Convincing Iran to refrain from developing nuclear weapons is an important priority for international peace. The U.S. government is doing the right thing so far in working cooperatively with European countries and international agencies such as the International Atomic Energy Agency and the U.N. Security Council. The crisis should be resolved through diplomacy, not through punitive sanctions or the use of military force. An overly confrontational approach will be counterproductive. Unilateral pre-emption failed in Iraq and will not work here.
There is no immediate danger or need to panic. It will be several years and perhaps as long as a decade before Iran can build atomic weapons. There is ample time to develop an effective strategy to prevent nuclear weaponization. The immediate goal should be to keep Iran within the Non-Proliferation Treaty system so that international inspectors continue to have access to Iranian nuclear facilities and can report on prohibited activities. Negotiations between Iran and Russia may yield an agreement to produce nuclear fuel in Russia under international monitoring, which could help defuse the crisis.
Because Iran falsified earlier nuclear declarations and reneged on previous nonproliferation pledges, the United States and its partners are developing a strategy to increase pressure on the regime. The Security Council may soon begin discussing a “smart sanctions” package that includes an embargo on arms and weapons-related technology, a ban on travel, and the freezing of financial assets of designated Iranian elites.