US Talks Tough on Iran: Diplomatic Window ‘Closing’

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World powers are in the midst of a diplomatic effort to convince Iran to demonstrate its nuclear program is entirely peaceful and bring it into full compliance with international guidelines, but time is running out according to the US. New US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel addressed the issue in a meeting on Tuesday with outgoing Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

A press statement released on the Pentagon’s website said Hagel “reiterated that President Obama is committed to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon with all options on the table. He stated that the United States continues to believe there is still time to address this issue through diplomacy, but that window is closing.”

Recently, the P5+1 group of nations—the US, the UK, France, China, Russia and Germany—met with Iran to discuss Tehran’s nuclear program. The talks reportedly involved confidence-building measures Iran could take as part of a broader process to resolve Iran’s nuclear standoff with the international community.

While the US and Europe called the talks “useful,” they have yet to result in a breakthrough. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) continues to have concerns about possible nuclear weapons dimensions in Iran’s program. The US shares those feelings.

In her comments to the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday, US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice cited as “cause for serious concern” the IAEA’s confirmation that Iran is upgrading its nuclear fuel enrichment capability. She also pointed to Iran’s development of 20-percent enriched uranium, which Tehran claims is for medical research but is also well on the way to weapons’ grade fuel.

“Iran already has enough enriched uranium to fuel the Tehran Research Reactor for at least a decade,” said Rice in comments released by her office. “Increasing this capacity—without any clear civilian use—makes no sense.

“Iran’s actions neither build international confidence nor bring us closer to a comprehensive and peaceful solution. On the contrary, they raise the world’s concerns.”

Rice called for the sanctions on Iran to be fully implemented and for the Security Council to investigate and respond to violations of the UN-established sanctions.

Rice echoed the sentiment that the latest talks with Iran were “useful,” but further noted that “we must see whether real progress towards a negotiated solution can result from this renewed process. The process cannot continue indefinitely or be used as a stalling mechanism.”

“Therefore, we remain committed to the dual-track approach—mounting pressure on Iran as we pursue meaningful dialogue in good faith.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, March 7, 2013)