Jay Solomon — Wall Street Journal April 4, 2014
Two former top advisers to the Obama administration on Iran are calling for the White House and Congress to increase the threat of using military force against Tehran if talks aimed at curbing its nuclear program fail – or the country’s Islamist government is caught cheating on the terms of an agreement.
This hawkish stance taken by Robert Einhorn and Dennis Ross – both strong proponents of President Barack Obama‘s diplomacy with Iran – underscores the skittishness in Washington and Europe about the prospects for the negotiations losing momentum.
American and Iranian diplomats continue to stake starkly different positions on the end state for Tehran’s nuclear program. The U.S. wants a dismantling of much of Iran’s facilities, while President Hasan Rouhani’s government maintains it will keep them.
The five members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany, a bloc known as the P5+1, are scheduled to meet with Iran’s negotiating team next week in Vienna.
Mr. Einhorn served as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton‘s top adviser on nuclear issues during her term and took part in numerous negotiations between the P5+1, before leaving the administration last year.
The proliferation expert, in a paper released by the Brookings Institution this week, called for Congress to pass legislation authorizing new sanctions on Iran and the use of American military force if Iran pulls out of any negotiated agreement or takes steps to produce nuclear weapons. He also calls for the U.S. to coordinate its response with the United Nations Security Council and allies in Europe.
“The president would be required to report immediately to the Congress on the reasons for using military force, including evidence that Iran had violated the agreement and was moving toward the production of nuclear weapons,” Mr. Einhorn wrote in the nearly 50-page Brookings report.
Mr. Ross echoed his former colleague’s positions and called for the Obama administration to clearly state to Iran during the upcoming negotiations the ramifications for diplomacy failing in Vienna. Mr. Ross is a veteran diplomat and arms negotiator, and served as Mr. Obama’s point man on Iran in the National Security Council during the president’s first term.
“The Iranians must see the consequences, not just of cheating if there is an agreement, but the failure of diplomacy,” Mr. Ross said after appearing at the launch of Mr. Einhorn’s study this week. ”There is an irony: The more we demonstrate resolve, including by talking about consequences of violations…the more we signal to the Iranians that we mean what we say. And that will be key if we are to produce an agreement in the first place.”
Mr. Ross added: “They will have to roll back their program far more than they think, and it won’t happen unless they are convinced of the consequences of not doing so.”
Obama administration officials have refused to discuss the internal deliberations with Iran. But Mr. Obama has repeatedly stated that force remains on the table if the diplomatic track fails.
Next week’s negotiations in Vienna – which start on April 7 – will mark the seventh high-level meeting between the P5+1 and Iran since Mr. Rouhani took power in August. The two sides have set a soft deadline of late July for the talks to be completed, but have said they could be extended by “mutual consent.”