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U.S. is studying military strike options on Iran
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 09, 2006 10:40 am    Post subject: U.S. is studying military strike options on Iran Reply with quote

U.S. is studying military strike options on Iran
Sun. 09 Apr 2006
Washington Post

Any Mix of Tact, Threats Alarms Critics

By Peter Baker, Dafna Linzer and Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writers

Sunday, April 9, 2006; A01

The Bush administration is studying options for military strikes against Iran as part of a broader strategy of coercive diplomacy to pressure Tehran to abandon its alleged nuclear development program, according to U.S. officials and independent analysts.

No attack appears likely in the short term, and many specialists inside and outside the U.S. government harbor serious doubts about whether an armed response would be effective. But administration officials are preparing for it as a possible option and using the threat "to convince them this is more and more serious," as a senior official put it.

According to current and former officials, Pentagon and CIA planners have been exploring possible targets, such as the uranium enrichment plant at Natanz and the uranium conversion facility at Isfahan. Although a land invasion is not contemplated, military officers are weighing alternatives ranging from a limited airstrike aimed at key nuclear sites, to a more extensive bombing campaign designed to destroy an array of military and political targets.

Preparations for confrontation with Iran underscore how the issue has vaulted to the front of President Bush's agenda even as he struggles with a relentless war in next-door Iraq. Bush views Tehran as a serious menace that must be dealt with before his presidency ends, aides said, and the White House, in its new National Security Strategy, last month labeled Iran the most serious challenge to the United States posed by any country.

Many military officers and specialists, however, view the saber rattling with alarm. A strike at Iran, they warn, would at best just delay its nuclear program by a few years but could inflame international opinion against the United States, particularly in the Muslim world and especially within Iran, while making U.S. troops in Iraq targets for retaliation.

"My sense is that any talk of a strike is the diplomatic gambit to keep pressure on others that if they don't help solve the problem, we will have to," said Kori Schake, who worked on Bush's National Security Council staff and teaches at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

Others believe it is more than bluster. "The Bush team is looking at the viability of airstrikes simply because many think airstrikes are the only real option ahead," said Kurt Campbell, a former Pentagon policy official.

The intensified discussion of military scenarios comes as the United States is working with European allies on a diplomatic solution. After tough negotiations, the U.N. Security Council issued a statement last month urging Iran to re-suspend its uranium enrichment program. But Russia and China, both veto-wielding council members, forced out any mention of consequences and are strongly resisting any sanctions.

U.S. officials continue to pursue the diplomatic course but privately seem increasingly skeptical that it will succeed. The administration is also coming under pressure from Israel, which has warned the Bush team that Iran is closer to developing a nuclear bomb than Washington thinks and that a moment of decision is fast approaching.

Bush and his team have calibrated their rhetoric to give the impression that the United States may yet resort to force. In January, the president termed a nuclear-armed Iran "a grave threat to the security of the world," words that echoed language he used before the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Vice President Cheney vowed "meaningful consequences" if Iran does not give up any nuclear aspirations, and U.N. Ambassador John R. Bolton refined the formula to "tangible and painful consequences."

Although Bush insists he is focused on diplomacy for now, he volunteered at a public forum in Cleveland last month his readiness to use force if Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tries to follow through on his statement that Israel should be "wiped off the map."

"The threat from Iran is, of course, their stated objective to destroy our strong ally, Israel," Bush said. "That's a threat, a serious threat. . . . I'll make it clear again that we will use military might to protect our ally Israel."

Bush has also been privately consulting with key senators about options on Iran as part of a broader goal of regime change, according to an account by Seymour M. Hersh in the New Yorker magazine.

The U.S. government has taken some preliminary steps that go beyond planning. The Washington Post has reported that the military has been secretly flying surveillance drones over Iran since 2004 using radar, video, still photography and air filters to detect traces of nuclear activity not accessible to satellites. Hersh reported that U.S. combat troops have been ordered to enter Iran covertly to collect targeting data, but sources have not confirmed that to The Post.

The British government has launched its own planning for a potential U.S. strike, studying security arrangements for its embassy and consular offices, for British citizens and corporate interests in Iran and for ships in the region and British troops in Iraq. British officials indicate their government is unlikely to participate directly in any attacks.

