U.S. Official Makes Case for Halting Iran's Nuclear Program


Joseph says Iran leadership has aggressive ambitions, ties to terrorists

Washington -- An Iran with nuclear weapons could try to intimidate and blackmail its neighbors and ignite a new arms race, says a top State Department official.

Robert Joseph, under secretary of state for arms control and international security, said Iran actively is pursuing a nuclear weapons capability and, if successful, the weapons could “embolden the leadership in Tehran to advance its aggressive ambitions in and outside of the region, both directly and through the terrorists it supports.”

Iran is the most active state sponsor of terrorism, Joseph told the Greater Washington Area Council for the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee February 1, and “seeks hegemony in the region and in the Islamic world based on fanaticism.”

In addition to suppressing reform within its own borders, he said, Iran actively is encouraging the disruption of peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, working to thwart the establishment of a free and democratic Iraq, and interfering in the right of the Lebanese “to determine their own destiny.”

Joseph said that Iran had conducted a covert nuclear program for nearly 20 years in violation of International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards and its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Recently, he said, the IAEA had discovered documents indicating Iran had obtained information on how to cast and cut enriched uranium into the shape of a hemisphere.

“We know of no application for such hemispheres other than nuclear weapons,” he said.

The United States believes, Joseph said, that Iran “aspires to this capability so that it can hold hostage cities of our friends in the Middle East and Europe – and perhaps, in the future, even those in our own country. If Tehran can succeed in this effort, it may believe that it could undertake its expansionist designs with less concern that we would be willing to accept the risk of assisting our allies in the [persian] Gulf.”

Joseph said that the United States is working with other nations to develop more effective counterproliferation tools and, at the same time, is pursuing “determined diplomacy” to end Iran’s nuclear weapons program. He characterized Iran’s “on-again/off-again” professions of interest in a Russian proposal to provide Iran access to enriched fuel for civilian energy needs via Russian enrichment facilities as a stalling tactic.

Iran’s rejection of European efforts to negotiate a solution and the resumption of its own enrichment program left the international community “no choice but to call an emergency meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors to report Iran’s noncompliance” to the U.N. Security Council, he said.
“This step does not signal the end of diplomacy,” Joseph said, “but its next phase.”
The text of the under secretary’s remarks are available on the State Department Web site.

Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov