US Senate leader calls for action against Iran
By Khalid Hasan
WASHINGTON: Bill Frist, the leader of the Republican majority in the US Senate, has called for action against Iran before it is too late.
In an article contributed to the Los Angeles Times, the influential senator suggested that although the US should continue IAEA discussions with Iran, it needs to explore “other measures,” in particular, asking allies who trade with Iran to join a sanctions campaign against Tehran. Noting that the US has long maintained sanctions on Iran that prohibit most trade, investment and assistance because Iran is on the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, American law requires the President to oppose all multilateral assistance to Iran in international forums and impose sanctions on those who aid its weapons programmes or invest in its energy sector. “Now, we should persuade other countries to follow our lead. Aside from those covering food and medicine, we shouldn’t rule out any type of sanction,” he added.
Frist proposed that a multinational sanctions regime might begin with an embargo on technologies that Iran can use in its nuclear program. If these initial sanctions prove ineffective, the programme might escalate in stages to include a ban on arms sales and penalties for suppliers. Further sanctions could include limits on the export of civilian technologies, such as machine tools, that have military applications, and, eventually, the full spectrum of measures the US has in place to isolate Iran and persuade its rulers to give up their nuclear ambitions. “If we let Tehran develop nuclear weapons covertly while IAEA negotiations slog forward, Iran’s theocrats will have little reason to negotiate with anyone. The US needs to act before a regime that has denied the real Holocaust unleashes another,” he added.
The Senate majority leader accused Iran’s rulers of having waged a 26-year campaign to “suppress dissent, support terror and pursue a nuclear weapons programme.” He said it had become clear in recent weeks that international efforts to stop Iran’s atomic programme had failed to bear fruit. “Unless we act quickly, the United States will have a nuclear crisis on its hands,” he warned. He said there is a contrast between the Iranian “ruling class” and the Iranian people who want to rejoin the global community. “The Iranian people’s desire for freedom, however, hasn’t stopped the nation’s leaders from trying to build a fearsome arsenal,” he added. He charged that Iran already has missiles capable of striking Israel, parts of Europe and American forces in the Middle East. “It also appears that rogue Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan has given Tehran’s ruling clerics the blueprints for a nuclear warhead. Veteran Iran-watchers believe that the nation could soon use its supposedly civilian nuclear programme to produce weapons-grade fissile material,” he alleged
According to Frist, the world’s democracies largely agree that a nuclear-armed Iran presents a threat to Middle East stability and world peace. Meetings between the United States and the other 34 members of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s governing board have produced resolutions but no final agreement to end Tehran’s “illicit nuclear programme.” Several IAEA board members have blocked serious action out of fear that Iran will pull out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, suspend international energy sales or even lash out militarily, he pointed out. He accused Iran of having violated its international obligations more than a dozen times. He stopped short of recommending that Iran be taken to the Security Council as that could drive away allies whose help would be needed to stop Iran’s nuclear programme.