Israel is preparing, as well. The government recently leaked a contingency plan for attacking on its own if the United States does not, a plan involving airstrikes, commando teams, possibly missiles and even explosives-carrying dogs. Israel, which bombed Iraq's Osirak nuclear plant in 1981 to prevent it from being used to develop weapons, has built a replica of Natanz, according to Israeli media, but U.S. strategists do not believe Israel has the capacity to accomplish the mission without nuclear weapons.

Iran appears to be taking the threat seriously. The government, which maintains its nuclear activity is only for peaceful, civilian uses, has launched a program to reinforce key sites, such as Natanz and Isfahan, by building concrete ceilings, tunneling into mountains and camouflaging facilities. Iran lately has tested several missiles in a show of strength.

Israel points to those missiles to press their case in Washington. Israeli officials traveled here recently to convey more urgency about Iran. Although U.S. intelligence agencies estimate Iran is about a decade away from having a nuclear bomb, Israelis believe a critical breakthrough could occur within months. They told U.S. officials that Iran is beginning to test a more elaborate cascade of centrifuges, indicating that it is further along than previously believed.

"What the Israelis are saying is this year -- unless they are pressured into abandoning the program -- would be the year they will master the engineering problem," a U.S. official said. "That would be a turning point, but it wouldn't mean they would have a bomb."

But various specialists and some military officials are resisting strikes.

"The Pentagon is arguing forcefully against it because it is so constrained" in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former CIA Middle East specialist. A former defense official who stays in touch with colleagues added, "I don't think anybody's prepared to use the military option at this point."

As the administration weighs these issues, two main options are under consideration, according to one person with contacts among Air Force planners. The first would be a quick and limited strike against nuclear-related facilities accompanied by a threat to resume bombing if Iran responds with terrorist attacks in Iraq or elsewhere. The second calls for a more ambitious campaign of bombing and cruise missiles leveling targets well beyond nuclear facilities, such as Iranian intelligence headquarters, the Revolutionary Guard and some in the government.

Any extended attack would require U.S. forces to cripple Iran's air defense system and air force, prepare defenses for U.S. ground forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and move Navy ships to the Persian Gulf to protect shipping. U.S. forces could launch warplanes from aircraft carriers, from the Diego Garcia island base in the Indian Ocean and, in the case of stealth bombers, from the United States. But if generals want land-based aircraft in the region, they face the uphill task of trying to persuade Turkey to allow use of the U.S. air base at Incirlik.

Planners also are debating whether launching attacks from Iraq or using Iraqi airspace would exacerbate the political cost in the Muslim world, which would see it as proof that the United States invaded Iraq to make it a base for military conquest of the region.

Unlike the Israeli air attack on Osirak, a strike on Iran would prove more complex because Iran has spread its facilities across the country, guarded some of them with sophisticated antiaircraft batteries and shielded them underground.

Pentagon planners are studying how to penetrate eight-foot-deep targets and are contemplating tactical nuclear devices. The Natanz facility consists of more than two dozen buildings, including two huge underground halls built with six-foot walls and supposedly protected by two concrete roofs with sand and rocks in between, according to Edward N. Luttwak, a specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"The targeteers honestly keep coming back and saying it will require nuclear penetrator munitions to take out those tunnels," said Kenneth M. Pollack, a former CIA analyst. "Could we do it with conventional munitions? Possibly. But it's going to be very difficult to do."

Retired Air Force Col. Sam Gardiner, an expert in targeting and war games who teaches at the National Defense University, recently gamed an Iran attack and identified 24 potential nuclear-related facilities, some below 50 feet of reinforced concrete and soil.

At a conference in Berlin, Gardiner outlined a five-day operation that would require 400 "aim points," or targets for individual weapons, at nuclear facilities, at least 75 of which would require penetrating weapons. He also presumed the Pentagon would hit two chemical production plants, medium-range ballistic missile launchers and 14 airfields with sheltered aircraft. Special Operations forces would be required, he said.

Gardiner concluded that a military attack would not work, but said he believes the United States seems to be moving inexorably toward it. "The Bush administration is very close to being left with only the military option," he said.

Others forecast a more surgical strike aimed at knocking out a single "choke point" that would disrupt the Iranian nuclear program. "The process can be broken at any point," a senior administration official said. "But part of the risk is: We don't know if Natanz is the only enrichment facility. We could bomb it, take the political cost and still not set them back."

Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said a more likely target might be Isfahan, which he visited last year and which appeared lightly defended and above-ground. But he argued that any attack would only firm up Iranian resolve to develop weapons. "Whatever you do," he said, "is almost certain to accelerate a nuclear bomb program rather than destroy it."
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 09, 2006 10:45 am    Post subject: The Iran Plans Reply with quote

The Iran Plans

April 08, 2006
The New Yorker
Seymour M. Hersh

The Bush Administration, while publicly advocating diplomacy in order to stop Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon, has increased clandestine activities inside Iran and intensified planning for a possible major air attack. Current and former American military and intelligence officials said that Air Force planning groups are drawing up lists of targets, and teams of American combat troops have been ordered into Iran, under cover, to collect targeting data and to establish contact with anti-government ethnic-minority groups. The officials say that President Bush is determined to deny the Iranian regime the opportunity to begin a pilot program, planned for this spring, to enrich uranium.

American and European intelligence agencies, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (I.A.E.A.), agree that Iran is intent on developing the capability to produce nuclear weapons. But there are widely differing estimates of how long that will take, and whether diplomacy, sanctions, or military action is the best way to prevent it. Iran insists that its research is for peaceful use only, in keeping with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and that it will not be delayed or deterred.

There is a growing conviction among members of the United States military, and in the international community, that President Bush’s ultimate goal in the nuclear confrontation with Iran is regime change. Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has challenged the reality of the Holocaust and said that Israel must be “wiped off the map.” Bush and others in the White House view him as a potential Adolf Hitler, a former senior intelligence official said. “That’s the name they’re using. They say, ‘Will Iran get a strategic weapon and threaten another world war?’ ”

A government consultant with close ties to the civilian leadership in the Pentagon said that Bush was “absolutely convinced that Iran is going to get the bomb” if it is not stopped. He said that the President believes that he must do “what no Democrat or Republican, if elected in the future, would have the courage to do,” and “that saving Iran is going to be his legacy.”

One former defense official, who still deals with sensitive issues for the Bush Administration, told me that the military planning was premised on a belief that “a sustained bombing campaign in Iran will humiliate the religious leadership and lead the public to rise up and overthrow the government.” He added, “I was shocked when I heard it, and asked myself, ‘What are they smoking?’ ”

The rationale for regime change was articulated in early March by Patrick Clawson, an Iran expert who is the deputy director for research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and who has been a supporter of President Bush. “So long as Iran has an Islamic republic, it will have a nuclear-weapons program, at least clandestinely,” Clawson told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March 2nd. “The key issue, therefore, is: How long will the present Iranian regime last?”

When I spoke to Clawson, he emphasized that “this Administration is putting a lot of effort into diplomacy.” However, he added, Iran had no choice other than to accede to America’s demands or face a military attack. Clawson said that he fears that Ahmadinejad “sees the West as wimps and thinks we will eventually cave in. We have to be ready to deal with Iran if the crisis escalates.” Clawson said that he would prefer to rely on sabotage and other clandestine activities, such as “industrial accidents.” But, he said, it would be prudent to prepare for a wider war, “given the way the Iranians are acting. This is not like planning to invade Quebec.”

One military planner told me that White House criticisms of Iran and the high tempo of planning and clandestine activities amount to a campaign of “coercion” aimed at Iran. “You have to be ready to go, and we’ll see how they respond,” the officer said. “You have to really show a threat in order to get Ahmadinejad to back down.” He added, “People think Bush has been focussed on Saddam Hussein since 9/11,” but, “in my view, if you had to name one nation that was his focus all the way along, it was Iran.” (In response to detailed requests for comment, the White House said that it would not comment on military planning but added, “As the President has indicated, we are pursuing a diplomatic solution”; the Defense Department also said that Iran was being dealt with through “diplomatic channels” but wouldn’t elaborate on that; the C.I.A. said that there were “inaccuracies” in this account but would not specify them.)

“This is much more than a nuclear issue,” one high-ranking diplomat told me in Vienna. “That’s just a rallying point, and there is still time to fix it. But the Administration believes it cannot be fixed unless they control the hearts and minds of Iran. The real issue is who is going to control the Middle East and its oil in the next ten years.”

