May 6th, 2009
01:55 PM ET

Iran is "deadly serious" about nukes

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/04/15/obama.iran/art.iran.nuclear.gi.jpg caption="This is from an Iranian nuclear plant in the central province of Isfahan last month."]

Charley Keyes
CNN Washington Senior Producer

The man who spear-headed financial investigations of Iran is warning that the theocracy is “deadly serious” about gaining nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.

“I am not an expert on proliferation but we have consulted a lot of people who are and it comes out loud and clear - it is late in this game and we don't have a lot of time to stop Iran from developing long-range missiles and nuclear weapons," New York District Attorney Robert Morgenthau told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today.

Morgenthau helped uncover a multi-billion-dollar scam that Iran used to move money through U.S. financial institutions to help buy materials for its nuclear and missile programs. In January a large British bank agreed to pay $350-million in fines after it was accused of helping Iran hide the transactions.

The investigation provided what Morgenthau called “Iran’s shopping list” for weapons of mass destruction. “The Iranians are deadly serious about proceeding with this program and, number two, that it is later than a lot of people think. And frankly some of the people we have consulted are shocked by the sophistication of the equipment they are buying. So we don't have a lot of time to waste.”

Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman, Senator John Kerry, (D) Massachusetts, said he wanted to explore both the obstacles and opportunities of engaging Iran. “This is the time to reaffirm our commitment to giving meaningful negotiations with Iran’s leaders a chance, not simply fall back on the stale rhetoric and failed strategies of the previous years.”

Kerry called sanctions a blunt instrument with an imperfect track record. He said sanctions may have slowed but did not prevent Iran’s nuclear program as the country moved forward with enrichment of uranium on an industrial scale.

“Our preference is engagement. Our preference is not to have confrontation of any kind, through sanctions or otherwise but that will depend on choices that Iran itself makes,” Kerry said.

And Kerry said his committee is poised to release a new report on Iran’s nuclear program, either today or tomorrow.

Former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, Nicholas Burns, said he feared the United States and Iran were on a collision course, with no diplomatic relationship since the Carter Administration.

“I do see the Iranians as a real threat to our country. There is no question they are seeking a nuclear weapons capability. No one doubts that. They are the principal funder of most of the Middle East terrorist groups that are shooting at us, shooting at the Israelis and the moderate Palestinians. And they are influential in Iraq and Afghanistan and sometimes in ways that are very negative to U.S. interests,” Burns said. He now is a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School.

Burns said past policies toward Iran had failed and that he favored an approach of engagement, backed up by threats both of sanctions and of military force. “We’ve got to negotiate from a position of strength. We can’t go hat in hand to these negotiating and think by just talking we are going to make progress,” Burns said. And he said any negotiations with Iran must have a strict timetable and include a previous agreement with both Russia and China for harsh sanctions if the talks fail. And all this should be backed up by the possibility of military action.

“I do think it makes sense to keep the threat of force on the table. I do not see Iran negotiating seriously if there is not a marriage between diplomacy and the threat of force; it is a language they understand,” Burns said.

“Since 9/11 we often have led with the military. At least in the case of Afghanistan that was appropriate. Sometimes it is better to lead with diplomacy, with the military in reserve . I think this is one of those times.”

Filed under: 360° Radar • Global 360° • Iran
soundoff (9 Responses)

    This is what we get when a Democrat president did the wrong thing and didn't support the Shah of Iran who was pro West. Jimmy Carter is mainly responsible for our problems with Iran. It is a fact that talks with Iran won't work. Either you have to destroy their nuclear plants or threatened to wipe them off the face of the Earth is they attack any country. Unfortunately, that won't happen with Obama as president.

    May 6, 2009 at 5:07 pm |
  2. ben

    if the U. S. was serious about stopping them from getting nukes it could be done in less than twenty four hours with the push of a button. give me a break. the u.s. has nothing to worry about with the arabs and nukes. they know that we can shoot them out of the air befor they even clear their own air space. they also know it will ony result in their own destruction. this is just another political tric by the government to boost military budget for developing new systems. i have no problem with giving the military the funding they need to develope new defense sytems but be honest about it and stop all the double talk and dealing with iran behind closed doors.

    May 6, 2009 at 4:49 pm |
  3. Mike in NYC

    Hey, David, your post was an amusing parody of the thoughts of a raving lunatic. Good fun!

    May 6, 2009 at 4:46 pm |
  4. Larry

    Is Kerry doing Clinton's job?

    May 6, 2009 at 3:47 pm |
  5. Anthony

    More warmongering from teh same group of people who cheerlead for war on Iraq!

    Fool me once...

    May 6, 2009 at 3:36 pm |
  6. RoseParvin

    Thank you Anderson for awakening our sleepy leaders to understand the multidimensions of Iran Government being promoted and protected by CIA agents who are holding hands with the Iran Government who have held me, an honorable scientist professional hostage in my own democratic country because I do not believe in development of atomic weaponry under power of a government that is in the name of god and does not act godly and CIA agents, congress, media even Hollywood is supporting their lies because of the outpour of oil money that is supposed to be for the development of My Global Peace Program that is giving all nations crediblity beyond their governments through the multidimensional dialogue for peace.

    May 6, 2009 at 3:28 pm |
  7. David

    I think it's time we started talking about dropping the bomb on Iran and erasing them from the face of the earth. They have crossed the line with the human race too many times. Lets just be done with them. Full force atomic destruction of Iran. Problem solved. Maybe a hundred long range nuclear warheads to destroy them would be all it takes. They are pure evil, have done nothing for the human race and must be destroyed in the most horrific way possible. Maximum death and destruction. The time is now.

    May 6, 2009 at 3:19 pm |
  8. Mike in NYC

    What was this, Morgenthau's swan song before he goes off into the sunset?

    "Iran’s shopping list” were Morgenthau's words, but was he referring to parts that were meant clearly for weapons, or just components for a nuclear power program? The words "weapons of mass destruction" were inserted by Keyes.

    A strike on Iran by either the US or Israel is looking less and less likely as time goes on, given the current political maneuvering in Central Asia and the role Iran could play in actually furthering US goals there. There'd be a quid pro quo, naturally (probably several), but the situation has changed considerably of late.

    Then again, with self-described "anti-war" forces in the US effectively emasculated by the ascendancy of Their Guy to the Presidency, and the guaranteed 110% support of the GOP for any Iranian adventure, who really knows for sure?

    May 6, 2009 at 2:23 pm |
  9. Mike Syracuse, NY

    What! You mean the Obama Apology Tour didn't work? What a shock!

    May 6, 2009 at 2:12 pm |