Wald is a BPC Board Member and Co-Chair of the National Security Initiative’s Iran Project
(1) Why would Iran agree now to an exchange of nuclear material, a deal that was originally proposed in October 2009?
I take Iran’s decision to now accept the Turkish/Brazilian offer to exchange low-enriched uranium for higher grade nuclear material as cynical at best, and strategically clever at worst. Iran clearly saw the international community coalescing more and more on “biting sanctions”…albeit with a weak commitment by China. The move by Iran again puts a consensus among the international community regarding sanctions “on hold”, tends to put Iran in a more favorable light and defuses, to a certain extent, a growing weariness regarding the likelihood of the sanctions’ effectiveness. I see it as inevitable that this “agreement” will be pulled off the table by Iran after they have succeeded in buying more time to attain the ultimate goal of a nuclear weapon.
(2) What is the likelihood that a new round of U.N. Security Council sanctions will change Iran’s behavior?
Again, I am extremely skeptical that anything short of truly “biting” sanctions backed up by the credible threat of military force by the West will force Iran to acquiesce in their quest for a nuclear weapons capability. The U.S. and our likeminded partners still must strive for strong UN actions as part of our overall three step approach: diplomacy, sanctions and a credible military threat.
(3) What is the BPC’s strategy for getting Iran to stop its enrichment of uranium?
The BPC’s new Iran study strongly recommends a simultaneous three pronged approach to the problem. Diplomacy, biting sanctions and a credible military option. Russia’s recent decision to not transfer the S-300 Surface-to-Air missile system to Iran was a plus. Diplomacy continues to be pursued, again with little success, and the sanctions agreed to thus far have been weak and ineffective. Clearly the military option has not been adequately articulated in the public arena.
(4) It is said the politics stops at the water’s edge. Why do you think this is?
Frankly, I believe the public discourse on foreign policy has been woefully inadequate due to the acrimony over the Iraq invasion in 2003. It is difficult to have a public discussion regarding a military option for Iran without sounding like an unthinking, irrational Hawk regarding the consequences a nuclear armed Iran. The “day after” scenario of a nuclear armed Iran needs to be made more public; a nuclear armed Iran will have negative consequences in the region far beyond the consequences predicted by those that believe “containment” is a viable option.
(5) You’ve had the opportunity to travel the world as part of your career. What’s your favorite place to visit outside the U.S.?
I love the Middle East. The history is rich, the culture diverse and the people are fascinating.