Germany Casts Skeptical on Iran Sanctions

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Diplomats say they've made significant progress developing a U.N. Security Council resolution that imposes sanctions against Iran for its refusal to stop enriching uranium. But there is skepticism in Germany that the sanctions will work.


The U.N. Security Council could decide this week to impose sanctions against Iran. Members have spent months trying to agree on how to stop Iran's uranium enrichment program. Some skeptics say sanctions won't work, and instead world leaders should plan how to handle a potentially nuclear-armed Iran. The German government supports sanctions and helped write the U.N. resolution.

NPR's Emily Harris found influential voices in Germany, saying the approach to Iran needs to be re-thought.

EMILY HARRIS: Rudolf Adam is among those skeptical that the planned sanctions against Iran will work. He was number two at Germany's intelligence service, and now heads Germany's Federal Academy for Security Studies. Despite his skepticism about sanctions, he says the United Nations should press forward with them, just not count on sanctions to stop Iran from enriching uranium.

Mr. RUDOLF ADAM (Federal Academy for Security Studies, Germany): We shouldn't overestimate the pack of cards we have in our hands. And in the end, we may very well have to think how to live with a nuclear Iran.

HARRIS: He is relatively confident that the West can live, if need be, with a nuclear-armed Iran. What's needed now, he says, is to start thinking about containment, the policy that helped keep the Soviet Union in check.

Mr. ADAM: Don't forget, the Soviet Union had a virulently aggressive ideology. I remember Khrushchev - I was still a boy, but I remember that he threatened in the United Nations - we will bury you. Well that was language, not as repugnant, maybe, as what Ahmadinejad said about Israel, but obviously we felt very much threatened by the Soviet Union and we managed to contain that threat.

HARRIS: But physicist Gotz Neuneck, of Hamburg University's Institute of Peace Research and Security Policy, doubts that the trust that was built up to manage nukes during the Cold War could be replicated in the Middle East.

Professor GOTZ NEUNECK (Institute of Peace Research and Security Policy, Hamburg University): We had arms control. We had inspections. We had some kind of recognizing others as a legitimate government.

HARRIS: Even a direct phone line between the Kremlin and the White House, although that was put in place only after the Cuban Missile Crisis almost led to a nuclear war. Although Neuneck agrees that it is wise to think long-term about Iran's ambitions, he says planning for what happens if Tehran develops nuclear weapons could make that seem inevitable. And that, he worries, could affect political or military decisions now.

Prof. NEUNECK: I think at the moment, one should really invest more on having good ideas - how to convince Iran, how to influence Iranian policy, how to influence the population that nuclear weapons are not in their interest.

HARRIS: During negotiations last summer, Europe and the U.S. offered Iran economic and diplomatic benefits if Tehran would stop its uranium enrichment program. Director of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, Perthes Volker, says Iran wants economic development, security, and prestige. And that, he says, is where the Americans could help.

Mr. PERTHES VOLKER (Director, Institute for International and Security Affairs, Germany): The Americans could do a lot by agreeing to meet eye-to-eye, as it were, with the Iranians. And regime security - the first thing here is that all the talk and all the musing about regime change in Iran has to stop.

HARRIS: Even if Iran were armed with nuclear weapons, he says, U.S. military strength could act as a deterrent. Others here say the U.S. would have to offer security guarantees to allies in the region. The German government says it is not thinking, right now, about what to do if Iran were to develop nuclear weapons. It's trying to stop that from happening.

Emily Harris, NPR News, Berlin.

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