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Can Sanctions Kill Iran's Nuclear Program?

3:31 PM, Jun 28, 2010 • By JOHN NOONAN
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CIA director Leon Panetta gave a surprisingly candid interview on ABC's "This Week" yesterday, talking about Afghanistan and Iran. In the conversation with Jake Tapper, Panetta confessed that sanctions against the Iranian regime probably will not work. (Watch the entire exchange here.)

Here are a few key quotations:

* Do you think the latest sanctions will dissuade the Iranians from trying to enrich uranium? “I think the sanctions will have some impact… Will it deter them from their ambitions with regards to nuclear capability? Probably not.”

* “We think [the Iranians] have enough low-enriched uranium right now for two weapons. They do have to enrich it, fully, in order to get there. And we would estimate that if they made that decision, it would probably take a year to get there, probably another year to develop the kind of weapon delivery system in order to make that viable.”

It's worth noting that Iraq survived a decade of sanctions without having to move its position on UN inspectors an inch. The latest embargo on Iran has teeth, but it's limited to participating powers. Iran has already invested billions in weapon development, so it's highly unlikely that sanctions can kill Tehran's nuke program within the two year window that Panetta specified. President Obama could heighten the effectiveness of the sanction package if he uses the threat of military action to strengthen his words, but it's unlikely, considering how much the administration has invested in their prized engagement strategy (which has yielded nothing but scorn from the Mullahs). 

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