Middle East

Pressure On Iran Mounts Over Nuclear Disclosure

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On Friday, the U.S., Britain and France threatened to impose new sanctions on Iran unless Tehran discloses information about its nuclear program. Host Scott Simon speaks about the ramifications with Karim Sadjadpour, an associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Foreign policy dominated President Obama's attention this week, from the U.N. General Assembly to questions about U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan. In a moment, we'll hear more from this week's G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh.

But first, of course the new revelations about Iran's nuclear program. President Obama says in his weekly radio address today that Iran must demonstrate its peaceful intentions. This comes after the U.S. confirmed the existence of a covert nuclear facility within the Islamic republic.

Reigning President Ahmadinejad says his country has done nothing wrong.

Joined now in our studios by Karim Sadjadpour, an associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Sadjadpour, thanks for being with us.

Mr. KARIM SADJADPOUR (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace): Always a pleasure, Scott.

SIMON: President Obama says that the size and configuration of this facility just is inconsistent with a peaceful program. Is it dangerous? Is it serious?

Mr. SADJADPOUR: Well, it's a uranium enrichment facility. And by enriching uranium, that's a process which can lead to the creation of a nuclear device. Also, it's necessary for a civilian nuclear energy program. I think what's unsettling for the Obama administration, for the United States, is that Iran has not disclosed this type of facility.

I think it has simply confirmed what many people already suspected to be the case, that Iran has not been fully transparent or forthcoming with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

SIMON: Yeah. And where does the international community go from here? Is inspection the goal? Inspection's different than shutting it down.

Mr. SADJADPOUR: Well, this really strengthens the hand of the Obama administration. Because I think it strengthens (unintelligible) resolve. I think it's going to be more difficult for the Russians to insist that Iran deserves the benefit of the doubt.

You know, during the Bush administration, much of the onus was on the United States to engage Iran. And since the Bush administration's left office, the Obama administration has made many overtures to try to reach out to Iran, which have gone unreciprocated. And I think there's far more focus these days on what Tehran is not doing. There's far more focus these days on Tehran's intransigence.

And what I would say, Scott…

SIMON: It's easier for the Obama administration to call Iran intransigent than it was for the previous one.

Mr. SADJADPOUR: Absolutely. Because I think the world and especially the people within Iran are realizing that the unreasonable partner in this equation looks like it's the Iranians, not the Americans. And this revelation has to be very unsettling for Iran, Scott, because it's kind of the equivalent of someone discovering after several years that there's been a hidden camera in their bedroom.

You know, the last four years, the United States has known about this secret facility. And I think the Iranians must be thinking to themselves, what other state secrets do the United States know about?

SIMON: This raises the question: what's the use of sanctions?

Mr. SADJADPOUR: Well, (unintelligible) sanctions are supposed affect the cost-benefit analysis of this region. It's supposed to dissuade them from moving forward. Unfortunately, what we've seen the last three decades, that this is a regime that has never placed the economic well-being of the Iranian people as a top-tier priority.

So I think, you know, during the 1980s they prolonged the war with Iraq for nearly six years for reasons of political expediency. And I think that sanctions are not going to be negligible - they are going to be painful for the regime - but I think they're going to be willing to endure economic hardship for reasons of political and ideological expediency.

SIMON: And quick last question: wasn't engagement supposed to make the Iranian regime easier to deal with?

Mr. SADJADPOUR: It was, and I think what we're realizing now under the Obama administration is that not just the Iranian regime but Syria, Hugo Chavez and Venezuela, et cetera, the reasons for their behavior are not necessarily because the U.S. is not engaging. I think when it comes to Iran, they feel like they need this enmity with the United States. It's fundamental to their worldview.

SIMON: Karim Sadjadpour, associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, speaking with us in our studios. Thanks so much.

Mr. SADJADPOUR: Thanks, Scott.

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