State’s Schulte says Iranian nuclear ambitions threaten Mideast stability
“A nonmilitary campaign, if serious and sustained, and supported by other like-minded countries, has the potential to succeed against a regime that has failed to deliver on its economic promises, that needs foreign investment to sustain government revenue, and that faces increasing opposition at home,” Ambassador Gregory Schulte told members of Munich’s German United National Association February 7.
Schulte said the shadow of Iranian influence “spreads ominously” over the Middle East from the Gulf and Iraq, where it stirs sectarian tensions, to the Palestinian Territories, where it sponsors rejectionist parties opposed to the Middle East peace process. “We have a common interest in preventing Iran’s shadow from taking the shape of a nuclear cloud,” he told his German audience.
Schulte said the only thing standing between the Iranian regime’s ambitions and a nuclear weapon is the acquisition of fissile material, and he warned that Iran is making progress in this pursuit through its uranium-enrichment facility at Natanz and a new heavy-water reactor under construction at Arak.
The ambassador rejected Iran’s justifications for the two facilities. He said Iran has no need to produce enriched uranium because it has no nuclear reactors, apart from a Russian-supplied facility under construction at Bushehr, and has no credible plans to build any reactors. He said a heavy-water reactor is inappropriate for producing medical isotopes as Iran claims is its intention.
However, he pointed out, the enriched uranium from the Natanz facility and the plutonium produced at the Arak heavy-water facility would be suitable to build nuclear weapons. He said, given the projected capacity of the two facilities, either facility could produce enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb in less than a year after becoming fully operational.
He said this nuclear capability could embolden the government in Tehran. “Even without detonating a single nuclear weapon, the mere possession of an atomic arsenal could encourage Iran’s leaders to employ their conventional forces and step up terrorism to advance their regional ambitions,” he said.
The ambassador said that de facto sanctions already are beginning to have an effect on Iran. Even before the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 1737 in December 2006, international banks and corporations had begun limiting their financial transactions with Iran and investments in the country. Schulte credited these moves with producing greater political pressure both from the Iranian people and the parliament against the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
He said European countries could do more to place economic and political pressure on Tehran. He suggested Europeans could eliminate export credits for exports to Iran and further discourage financial transactions and investment from European firms.
Schulte expressed the hope that this sort of economic and political pressure could persuade Iran to adopt what he called “the positive choice, the constructive choice, the choice that would most benefit the Iranian people.” The only constructive path forward, he said, is for Iran to respect the Security Council’s demand that it suspend all uranium enrichment and plutonium production activities.
IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei is scheduled to deliver a report to the Security Council February 21 on Iran’s compliance with the council’s demands. Schulte said that if Iran is still in violation of those demands, the council must be prepared consider more persuasive measures. The December 2006 resolution, issued under the authority of Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, allows for a broad range of economic, political and military measures if Iran continues to defy the council’s demands.
For additional information, see full text of Schulte’s remarks.
For more information on U.S. policies, see Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.
(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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