U.S. Weighs Non-U.N. Iran Options

The U.S. is exploring different diplomatic and military routes — outside of the U.N. — for dealing with Iran. Gary Samore, vice president of global security and sustainability at the MacArthur Foundation, talks with Renee Montagne about the options.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

From NPR News, it's MORNING EDITION on a Tuesday morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

The United States is considering its next moves against Iran. At the same time, Iran is making a move against one of its own citizens. Iran's government has detained an advocate for democracy. His story has received little attention, but we will hear it in a moment.

First, a subject that has the full attention of the United States and Europe: Iran's nuclear program. The United States insists Iran cannot be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon. Iran insists its program is peaceful and refuses to give it up. As diplomats struggle to find a formula that everyone can agree on, the United States is beginning to consider other options.

To learn more, we've called Gary Samore. He was a member of President Clinton's National Security Council, and he's now a vice president at the McArthur Foundation. Good Morning.

Mr. GARY SAMORE (Vice President, McArthur Foundation): Good morning.

MONTAGNE: Is the United States seeking a fallback position? And if so, what are some of these other options that are being considered?

Mr. SAMORE: Well, I think the U.S. preference is still to use the threat of U.N. Security Council sanctions to force Iran to restore the suspension on its enrichment program and engage in negotiations over its nuclear program. But that's proving to be difficult, because the Russians and Chinese in particular are very reluctant to use the Security Council. They fear that would lead to a confrontation and possibly even military conflict.

So I think the United States is also considering the possibility of working with its allies - mainly the Western Europeans and the Japanese - to apply sanctions to Iran outside of the U.N., the so-called Coalition of the Willing. The problem with that approach is that it's even less likely to be effective economically because it wouldn't apply to all countries, and therefore it would be easier for the Iranians to evade it.

MONTAGNE: Well, so sanction is one option. Is that - are there others?

Mr. SAMORE: Well, obviously, at the end of the day, if all else efforts fail, the United States and other countries will have to consider whether to use military force. Now that would most likely take the form of an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities rather than an outright invasion, and the consequence would be to delay the program if that kind of an attack is successful.

MONTAGNE: Now negotiators from the U.S., Europe, Russia, and China are meeting in London this week to discuss a new package of incentives for Iran and to gather - also, possibly, punishments included. Just briefly, what are they likely to propose?

Mr. SAMORE: Well, this is very much a variation on the proposal that the Europeans have been developing over the last couple of years of negotiations with Iran. And, basically, there - it's a very generous offer to help Iran's nuclear power program, making available to them access to European nuclear power technology, as well as guarantees of fuel supply if the Iranians will agree not to develop their own enrichment capability.

Now the Iran - that's a very good offer if the Iranians were interested in developing civil nuclear power. Unfortunately, the Iranians are much more interested in developing a nuclear weapons option. And so, the proposal is not very attractive to Tehran.

What's added - what's new this time is that the Europeans are trying to get the Russians and Chinese to agree to a set of sanctions that would be applied, in the event that Iran rejects the incentives that are being offered. And some of these sanctions are pretty substantial, like an arms embargo. But as I said, the Russians and Chinese are very reluctant to go down that road.

I think at the end of the day, the U.S. is going to have to find it necessary to offer to be a party to these negotiations with Iran as a way to at least try the very last effort to get a diplomatic solution.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for joining us.

Mr. SAMORE: My pleasure.

MONTAGNE: Gary Samore is the vice president of Global Security and Sustainability at the McArthur Foundation, and he was a member of President Clinton's National Security Council.

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