This weekend, Senator Lieberman spoke at the Wehrkunde Security Conference in Munich--otherwise known as Davos for hawks--and delivered a tough speech on Iran, criticizing the confusion caused by the NIE and challenging the world to adopt a set of bold new sanctions against the Islamic Republic. Some key quotes.
On the sanctions and the threat of war with Iran:
Some nations are unfortunately using the sanctions regime as an opportunity to expand business ties to Iran and reap profits, at the expense of the rest of the world. For example, it is outrageous when Germany makes the principled decision to curtail its exports to Iran, only to watch as the People's Republic of China moves in and exploits that decision for its own commercial advantage.
This is more than just self-serving behavior. It ensures that the sanctions regime is less likely to persuade Iran to suspend its illicit nuclear activities--and that, in turn, increases the likelihood of military confrontation.
The power to prevent war with Iran lies disproportionately with those who have the greatest economic leverage over Iran. They have a responsibility to use it, and soon.
On the NIE:
There are many people who make a habit of denigrating our intelligence services. I do not enjoy that sport; these men and women work very hard, many at great risk to themselves, to ensure the safety of America and its allies.
But neither do I make the mistake of believing in the infallibility or absolute impartiality of people in intelligence. Intelligence should be about informing decision makers; it should not be about empowering analysts and researchers to become decision makers.
Lieberman also issued a none-too-subtle criticism of Mohamed El Baradei, the Director-General of the IAEA, who was also on the panel with him. El Baradei has attempted to reduce the problem with Iran to a set of questions about its past nuclear work, which--once resolved through an IAEA "work plan"--will mean that Iran can once again be treated as a member of the international community in good standing, with the right--as a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT)--to enrich uranium. As Lieberman points out, however, the problem the international community has with Iran--and the reason that the UN Security Council has ordered it to suspend its uranium enrichment activities--is much, much deeper.
Of course, as a matter of international law, all signatories to the NPT bear the same burdens and obligations. But as a matter of common sense, the track record of a regime matters enormously in evaluating its nuclear intentions and its nuclear activities. Put more bluntly, a track record of deception and denying information to the IAEA and the UN is not one the world can afford to ignore. Until Iran restores international confidence that its program is peaceful, the international community is justified in demanding that Iran suspend its activities. Restoring confidence will take more than answering questions. It will require a sustained pattern of conduct that reassures other countries that Iran is not secretly embarked on a nuclear weapons program. That is why I think Chancellor Merkel got it exactly right when she said last year, "The world does not have to prove to Iran that Iran is building a nuclear bomb. Iran must convince the world that it does not want the bomb."