U.S. to Iran: Prove your nuclear program is peaceful

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrives home Saturday after attending the U.N. General Assembly.
Top U.S. officials say the underground nuclear facility that Iran revealed last week is illegal and likely intended for military purposes.

“I think that certainly the intelligence people have no doubt that … this is an illicit nuclear facility, if only … because the Iranians kept it a secret,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in an interview broadcast Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “If they wanted it for peaceful nuclear purposes, there’s no reason to put it so deep underground, no reason to be deceptive about it, keep it a … secret for a protracted period of time,” Gates said. In an interview broadcast Sunday on the CBS program “Face the Nation,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for the strongest possible sanctions if Iran can’t prove a peaceful intent for the newly disclosed facility and its entire nuclear program. “It would have been disclosed if it were for peaceful purposes,” Clinton said, adding: “The Iranians keep insisting no, no, that’s for peaceful purposes. That’s fine. Prove it. Don’t assert it. Prove it.” After the interview with Clinton took place on Friday, Iran announced it would allow international inspection of the plant and said it met international guidelines for disclosing such a facility. Iran also repeated its insistence that its nuclear program is for peaceful energy production. However, Gates and members of Congress from both parties said Iran’s history of dishonesty over its nuclear program and the belligerent pronouncements of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad raised questions about such promises. Watch Gates talk about secret Iranian nuclear facility

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“I’ve got one rule of thumb: If the president of a country denies the Holocaust, you should believe the worst,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, on the CBS show. Graham said a military strike by the United States and its allies on Iranian nuclear facilities should be a last resort, to be used only if sanctions by the international community fail. Gates, who was defense secretary under President George W. Bush and stayed on when President Obama took office in January, agreed that sanctions could bring the needed change in behavior. “The reality is, there is no military option that does anything more than buy time,” Gates said in the interview, conducted Friday. “The estimates are one to three years or so. And the only way you end up not having a nuclear-capable Iran is for the Iranian government to decide that their security is diminished by having those weapons, as opposed to strengthened. And so I think, as I say, while you don’t take options off the table, I think there’s still room left for diplomacy.” Gates said “a variety of options” remained available, including sanctions on banking and equipment and technology for Iran’s oil and gas industry. The Pentagon chief acknowledged that “China’s participation is clearly important” in an effort to impose economic sanctions on Iran for flouting international rules for the development of nuclear enrichment facilities. Gates and Clinton both said that upcoming October 1 talks among Iran, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia and China offered the group of six world powers the opportunity for some potential “leverage” over the Iranians. “I think we are all sensitive to the possibility of the Iranians trying to run the clock out on us. … So nobody thinks of this as an open-ended process,” Gates said. In her interview, Clinton acknowledged that current sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program were “leaky.” She said the international coalition meeting with Iran on October 1 could strengthen the sanctions effort, similar to the international backing for recent new sanctions against North Korea. Clinton acknowledged that the United States knew of the previously undisclosed Iranian enrichment plant before Iran disclosed its existence to the International Atomic Energy Agency last week. Senators on both sides of the aisle also expressed support for tough sanctions against Iran on Sunday.

Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Indiana, advocated “more sticks … than carrots” in dealing with Iran in the upcoming talks. Watch senators discuss how to deal with Iran “We’ve tried a variety of inducements to the Iranians over the years,” Bayh said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Frankly, none of that has worked. What they respect more than anything is strength. They’re contemptuous of weakness. … So I think it needs to be mainly stiff economic and financial sanctions, with the possibility of other options lurking in the background if they don’t change their behavior. That gives us the best chance of getting them to give up their [nuclear] program.”