Commentary Magazine


A Next Step, Anyone?

Former Assistant Secretary of State responsible for arms control and nonproliferation, Stephen Rademaker, writes a measured, logical article in which he explains why future concessions to Iran could prove problematic:

The critics will propose fallback positions like allowing enrichment, but under enhanced international safeguards that supposedly can detect the development of nuclear weapons. Perhaps they will propose strict limits on the amount of uranium that Iran can enrich. Or, as suggested last year by the retired diplomat Thomas Pickering and his co-writers William Luers and Jim Walsh: allowing enrichment, but only on the condition that Iran converts its national enrichment efforts into a multinational program that is owned and operated by a consortium of countries.

Rademaker then goes on to show the many faults of each of these possible proposals. Above all, the U.S. runs the risk of setting a bad precedent. “How could we explain to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, for example, that we trust Iran to have civil nuclear power reactors, but not them?” Rademaker asks.
It is a commonsense article with one problem. The same question the author puts to those pushing for engagement with Iran – “then what?” – needs to be answered by those opposed to engagement. Rademaker writes that “the United States cannot be more eager than Tehran to reach a deal, and Mr. Obama must persuade Iran that he can afford to see negotiations fail.”
That’s a healthy position. But let’s say it does fail — then what? Rademaker doesn’t say.