A senior Pentagon adviser on the war on terror expressed a similar view. “This White House believes that the only way to solve the problem is to change the power structure in Iran, and that means war,” he said. The danger, he said, was that “it also reinforces the belief inside Iran that the only way to defend the country is to have a nuclear capability.” A military conflict that destabilized the region could also increase the risk of terror: “Hezbollah comes into play,” the adviser said, referring to the terror group that is considered one of the world’s most successful, and which is now a Lebanese political party with strong ties to Iran. “And here comes Al Qaeda.”

In recent weeks, the President has quietly initiated a series of talks on plans for Iran with a few key senators and members of Congress, including at least one Democrat. A senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, who did not take part in the meetings but has discussed their content with his colleagues, told me that there had been “no formal briefings,” because “they’re reluctant to brief the minority. They’re doing the Senate, somewhat selectively.”

The House member said that no one in the meetings “is really objecting” to the talk of war. “The people they’re briefing are the same ones who led the charge on Iraq. At most, questions are raised: How are you going to hit all the sites at once? How are you going to get deep enough?” (Iran is building facilities underground.) “There’s no pressure from Congress” not to take military action, the House member added. “The only political pressure is from the guys who want to do it.” Speaking of President Bush, the House member said, “The most worrisome thing is that this guy has a messianic vision.”

Some operations, apparently aimed in part at intimidating Iran, are already under way. American Naval tactical aircraft, operating from carriers in the Arabian Sea, have been flying simulated nuclear-weapons delivery missions—rapid ascending maneuvers known as “over the shoulder” bombing—since last summer, the former official said, within range of Iranian coastal radars.

Last month, in a paper given at a conference on Middle East security in Berlin, Colonel Sam Gardiner, a military analyst who taught at the National War College before retiring from the Air Force, in 1987, provided an estimate of what would be needed to destroy Iran’s nuclear program. Working from satellite photographs of the known facilities, Gardiner estimated that at least four hundred targets would have to be hit. He added:

I don’t think a U.S. military planner would want to stop there. Iran probably has two chemical-production plants. We would hit those. We would want to hit the medium-range ballistic missiles that have just recently been moved closer to Iraq. There are fourteen airfields with sheltered aircraft. . . . We’d want to get rid of that threat. We would want to hit the assets that could be used to threaten Gulf shipping. That means targeting the cruise-missile sites and the Iranian diesel submarines. . . . Some of the facilities may be too difficult to target even with penetrating weapons. The U.S. will have to use Special Operations units.

One of the military’s initial option plans, as presented to the White House by the Pentagon this winter, calls for the use of a bunker-buster tactical nuclear weapon, such as the B61-11, against underground nuclear sites. One target is Iran’s main centrifuge plant, at Natanz, nearly two hundred miles south of Tehran. Natanz, which is no longer under I.A.E.A. safeguards, reportedly has underground floor space to hold fifty thousand centrifuges, and laboratories and workspaces buried approximately seventy-five feet beneath the surface. That number of centrifuges could provide enough enriched uranium for about twenty nuclear warheads a year. (Iran has acknowledged that it initially kept the existence of its enrichment program hidden from I.A.E.A. inspectors, but claims that none of its current activity is barred by the Non-Proliferation Treaty.) The elimination of Natanz would be a major setback for Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but the conventional weapons in the American arsenal could not insure the destruction of facilities under seventy-five feet of earth and rock, especially if they are reinforced with concrete.

There is a Cold War precedent for targeting deep underground bunkers with nuclear weapons. In the early nineteen-eighties, the American intelligence community watched as the Soviet government began digging a huge underground complex outside Moscow. Analysts concluded that the underground facility was designed for “continuity of government”—for the political and military leadership to survive a nuclear war. (There are similar facilities, in Virginia and Pennsylvania, for the American leadership.) The Soviet facility still exists, and much of what the U.S. knows about it remains classified. “The ‘tell’ ”—the giveaway—“was the ventilator shafts, some of which were disguised,” the former senior intelligence official told me. At the time, he said, it was determined that “only nukes” could destroy the bunker. He added that some American intelligence analysts believe that the Russians helped the Iranians design their underground facility. “We see a similarity of design,” specifically in the ventilator shafts, he said.

