Thanks to all the members of the group for your active participation. I’d like to extend our discussion, but I encourage you to continue to respond to Jim Walsh and Henry Sokolski’s recent posts below.
I think we’ve done a good job of kicking around the diplomatic options to significantly delay or limit Iran’s further development of an enrichment capacity. Clearly, we can’t know beforehand whether a new diplomatic initiative will succeed (I tend to be on the skeptical side), but we need to give it our best shot because the alternatives are clearly inferior. At the same time, it’s worth thinking about our options in the event that the diplomatic options we’ve discussed fail to bear fruit.
If the carrot and stick approach is unable to constrain Iran’s enrichment program in a meaningful way, is it possible to prevent Iran from crossing the nuclear threshold – from actually producing HEU and making nuclear weapons once it has completed an enrichment facility capable of producing significant quantities of HEU in a short period? What diplomatic and military policies could be applied to deter Iran from taking the risk of either nuclear break out or nuclear sneak out? In other words, is it plausible that Iran could be convinced to live with a latent nuclear weapons capacity or is it inevitable that Iran will not rest until it has a nuclear arsenal?
In either case, how would we manage the regional and international consequences of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapons option or actual nuclear weapons? If Iran acquires nuclear weapons, how would we deter use or transfer of nuclear weapons and discourage other countries in the region from seeking their own nuclear deterrent?
Finally, is there viable military option? How do we calculate the effectiveness of a military attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities and the risks of military force verses the risks of trying to contain and deter a nuclear-capable or a nuclear-armed Iran? Even if the U.S. decides against the use of force, what should our attitude be towards an Israeli option, if the Israelis decide they have no choice but to take action against an ‘existential’ threat? Should we facilitate, discourage, or acquiesce?
I hope these questions will help wind up our Iran forum with a “bang.”