Washington, DC – “The use of military force is not the ‘ideal way’ to stop the Iranian nuclear program. But if a nuclear Iran is as unacceptable as we all say it is, we must be prepared to do whatever is necessary to prevent the unacceptable,” Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Board of Directors on Tuesday. Referring to Iran as the “most clear and present danger in the Middle East today,” Lieberman outlined a three point plan for confronting Iran after the Istanbul talks.
In confronting Iran on its nuclear program, Lieberman said the United States “must not waiver or consider concessions to Iran in the hope of restoring the diplomatic process.” Reinforcing a stance that many experts have warned is a barrier to reaching a diplomatic compromise on the nuclear issue, Lieberman said the United States must “aggressively counter Iran’s claim that it has the ‘right’ to enrichment under the Nonproliferation Treaty, and make clear that under no circumstances can we trust the current rulers of Iran to keep any enrichment or reprocessing activity on their territory.”
To increase pressure on Iran, Lieberman outlined aggressive proposals for sanctioning foreign companies that did not adhere to unilateral U.S. sanctions, including sanctioning Chinese companies and preventing any foreign bank from accessing the U.S. financial system if they do business with the IRGC or “other illicit Iranian actors.”
Lieberman added that even these measures were not enough, saying “it is time for the United States and EU to begin exploring even more severe and destabilizing measures against Iran.” He suggested sanctioning the Central Bank of Iran and targeting the “lifeblood of the Iranian economy” – oil exports.
But ultimately Lieberman conceded that even the strongest sanctions may not be enough to convince Iran to cease nuclear enrichment, saying that then “our best hope to resolve this confrontation is not for the regime to change its behavior, but for the regime itself to be changed.”
Senator Lieberman also called on the Obama Administration to “continue to elevate the importance of human rights and democracy in its overall approach to Iran.” He did not explain how this was compatible with his call for crippling the Iranian economy or military action against Iran. Iranian human rights defenders such as Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi and Akbar Ganji have argued that military confrontation with Iran would hurt Iran’s pro-democracy movement. In a recent interview, Ebadi said war “would give the government an excuse to kill all of its political opponents, as was done during the Iran-Iraq war.”