A former high-level Defense Department official told me that, in his view, even limited bombing would allow the U.S. to “go in there and do enough damage to slow down the nuclear infrastructure—it’s feasible.” The former defense official said, “The Iranians don’t have friends, and we can tell them that, if necessary, we’ll keep knocking back their infrastructure. The United States should act like we’re ready to go.” He added, “We don’t have to knock down all of their air defenses. Our stealth bombers and standoff missiles really work, and we can blow fixed things up. We can do things on the ground, too, but it’s difficult and very dangerous—put bad stuff in ventilator shafts and put them to sleep.”

But those who are familiar with the Soviet bunker, according to the former senior intelligence official, “say ‘No way.’ You’ve got to know what’s underneath—to know which ventilator feeds people, or diesel generators, or which are false. And there’s a lot that we don’t know.” The lack of reliable intelligence leaves military planners, given the goal of totally destroying the sites, little choice but to consider the use of tactical nuclear weapons. “Every other option, in the view of the nuclear weaponeers, would leave a gap,” the former senior intelligence official said. “ ‘Decisive’ is the key word of the Air Force’s planning. It’s a tough decision. But we made it in Japan.”

He went on, “Nuclear planners go through extensive training and learn the technical details of damage and fallout—we’re talking about mushroom clouds, radiation, mass casualties, and contamination over years. This is not an underground nuclear test, where all you see is the earth raised a little bit. These politicians don’t have a clue, and whenever anybody tries to get it out”—remove the nuclear option—“they’re shouted down.”

The attention given to the nuclear option has created serious misgivings inside the offices of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he added, and some officers have talked about resigning. Late this winter, the Joint Chiefs of Staff sought to remove the nuclear option from the evolving war plans for Iran—without success, the former intelligence official said. “The White House said, ‘Why are you challenging this? The option came from you.’ ”

The Pentagon adviser on the war on terror confirmed that some in the Administration were looking seriously at this option, which he linked to a resurgence of interest in tactical nuclear weapons among Pentagon civilians and in policy circles. He called it “a juggernaut that has to be stopped.” He also confirmed that some senior officers and officials were considering resigning over the issue. “There are very strong sentiments within the military against brandishing nuclear weapons against other countries,” the adviser told me. “This goes to high levels.” The matter may soon reach a decisive point, he said, because the Joint Chiefs had agreed to give President Bush a formal recommendation stating that they are strongly opposed to considering the nuclear option for Iran. “The internal debate on this has hardened in recent weeks,” the adviser said. “And, if senior Pentagon officers express their opposition to the use of offensive nuclear weapons, then it will never happen.”

The adviser added, however, that the idea of using tactical nuclear weapons in such situations has gained support from the Defense Science Board, an advisory panel whose members are selected by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. “They’re telling the Pentagon that we can build the B61 with more blast and less radiation,” he said.

The chairman of the Defense Science Board is William Schneider, Jr., an Under-Secretary of State in the Reagan Administration. In January, 2001, as President Bush prepared to take office, Schneider served on an ad-hoc panel on nuclear forces sponsored by the National Institute for Public Policy, a conservative think tank. The panel’s report recommended treating tactical nuclear weapons as an essential part of the U.S. arsenal and noted their suitability “for those occasions when the certain and prompt destruction of high priority targets is essential and beyond the promise of conventional weapons.” Several signers of the report are now prominent members of the Bush Administration, including Stephen Hadley, the national-security adviser; Stephen Cambone, the Under-Secretary of Defense for Intelligence; and Robert Joseph, the Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.

The Pentagon adviser questioned the value of air strikes. “The Iranians have distributed their nuclear activity very well, and we have no clue where some of the key stuff is. It could even be out of the country,” he said. He warned, as did many others, that bombing Iran could provoke “a chain reaction” of attacks on American facilities and citizens throughout the world: “What will 1.2 billion Muslims think the day we attack Iran?”

With or without the nuclear option, the list of targets may inevitably expand. One recently retired high-level Bush Administration official, who is also an expert on war planning, told me that he would have vigorously argued against an air attack on Iran, because “Iran is a much tougher target” than Iraq. But, he added, “If you’re going to do any bombing to stop the nukes, you might as well improve your lie across the board. Maybe hit some training camps, and clear up a lot of other problems.”

