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  • Iran Nukes - No Easy Choices
    Posted by Bill Sweetman 1:40 PM on May 11, 2010

    Administration policy aimed at countering Iran's nuclear ambitions has so far been a "four rail bank shot", Ambassador Robert Joseph, former arms control official and senior scholar at the National Institute for Public Policy, told a group of national security bloggers at the Heritage Foundation on Monday.

    By giving up plans for a third ground-based interceptor missile defense site, Joseph said, the administration eased the path to a strategic arms agreement with Russia, "which was supposed to ease the relations with Russia and help get Russia and China together to put pressure on Iran."

    "I don't know what we got for that,' Joseph added, "but so far it doesn't appear to be working." Overall, he suggests, future administration policy could be "Plan A isn't working, so Plan B is to do more Plan A."

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    The NIPP is also urging the Senate to take a hard look at the New Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START) treaty signed in Prague last month, in particular what the NIPP calls "explicit and implicit" limits on missile defense and conventional Prompt Global Strike systems. The Prague preamble states that missile defense forces are to be kept proportional to delivery systems, while PGS systems would count against the agreed ceilings on "strategic launchers".

    As for Iran, Joseph sees no easy answers. The use of force "could slow the program but not end it, and the consequences would be enormous." As for an Israeli attack, even if effective, "we would be blamed for it whether we knew about it or whether we didn't."

    The problem with Israel's own deterrent - generally considered to include a second-strike capability, based on cruise missiles carried by Dolphin-class submarines - is that it is "99 per cent effective", Joseph says. "Iran's leader says that he wants to destroy Israel. Would he pull the trigger? Can he? The response would be overwhelming, but if that's what you're saying, you're indicating that you're comfortable with that."

    The solution? A full array of diplomatic and other measures, governed by strategy, offers the best hope. "I have problems with the administration defining 'engagement' as a strategy," Joseph states. "It's a tool. Likewise, Global Zero is a vision, not a strategy."

    Tags: ar99, iran, heritage

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