Tallinn, 26 May 2012 - US CONGRESSMAN WARNS NATO PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY OF WAR RISKS OVER IRAN’S NUCLEAR PROGRAMME
Lawmakers from NATO countries received a stark warning Saturday of the mounting risk of conflict in the Middle East over Iran’s nuclear programme. US Congressman David Scott, the author of a draft report on Iran for NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly, said US military action was not Washington’s preferred option, but it could not be excluded, particularly if Israel came under threat from Iranian nuclear weapons.
“The United States will stand by Israel, our long term ally, even if this means military means,” Scott insisted. “I hope other allies will share a similar commitment to its security.”
Parliamentarians from other NATO nations urged a more cautious approach during the debate in the Assembly’s Science and Technology Committee.
“I do not think we are putting enough effort into a more profound diplomatic effort,” said Icelandic member Birgitta Jonsdottir, adding that military action “is not the future we want.”
French Senator Jacques Gautier warned that a pre-emptive military strike by Israel against Iran’s nuclear installations could be even more destabilizing for the Middle East than the prospect of Iran developing nuclear weapons, and Croatian member Marin Jurjevic asked if the intensified international pressure on Iran risked strengthening more radical elements in the Iranian regime.
Scott acknowledged that a military strike would risk sparking chaos in the Middle East, but said it could not be ruled out as a last resort. His report urges intensified diplomatic action to bring Iran’s nuclear programme in line with international norms and suggests Western countries could make concessions such as a grace period during which Iran would not be punished for previous undeclared nuclear activities.
However, the Georgia Democrat said previous experience indicated Iran was unlikely to compromise if the international community shows weakness. “Sometimes you need a very persuasive argument to negotiate … We have to have the military option on the table,” Scott told the Committee. “I hope we don’t have to use it.”
Pierre Goldschmidt, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace cautioned that threatening war was counterproductive. “Crippling economic sanctions can be more efficient than any military action,” he told the Committee.
However, the former Deputy Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency said Western nations should be prepared to suspend sanctions in return for Iranian concessions. If Iran believes the United States won’t relax the sanctions regime ahead of November’s presidential elections, it will have no incentive to compromise, Goldschmidt said.
Iran also featured in a debate on Gulf security in the NATO PA’s Political Committee. Ebtesam Al Ktebi, of the United Arab Emirates University, underscored the concerns of Arab nations in the Gulf over the prospect of nuclear-armed Iran and warned it would undermine the balance of power in the region.
The NATO PA is holding its four-day Spring Session in the Estonian capital for the first time.