The Pentagon adviser said that, in the event of an attack, the Air Force intended to strike many hundreds of targets in Iran but that “ninety-nine per cent of them have nothing to do with proliferation. There are people who believe it’s the way to operate”—that the Administration can achieve its policy goals in Iran with a bombing campaign, an idea that has been supported by neoconservatives.

If the order were to be given for an attack, the American combat troops now operating in Iran would be in position to mark the critical targets with laser beams, to insure bombing accuracy and to minimize civilian casualties. As of early winter, I was told by the government consultant with close ties to civilians in the Pentagon, the units were also working with minority groups in Iran, including the Azeris, in the north, the Baluchis, in the southeast, and the Kurds, in the northeast. The troops “are studying the terrain, and giving away walking-around money to ethnic tribes, and recruiting scouts from local tribes and shepherds,” the consultant said. One goal is to get “eyes on the ground”—quoting a line from “Othello,” he said, “Give me the ocular proof.” The broader aim, the consultant said, is to “encourage ethnic tensions” and undermine the regime.

The new mission for the combat troops is a product of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld’s long-standing interest in expanding the role of the military in covert operations, which was made official policy in the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review, published in February. Such activities, if conducted by C.I.A. operatives, would need a Presidential Finding and would have to be reported to key members of Congress.

“ ‘Force protection’ is the new buzzword,” the former senior intelligence official told me. He was referring to the Pentagon’s position that clandestine activities that can be broadly classified as preparing the battlefield or protecting troops are military, not intelligence, operations, and are therefore not subject to congressional oversight. “The guys in the Joint Chiefs of Staff say there are a lot of uncertainties in Iran,” he said. “We need to have more than what we had in Iraq. Now we have the green light to do everything we want.”

The President’s deep distrust of Ahmadinejad has strengthened his determination to confront Iran. This view has been reinforced by allegations that Ahmadinejad, who joined a special-forces brigade of the Revolutionary Guards in 1986, may have been involved in terrorist activities in the late eighties. (There are gaps in Ahmadinejad’s official biography in this period.) Ahmadinejad has reportedly been connected to Imad Mughniyeh, a terrorist who has been implicated in the deadly bombings of the U.S. Embassy and the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, in 1983. Mughniyeh was then the security chief of Hezbollah; he remains on the F.B.I.’s list of most-wanted terrorists.

Robert Baer, who was a C.I.A. officer in the Middle East and elsewhere for two decades, told me that Ahmadinejad and his Revolutionary Guard colleagues in the Iranian government “are capable of making a bomb, hiding it, and launching it at Israel. They’re apocalyptic Shiites. If you’re sitting in Tel Aviv and you believe they’ve got nukes and missiles—you’ve got to take them out. These guys are nuts, and there’s no reason to back off.”

Under Ahmadinejad, the Revolutionary Guards have expanded their power base throughout the Iranian bureaucracy; by the end of January, they had replaced thousands of civil servants with their own members. One former senior United Nations official, who has extensive experience with Iran, depicted the turnover as “a white coup,” with ominous implications for the West. “Professionals in the Foreign Ministry are out; others are waiting to be kicked out,” he said. “We may be too late. These guys now believe that they are stronger than ever since the revolution.” He said that, particularly in consideration of China’s emergence as a superpower, Iran’s attitude was “To hell with the West. You can do as much as you like.”

Iran’s supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, is considered by many experts to be in a stronger position than Ahmadinejad. “Ahmadinejad is not in control,” one European diplomat told me. “Power is diffuse in Iran. The Revolutionary Guards are among the key backers of the nuclear program, but, ultimately, I don’t think they are in charge of it. The Supreme Leader has the casting vote on the nuclear program, and the Guards will not take action without his approval.”

The Pentagon adviser on the war on terror said that “allowing Iran to have the bomb is not on the table. We cannot have nukes being sent downstream to a terror network. It’s just too dangerous.” He added, “The whole internal debate is on which way to go”—in terms of stopping the Iranian program. It is possible, the adviser said, that Iran will unilaterally renounce its nuclear plans—and forestall the American action. “God may smile on us, but I don’t think so. The bottom line is that Iran cannot become a nuclear-weapons state. The problem is that the Iranians realize that only by becoming a nuclear state can they defend themselves against the U.S. Something bad is going to happen.”

