WASHINGTON – One of the most influential diplomats in recent decades believes crippling sanctions against Iran are successfully limiting the country’s suspected nuclear weapons programs, despite a recent finding that could yet lead to military intervention to ensure stability in the region.
The International Atomic Energy Agency found traces of uranium in Iran enriched well beyond the point of weapons-grade material, the Associated Press reported Friday. A round of talks in Iraq ended Wednesday, aimed at ceasing the economic sanctions imposed after Iran refused to fully disclose its nuclear program to the international community.
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright tells WTOP she isn’t surprised the Iraq talks weren’t wholly successful, and looks to negotiations in Moscow next month to keep the precarious situation from escalating.
“Clearly Iran is hurting because of the sanctions,” she says. “Clearly more sanctions are coming.”
Friday’s IAEA finding indicates the Vienna, Austria-based agency got “a breakthrough because they can go and inspect” nuclear facilities in Iran, says Albright. As a signatory of the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty, Iran must prove they adhere to strict regulations, including how they enrich uranium.
“What’s happening in Iran…is to see whether diplomacy works, then whether sanctions work,” says Albright. “And there’s always the use-of-force tool.
“I think it’s important to keep that option on the table, but to figure out what the benefit of it is.”
During the Clinton administration, Albright famously prodded then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Colin Powell into using military force in the Balkans by asking him, “What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?” In 2006, she said the war in Iraq – based in part on what turned out to be inaccurate information about that country’s nuclear program – could go down as the nation’s worst foreign policy error.
Now a professor at Georgetown University, Albright said on Friday it’s important to look at the end-game of employing military force.
“From everything I have read, there is a real question as to whether military force would solve anything,” she says. “But it is an option that cannot be taken off the table. I’m very encouraged by the fact the sanctions are working.”
The IAEA discovery on Friday is not necessarily an indication Iran is purposefully enriching uranium for weapons. It’s possible the centrifuges used in the process over-enriched the uranium as Iranian technicians adjusted their output, non- proliferation expert David Albright tells the Associated Press.
“Nontheless, embarassing for Iran,” he wrote in an e-mail.
Opposition to Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon is widespread worldwide, according to a poll released last week, particularly among neighboring countries Egypt, Jordan and Turkey.
Support for military action is highest in the United States with 63 percent of people. It is lowest in Russia with only 24 percent support. Of the other 21 nations surveyed, at least 50 percent of the populations of Britain, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, and Spain supported the use of military force.
On Tuesday, Madeleine Albright will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest honor for civilians. Born in then-Czechoslovakia, her family moved to the U.S. in the 1940s while she was a girl. She became a U.S. citizen in the 1950s.
“Nothing makes me prouder than to be an American and to have an opportunity to pay back what this country has done for me,” she tells WTOP.