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Iran's Shrewd Move

8:08 AM, Feb 22, 2013 • By MICHAEL MAKOVSKY AND BLAISE MISZTAL
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Iran is upping the ante further by signaling that, if no deal is struck soon, Tehran will be poised on the brink of nuclear weapons capability. This unspoken ultimatum is designed to compel the P5+1 to accept a deal on terms favorable to Iran—such as perhaps acknowledging the non-existent “right to enrich”—rather than force a confrontation. Iran’s leaders are gambling that the P5+1 puts more value on coming to some sort of diplomatic arrangement than on ensuring Tehran cannot attain nuclear weapons.

In response, the United States should make abundantly clear, in both word and deed, that it remains committed to using all means of power to prevent a nuclear Iran. This could pressure Iran to negotiate in good faith. President Obama should return to the red line he drew during the third presidential debate last year, “nuclear weapons capability,” because it is a more prudent, provable and preventable threshold than “nuclear weapons.” Meanwhile, Congress should act to avoid the looming sequester, which would seriously constrain U.S. military resources needed in the Persian Gulf and signal weakness at a crucial time.

Iran is slowing down its nuclear program in order to speed up its march toward nuclear weapons capability. The United States should not be afraid to show its strength in order to secure peace.

Michael Makovsky, a Pentagon official during the George W. Bush administration, directs the Bipartisan Policy Center's Foreign Policy Project, including its Iran Initiative. Blaise Misztal is associate director of BPC’s Foreign Policy Project.

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