While almost no one disputes Iran’s nuclear ambitions, there is intense debate over how soon it could get the bomb, and what to do about that. Robert Gallucci, a former government expert on nonproliferation who is now the dean of the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown, told me, “Based on what I know, Iran could be eight to ten years away” from developing a deliverable nuclear weapon. Gallucci added, “If they had a covert nuclear program and we could prove it, and we could not stop it by negotiation, diplomacy, or the threat of sanctions, I’d be in favor of taking it out. But if you do it”—bomb Iran—“without being able to show there’s a secret program, you’re in trouble.”

Meir Dagan, the head of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, told the Knesset last December that “Iran is one to two years away, at the latest, from having enriched uranium. From that point, the completion of their nuclear weapon is simply a technical matter.” In a conversation with me, a senior Israeli intelligence official talked about what he said was Iran’s duplicity: “There are two parallel nuclear programs” inside Iran—the program declared to the I.A.E.A. and a separate operation, run by the military and the Revolutionary Guards. Israeli officials have repeatedly made this argument, but Israel has not produced public evidence to support it. Richard Armitage, the Deputy Secretary of State in Bush’s first term, told me, “I think Iran has a secret nuclear-weapons program—I believe it, but I don’t know it.”

In recent months, the Pakistani government has given the U.S. new access to A. Q. Khan, the so-called father of the Pakistani atomic bomb. Khan, who is now living under house arrest in Islamabad, is accused of setting up a black market in nuclear materials; he made at least one clandestine visit to Tehran in the late nineteen-eighties. In the most recent interrogations, Khan has provided information on Iran’s weapons design and its time line for building a bomb. “The picture is of ‘unquestionable danger,’ ” the former senior intelligence official said. (The Pentagon adviser also confirmed that Khan has been “singing like a canary.”) The concern, the former senior official said, is that “Khan has credibility problems. He is suggestible, and he’s telling the neoconservatives what they want to hear”—or what might be useful to Pakistan’s President, Pervez Musharraf, who is under pressure to assist Washington in the war on terror.

“I think Khan’s leading us on,” the former intelligence official said. “I don’t know anybody who says, ‘Here’s the smoking gun.’ But lights are beginning to blink. He’s feeding us information on the time line, and targeting information is coming in from our own sources— sensors and the covert teams. The C.I.A., which was so burned by Iraqi W.M.D., is going to the Pentagon and the Vice-President’s office saying, ‘It’s all new stuff.’ People in the Administration are saying, ‘We’ve got enough.’ ”

The Administration’s case against Iran is compromised by its history of promoting false intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. In a recent essay on the Foreign Policy Web site, entitled “Fool Me Twice,” Joseph Cirincione, the director for nonproliferation at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote, “The unfolding administration strategy appears to be an effort to repeat its successful campaign for the Iraq war.” He noted several parallels:

The vice president of the United States gives a major speech focused on the threat from an oil-rich nation in the Middle East. The U.S. Secretary of State tells Congress that the same nation is our most serious global challenge. The Secretary of Defense calls that nation the leading supporter of global terrorism.

Cirincione called some of the Administration’s claims about Iran “questionable” or lacking in evidence. When I spoke to him, he asked, “What do we know? What is the threat? The question is: How urgent is all this?” The answer, he said, “is in the intelligence community and the I.A.E.A.” (In August, the Washington Post reported that the most recent comprehensive National Intelligence Estimate predicted that Iran was a decade away from being a nuclear power.)

Last year, the Bush Administration briefed I.A.E.A. officials on what it said was new and alarming information about Iran’s weapons program which had been retrieved from an Iranian’s laptop. The new data included more than a thousand pages of technical drawings of weapons systems. The Washington Post reported that there were also designs for a small facility that could be used in the uranium-enrichment process. Leaks about the laptop became the focal point of stories in the Times and elsewhere. The stories were generally careful to note that the materials could have been fabricated, but also quoted senior American officials as saying that they appeared to be legitimate. The headline in the Times’ account read, “RELYING ON COMPUTER, U.S. SEEKS TO PROVE IRAN’S NUCLEAR AIMS.”

I was told in interviews with American and European intelligence officials, however, that the laptop was more suspect and less revelatory than it had been depicted. The Iranian who owned the laptop had initially been recruited by German and American intelligence operatives, working together. The Americans eventually lost interest in him. The Germans kept on, but the Iranian was seized by the Iranian counter-intelligence force. It is not known where he is today. Some family members managed to leave Iran with his laptop and handed it over at a U.S. embassy, apparently in Europe. It was a classic “walk-in.”

