Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday that Iran was moving closer to having a nuclear weapon — despite steady diplomacy and tough economic sanctions.
“Lines have been drawn before and they've been passed,” Kerry told ABC News near the end of his first overseas trip as the nation’s top diplomat. “That's why the president has been so definitive this time.
“This is a very challenging moment with great risks and stakes for everybody because the region will be far less stable and far more threatened if Iran were to have a nuclear weapon,” Kerry said.
The former Massachusetts senator said that Iran simply having a nuclear weapon would “spur a nuclear arms race” in the region and could be used to support terrorists groups like Hezbollah.
As such, Kerry said, the threat is beyond the possibility that Iran might actually use the weapon to attack its enemies, particularly Israel, ABC reports.
He called the talks with Iran and five other world nations last week “useful,” but added that time for Tehran to cooperate was running out.
“If they keep pushing the limits and not coming with a serious set of proposals or prepared to actually resolve this, obviously the risks get higher and confrontation becomes more possible,” Kerry told ABC.
Kerry’s comments come as the Obama administration is ratcheting up the rhetoric about a possible military strike against Iran — and world leaders are following President Barack Obama.
“The president of the United States cannot, and does not, bluff,” Vice President Joe Biden declared at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Monday, insisting that a military option remained viable. “President Barack Obama is not bluffing.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu followed Biden at the event.
“Diplomacy has not worked. Iran ignores all these offers,” Netanyahu told the pro-Israel lobbying group in a video address. “It's running out the clocks. It uses negotiations, including the most recent ones, to buy time to press ahead with its nuclear program.
“So thus far, sanctions haven't stopped Iran's nuclear program either,” he added. “Words alone will not stop Iran. Sanctions alone will not stop Iran. Sanctions must be coupled with a clear and credible military threat if diplomacy and sanctions fail.”
For his part, Iranian Prime Minister Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has denied producing any nuclear weapons — only saying that Iran wants nuclear power to meet its domestic energy needs.
Even the prominent Middle East expert Dr. James Zogby likened Ahmadinejad to a bratty child seeking to get attention.
“If you’ve got a kid who always wants attention and wants to be the troublemaker — who gets you going — don’t give into him and give him what he wants,” Zogby, the founder and president of the Arab American Institute, told Newsmax.
Still, the international community is not taking Iran lightly, pointing most recently to Sunday’s announcement in the Iranian news media that Tehran was building about 3,000 advanced uranium-enrichment centrifuges for its Natanz uranium enrichment plant in central Iran.
The announcement marks the first time that a specific number of centrifuges had been disclosed, Reuters reports, and it comes after last week’s talks Iran and the six world powers in Kazakhstan.
The Almaty negotiations ended with an agreement to meet again in April, but the Sunday announcement underscored Iran’s continued refusal to bow to Western pressure to curb its nuclear program, Reuters reports.
Besides the United States, the other powers involved in the talks included China, France, Russia, Britain, and Germany. The negotiations had resumed after eight months.
But on Tuesday, the nations said that they were “deeply concerned that Iran continues to undertake certain nuclear activities” contrary to U.N. Security Council resolutions, citing the report about the advanced-uranium enrichment centrifuges.
“We seek tangible results in this diplomatic process at an early stage,” the powers said in a statement delivered at a meeting of the 35-nation governing board of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, in Vienna.
“We reaffirm our continuing support for a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear issue,” it said. The statement was read by British Ambassador Susan le Jeune d'Allegeershecque, Reuters reports.
The powers urged Tehran to immediately take “substantive steps” to address the international energy agency’s concerns about “possible military dimensions” to the country's nuclear program. Iran has stonewalled the U.N. inquiry for more than four years.
But the Obama administration’s response to Iran has been growing stronger in recent months, in sharp contrast to 2010 — for instance — when President Obama declined to say whether he shared Israel’s view that a “nuclear capable” Iran was as dangerous as one that actually had weapons.
“I’m not going to parse that right now,” he told The New York Times.
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