one expert. "This covers areas that
go far beyond his expertise."