Time to Talk: The case for diplomatic solutions on Iran | Treaty On The Non Proliferation Of Nuclear Weapons | Nuclear Program Of Iran

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This report does not dispute the seriousness of the Iranian nuclear issue, nor the gravity of local, regional and global implications should Iran develop a nuclear weapon capability. It looks at the possible consequences of military action against Iran. As this report demonstrates, those consequences are potentially so serious that complacency about the outcomes of a military strike could be perilous. The organisations affiliated with this report are concerned that arguments for military action against Iran might gain traction before a sober analysis of the consequences of such action has taken place. It does not seek to quantify the likelihood of military action in the near future. It does dispute the assumption that targeted military strikes against Iran's nuclear installations would effectively set back Iran's nuclear programme in the mid-to-long term. What is certain is that the ramifications of military action are grounds for deep anxiety. The consequences could be devastating not only for millions of Iranians, many of whom do not share the hard-line views of their current government, but also for the prospects of peace in the Middle East
  Time to talk THE CASE FOR DIPLOMATIC SOLUTIONS ON IRAN  The prospect ofa nuclear Iran causes acute concern not only in the United States and Israel,but also in Europe and most ofthe rest ofthe world.This report does not seek to quantify the likelihood ofmilitary action against Iran.It argues that theconsequences ofany possible future military action could bewholly counterproductive as well as highly dangerous.Diplomaticsolutions to the Iranian nuclear issue must be pursued resolutely. Iran’s nuclear programme– a cause for international concern? The Iranian administration insists that its nuclear activities are directed solelytowards a civil nuclear power programme.However,many states share theconviction that Iran is dedicated to becoming a nuclear weapons power and that it must not be allowed to develop the capability ofproducing nuclear weaponmaterials.The problem is that a fully indigenous civil nuclear power programmeinvolves all the dual-use technology necessary to produce military fissile material.Iran enjoys considerable domestic and some international support for its refusal to relinquish its legal entitlements,including from the Arab League and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM),but its record ofmisleading International AtomicEnergy Agency (IAEA) inspectors has eroded international confidence in Iran’sintentions and its willingness to agree to watertight controls on its nuclear programme.Since the international community was alerted to Iran’s secret nuclear activities in 2002,various diplomatic strategies have been pursued.Despite many setbackssome important progress has been achieved,such as the involvement ofthe major players (China,France,Russia,the US,the UK and Germany),albeit indirectly inthe case ofthe US,and the formulation ofserious incentives to induce Iraniancooperation.Still,many within the US administration remain sceptical thatdiplomacy can deliver.Though debate has largely centred on Iran’s uranium enrichment activities,Iran could also build a nuclear weapon by reprocessing plutonium.To ensure that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon capability,both ofthese routes would have to be blocked.The civil nuclear power reactor in Bushehr is due to be started in September 2007 (nuclear fuel supplied by Russia will be on site fr om March 2007). 1 Beyond this date,military strikes on Bushehr could unleashnuclear contamination so severe that it is unlikely that such strikes would beundertaken from that point forth.These considerations could hasten any plansfor military action. The Case for Diplomatic Solutions on Iran2 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY  Consequences ofpossible military action A US or Israeli led attack on Iran would likely unleash a series ofnegative consequences.These might include:  Strengthened Iranian nuclear ambitions;  Even greater instability in the Middle East and broader region,especially in Iraq and Afghanistan;  Inflammation ofthe ‘war on terror’;  Exacerbated energy insecurity and global economic hardship;  Damage to developed and developing economies;  Environmental degradation;and  Civilian casualties.IRAN’S NUCLEAR AMBITIONS STRENGTHENED: It is expected that ifmilitaryaction were undertaken it could deepen the resolve ofthe Iranian regime tobecome a nuclear weapons power and would likely lead to Iran’s withdrawal from the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT).The threat ofIran building a nuclear weapon could intensify,possibly prompting further proliferation in the region. GREATER INSTABILITY: Iran’s links with Hezbollah in Lebanon,Hamas in theWest Bank and Gaza as well as Shia constituencies in Iraq,Afghanistan and theGulfStates makes regional retaliation against any military attack on Iran likely.UK forces in Iraq and Afghanistan could be particularly vulnerable,with significantlosses possible.The notion ofa limited engagement in Iran is likely to prove as illusory there as it has in Afghanistan and Iraq. WAR ON TERROR INFLAMED: An attack on Iran would be perceived by some as an aggression towards the Muslim world,fuelling anti-Western sentiment and giving renewed impetus to extremists at home and abroad. ENERGY CHAOS: Iran has the world’s second largest hydrocarbon reserves and is currently the fourth largest oil producer.A disruption to the Iranian oil supplycould cause havoc in the global oil market.Iranian attempts,or even threats,toattack oil transit through the Straits ofHormuz could send oil prices over $100per barrel. The Case for Diplomatic Solutions on Iran3 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY  ECONOMIC DAMAGE: The EU,which is partially dependent on Iranian oil supplies,could feel the squeeze and possibly even experience recession.Inflationary pressure would damage consumer confidence in the EU and the US.In developing countries,a rise in oil prices could cause GDPs to fall,exacerbatingpoverty and effectively undermining debt relief. ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION: Military action against nuclear establishmentscould unleash severe radioactive contamination.Aerial bombardments or sabotagecould lead to contamination through oil slicks and oil well fires. IMPACT ON IRANIAN CIVILIANS: In Iran,the impact ofany military action on the civilian population could be acute.The notion that military strikes would be targeted and surgical is ill founded.Iran’s nuclear facilities are located near densely populated towns,and those living or working nearby would be at seriousrisk.It is likely that US war planners would also target military assets beyond thenuclear facilities in anticipation ofcounterattacks,increasing the risk to civilians.Military action is not likely to be a short,sharp engagement but could have a profound effect on the region,with shock waves felt far beyond. Diplomacy is the only viable option Iran has proved to be a difficult negotiating partner.But the major obstacle to full negotiations – namely,the requirement that Iran stop enriching uraniumbefore direct talks with the US can begin – remains in place.There is also morework to be done on elaborating the June 2006 package ofincentives to addresssome ofIran’s fundamental concerns,particularly in relation to securityguarantees.Real diplomatic options still exist,ifa face-saving solution can be found to convince the protagonists to approach the table.Military action against Iran would work against the interests ofthe UK.The UK government is well positioned to articulate objections to military action.There is an opportunity for the UK to catalyse negotiations by supportingEuropean partners in pushing for preconditions to be dropped;advocating for direct US involvement;and strengthening the hand ofreformists inside Iran by being seen to treat it fairly,thereby laying foundations for a more functionalrelationship with Iran in the future. The Case for Diplomatic Solutions on Iran4 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
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