Iran’s Nuclear Program: What Is Known and Unknown

The Obama Administration’s engagement policy toward Iran has failed to defuse the nuclear standoff. Instead, Iran has continued to conceal and lie about its nuclear weapons program in an attempt to stall until it can present the world with a nuclear fait accompli. A nuclear-armed Iran not only will have a dramatically increased ability to threaten its neighbors and U.S. interests, but will also trigger a destabilizing nuclear arms race in the already volatile Middle East. The Administration’s best option is to press both its allies and the U.N. Security Council to impose the strongest possible sanctions on Iran to increase the costs to Iran of continuing its nuclear weapons program.

Iran’s hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad celebrated the anniversary of Iran’s 1979 revolution on February 11 by proclaiming that Iran is a “nuclear state.”[1] Iran’s radical Shia Islamist regime clearly sees its nuclear program as a means of bolstering its sagging legitimacy and popularity, while expanding its prestige and global influence. It also sees nuclear weapons as a potent equalizer that could deter external attack and ensure its own survival. Tehran has spurned aggressive diplomatic offers from the Obama Administration to resolve the outstanding nuclear issue, just as it spurned efforts by the Bush Administration and by Britain, France, and Germany. As Ahmadinejad said in 2007, Iran’s nuclear program is like a train “with no brakes and no reverse gear.”[2] Despite five U.N. Security Council resolutions and three rounds of U.N. sanctions, Iran’s nuclear train speeds onward.

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