Think Tank: US Threat to Iran Lessens

A0087080.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)-  A leading security think tank said Tuesday the threat of US military action against Iran has decreased.

There is no near-term prospect of US strikes on Iran even though Tehran is making progress with a new generation of nuclear centrifuges, said the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

December’s US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) report reiterated the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program as always claimed by Tehran.

The NIE consensus finding of all 16 US spy agencies “changed the dynamics of efforts to curb Iran’s nuclear program,” said Doctor John Chipman, the IISS director-general and chief executive.

“It had the effect of taking off the table the near-term prospect of US military action.”

He also told reporters that Russia’s delivery of 82 tons of low-enriched uranium fuel “removed another form of leverage over Iran.

The UN Security Council held informal talks earlier this month on a third sanctions resolution. Proposed new measures include an outright travel ban on officials involved in Tehran’s nuclear and missile programs and inspections of shipments to and from Iran.

A third resolution “would provide the basis for further independent European Union action in restricting trade credits and interactions with Iranian national banks,” Chipman said.

A “deepening cutback in Western investment” would potentially add to Iran’s “economic troubles”, he added.

However, “Iran shows no sign of abiding by Security Council demands to stop its current enrichment activity…,” he said.

This is while a new report to the US Congress questioned the impact of 20 years of US economic sanctions on Tehran.

In a report released yesterday, the investigative arm of Congress challenged the impact of US sanctions against Iran dating to 1987. Tehran has circumvented many economic sanctions, it concluded, noting Iran’s ability to negotiate $20 bln in contracts with foreign firms since 2003 to develop its energy resources. With the country’s oil wealth, Iranian banks also have funded their activities in currencies other than the dollar.

“Iran’s global trade ties and leading role in energy production make it difficult for the United States to isolate Iran and pressure it…,” the Government Accountability Office said. “Iran’s overall trade with the world has grown since the US imposed sanctions, although this trade has fluctuated.”

The report also faults the Bush administration for not developing a system to assess sanctions and recommends that Congress require the National Security Council to do so and report results regularly to Congress.

The report comes as the Bush administration is struggling to salvage a new UN resolution on Iran. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to meet with representatives of the world’s major powers in Berlin on Tuesday to try to work out disputes that have significantly watered down new punitive measures on Iran, European and US officials said.

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