Experts divided on how to handle Iran

September 28, 2009 7:41:51 PM PDT
Iran raised international tensions Monday by test firing missiles that have the capability of reaching U.S. military bases in the Middle East, as well as Israel and parts of Europe. The tests come just days before Iran is supposed to hold talks with Western nations about its nuclear program.

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The White House is calling the missile tests provocative and calling on Iran to open its nuclear facilities to international inspectors.

The missiles fired by Iran are capable of reaching Israel and Middle East oil depots and experts believe the display is at least in part a response to President Barack Obama, who last week outed Iran's secret uranium processing plant in Qom.

"This is a regime that lies as a matter of principal," Professor Abbas Milani said. Milani is the director of Iranian Studies at Stanford University. "When they get caught, they make a promise they know full well they don't intend to keep."

Milani believes the solution for containing Iran's nuclear ambition is to get Russia and China on board with sanctions.

"Then this regime is in deep, deep trouble," Milani said.

But former CIA officer Robert Baer says Iran would strike back against extreme sanctions.

"Iran is not going to sit still for total sanctions or an embargo, they will respond militarily, you can count on it," Baer said.

Baer, the author of the The Devil We Know, about the rise of Iran's power, says Iranian rockets would be launched at Middle East oil depots.

"They within minutes could take out 17 million barrels of traded oil," Baer said.

Baer says negotiation is the only way to contain Iran and the Obama administration is off to a poor start.

"The last thing you want to do is go into negotiations with Iran having just humiliated them, called them liars," Baer said.

Last week, Mr. Obama embarrassed Iran by revealing the existence of the secret nuclear enrichment facility.

But a nuclear arms negotiator for the Clinton administration believes president's timing had a purpose.

"I think the U.S. sees some vulnerability now for Mr. Ahmadinejad and the current Iranian government," Gloria Duffy said. Duffy points to the internal protests over Iran's recent election. "I think there's a new angle here which is to try to open up inside Iranian society and maybe provoke a change there."

Professor Milani agrees with Duffy and has been watching for response from the leaders of Iran's democracy movement.

On Thursday, the negotiators from the U.S., France, Great Britain, Germany, China and Russia will sit down with Iranian representatives in Geneva.

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