Obama warns Iran that time for diplomacy is running out

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. SOURCE: Islamic Republic of Iran's Presidency website

President Barack Obama warned Iran today that time is running out to peacefully resolve its nuclear program, which the International Atomic Energy Agency suspects is being used to develop nuclear weapons.

Read more: Transcript: President Obama’s remarks on Iran at the UN General Assembly

The United States, Israel, and the United Nations have imposed a series of harsh economic sanctions on Iran in hopes of pressuring Tehran to suspend its uranium enrichment program and cooperate with international inspectors. So far, however, the measures have been met with defiant resistance and obstruction by Iran.

“Time and again, [Iran] has failed to take the opportunity to demonstrate that its nuclear program is peaceful, and to meet its obligations to the United Nations,” Obama said at the United Nations General Assembly. “So let me be clear. America wants to resolve this issue through diplomacy, and we believe that there is still time and space to do so. But that time is not unlimited.”

The IAEA filed a report this month alleging that Iran has continued to deny inspectors access to the Parchin facility, where “a large explosives containment vessel” for hydrodynamic experiments is located.

The report noted that recent “satellite imagery shows that extensive activities and resultant changes have taken place” in Parchin that raised suspicions. The activities documented include large amounts of liquid “run off”, construction of new dirt roads, and equipments being placed outside the building.

“[The] Agency has become increasingly concerned about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed nuclear related activities involving military related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile,” according to the IAEA report. 

Obama’s statement left little doubt that the U.S. is willing to use military force to disable Iran’s nuclear program, if necessary. This marks a shift in tone for Obama, who has previously focused on defusing tensions and exhausting all diplomatic recourses to prevent the situation from escalating to an armed conflict.

Obama’s tough admonishment was likely prompted recent events, including Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s anti-Israel remarks at the U.N. yesterday, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s attacks that Obama is not being tough enough on Iran, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statements hinting that Israel may unilaterally launch strikes at Iran’s nuclear sites if the problem is not resolved soon.

“The world tell Israel, ‘Wait. There’s still time,'” said Netanyahu. “And I say, ‘Wait for what? Wait until when?’ Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel.”

Ahmadinejad has brushed aside Israel’s threat to attack Iran.

“We generally speaking do not take very seriously the issue of the Zionists and the possible dangers emanating from them,” Ahmadinejad said in an interview on Sunday.

Russia, a long-time ally of Tehran, has warned the U.S. and Israel against attacking Iran.

“We warn those who are no strangers to military solutions … that this would be harmful, literally disastrous for regional stability,” Interfax quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying.


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