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The Right Way to Press Iran


Iran’s nuclear program must be controlled through serious means
Iran’s nuclear program must be controlled through serious means
Washington seems focused on limiting the numbers and types of centrifuges that Iran would be allowed to possess, as well as the quantities and qualities of uranium it would be allowed to keep, The New York Times reported on May 6th.
The Obama administration should focus on other factors: conducting intrusive inspections and designing a mechanism to easily re-impose sanctions if Iran cheats.
International inspectors must be a constant presence at Iran’s nuclear sites and they need to be able to go anywhere and see anything — immediately and without being blocked by the government. Iran has already agreed to abide by the Additional Protocol to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which does establish somewhat more expansive inspections and monitoring, but given Iran’s history of lying about its nuclear program, America needs what it had in Iraq: the right of the inspectors to have completely unfettered access.
As important as highly intrusive inspections are, they can only be as effective as their enforcement mechanism. The history of arms control and arms limitation agreements suggests that states abide by them when they believe it is likely that they’ll get caught and might pay a heavy price for getting caught.
In Iraq, Libya and Iran today, that punishment has taken the form of powerful sanctions. And it is worth noting that the 1994 nuclear agreement with North Korea didn’t work because it was predicated mostly on offering Pyongyang carrots that could be withheld, while the threatened sticks were ephemeral and inadequate.
That’s why it’s not enough just to have intrusive inspections. America also needs a “snap-back” mechanism to be able to quickly and easily re-impose the sanctions if the United States and its allies decide that Iran is violating the agreement.