WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States is readying a range of unilateral sanctions against Iran, as well as additional measures with international partners, should the Islamic republic fail to answer fresh questions about its nuclear ambitions posed by a report released Tuesday by a United Nations watchdog.
While U.S. officials view the International Atomic Energy Agency’s report as a vindication of its long-held assertion that Iran’s nuclear program is aimed at developing weapons, the new intelligence wasn’t likely to be a game-changer. U.S. officials insisted they were still focused on using sanctions and diplomatic channels to punish Iran for its nuclear ambitions, and steered clear of any suggestion that the international community was moving closer to taking military action.
The IAEA reveals for the first time that Iran is suspected of conducting secret experiments whose sole purpose is the development of nuclear arms. It’s the strongest sign yet that Iran seeks to build a nuclear arsenal, despite Tehran’s claims to the contrary.
Senior Obama administration officials said much of the intelligence contained in the report was already known to the U.S. But the report does put the U.N.’s imprimatur on some claims and strands of evidence gathered by the U.S., which could prove valuable as the Obama administration lobbies governments around the world to toughen their own sanctions against Iran.
One official said the U.S. would be consulting with international partners in the coming days on ways to ratchet up the pressure on Iran, though they offered no detail on what entities in Iran could be targeted.
The U.S. already has slapped sanctions on dozens of Iranian government agencies, financial and shipping companies as well as officials over the nuclear program and could target additional institutions like Iran’s Central Bank. It also has pushed the U.N. Security Council, which previously has imposed four rounds of international sanctions on Iran, for increased penalties.
But in light of Iran’s continued defiance, some, including many in Israel, have argued that military action is the only solution. Speculation has run high in Israel over the past week that the government there is contemplating a strike, and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned of that possibility ahead of the report’s release.
Israel considers Iran to be its most dangerous enemy and the only regional power that poses an existential threat to it.