Iran rumorsApril 11,2006
For the time being, the American public has no choice – no tolerable choice, anyway – but to give the White House the benefit of the doubt when it insists it is not actually planning to launch a military attack – including the use of tactical nuclear weapons – upon Iran.
For one thing, unlike the situation three years ago when Britain was happy to join the United States in a preemptive invasion of Iraq, there is no reason to expect similar British participation in any possible assault upon Iran's nuclear sites. And without Britain, where in the world could the United States find support?
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, a strong ally of the American initiative in Iraq (he recently accompanied Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on her unannounced visit to Baghdad), told the BBC that the idea of a nuclear strike is "completely nuts." If the White House is trigger-happy, that's not what it would want to hear from London.
Straw added that Britain would certainly not launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran and that he was as "certain as he could be" that neither would the United States, but the world remembers that both nations did exactly that in Iraq. While he suspects Iran is developing a civilian nuclear capability that could be converted to nuclear weapons, Straw said there is "no smoking gun" to prove it that would justify abandoning diplomacy.
"The reason why we're opposed to military action is because it's an infinitely worse option and there's no justification for it," he declared.
The subject is very much on the front burner because celebrated journalist Seymour Hersh, who so often has been right about controversial issues, authored an article for this week's edition of New Yorker magazine in which he states the Bush administration is indeed contemplating just such a first-strike strategy to deal with the emerging threat of Iran's nuclear ambitions.
"The president's priority is to find a diplomatic solution to a problem the entire world recognizes," Dan Bartlett, one of Bush's top advisers, declared Sunday. "And those who are drawing broad, definitive conclusions based on normal defense and intelligence planning are ill-informed and are not knowledgeable of the administration's thinking on Iran." Of course, with the Iraq war as a backdrop, Americans have every reason to be worried about just what this administration is thinking, no matter what it says publicly.
That said, it is reasonable to assume (and hope) that the Pentagon routinely explores all possible options for all plausible threats to America's national interests. It is entirely likely that there may be contingency planning going on that would contemplate precisely the kind of strategy Hersh describes in his article.
Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Mark Ballesteros reminded reporters Sunday that the American military never comments on contingency planning. The president, on the other hand, is hardly reluctant to express his own thoughts on the subject.
"The threat from Iran is, of course, their stated objective to destroy our strong ally Israel," Bush said last month. "That's a threat, a serious threat. It's a threat to world peace; it's a threat, in essence, to a strong alliance. I made it clear, I'll make it clear again, that we will use military might to protect our ally."
In the meantime, there's actually some cause for optimism. The United States and Iran intend to sit down together soon and discuss issues of mutual concern, most notably the future of Iraq. These talks are on hold due to the unstable political situation in Baghdad, but the very fact they are in the works lets us hope that a more diplomatic approach to Iran holds promise.MORE IN NewsPORTLAND, Maine — U.S. Sen. Full Story
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