A European intelligence official said, “There was some hesitation on our side” about what the materials really proved, “and we are still not convinced.” The drawings were not meticulous, as newspaper accounts suggested, “but had the character of sketches,” the European official said. “It was not a slam-dunk smoking gun.”

The threat of American military action has created dismay at the headquarters of the I.A.E.A., in Vienna. The agency’s officials believe that Iran wants to be able to make a nuclear weapon, but “nobody has presented an inch of evidence of a parallel nuclear-weapons program in Iran,” the high-ranking diplomat told me. The I.A.E.A.’s best estimate is that the Iranians are five years away from building a nuclear bomb. “But, if the United States does anything militarily, they will make the development of a bomb a matter of Iranian national pride,” the diplomat said. “The whole issue is America’s risk assessment of Iran’s future intentions, and they don’t trust the regime. Iran is a menace to American policy.”

In Vienna, I was told of an exceedingly testy meeting earlier this year between Mohamed ElBaradei, the I.A.E.A.’s director-general, who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year, and Robert Joseph, the Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control. Joseph’s message was blunt, one diplomat recalled: “We cannot have a single centrifuge spinning in Iran. Iran is a direct threat to the national security of the United States and our allies, and we will not tolerate it. We want you to give us an understanding that you will not say anything publicly that will undermine us. ”

Joseph’s heavy-handedness was unnecessary, the diplomat said, since the I.A.E.A. already had been inclined to take a hard stand against Iran. “All of the inspectors are angry at being misled by the Iranians, and some think the Iranian leadership are nutcases—one hundred per cent totally certified nuts,” the diplomat said. He added that ElBaradei’s overriding concern is that the Iranian leaders “want confrontation, just like the neocons on the other side”—in Washington. “At the end of the day, it will work only if the United States agrees to talk to the Iranians.”

The central question—whether Iran will be able to proceed with its plans to enrich uranium—is now before the United Nations, with the Russians and the Chinese reluctant to impose sanctions on Tehran. A discouraged former I.A.E.A. official told me in late March that, at this point, “there’s nothing the Iranians could do that would result in a positive outcome. American diplomacy does not allow for it. Even if they announce a stoppage of enrichment, nobody will believe them. It’s a dead end.”

Another diplomat in Vienna asked me, “Why would the West take the risk of going to war against that kind of target without giving it to the I.A.E.A. to verify? We’re low-cost, and we can create a program that will force Iran to put its cards on the table.” A Western Ambassador in Vienna expressed similar distress at the White House’s dismissal of the I.A.E.A. He said, “If you don’t believe that the I.A.E.A. can establish an inspection system—if you don’t trust them—you can only bomb.”

There is little sympathy for the I.A.E.A. in the Bush Administration or among its European allies. “We’re quite frustrated with the director-general,” the European diplomat told me. “His basic approach has been to describe this as a dispute between two sides with equal weight. It’s not. We’re the good guys! ElBaradei has been pushing the idea of letting Iran have a small nuclear-enrichment program, which is ludicrous. It’s not his job to push ideas that pose a serious proliferation risk.”

The Europeans are rattled, however, by their growing perception that President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney believe a bombing campaign will be needed, and that their real goal is regime change. “Everyone is on the same page about the Iranian bomb, but the United States wants regime change,” a European diplomatic adviser told me. He added, “The Europeans have a role to play as long as they don’t have to choose between going along with the Russians and the Chinese or going along with Washington on something they don’t want. Their policy is to keep the Americans engaged in something the Europeans can live with. It may be untenable.”

“The Brits think this is a very bad idea,” Flynt Leverett, a former National Security Council staff member who is now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center, told me, “but they’re really worried we’re going to do it.” The European diplomatic adviser acknowledged that the British Foreign Office was aware of war planning in Washington but that, “short of a smoking gun, it’s going to be very difficult to line up the Europeans on Iran.” He said that the British “are jumpy about the Americans going full bore on the Iranians, with no compromise.”

The European diplomat said that he was skeptical that Iran, given its record, had admitted to everything it was doing, but “to the best of our knowledge the Iranian capability is not at the point where they could successfully run centrifuges” to enrich uranium in quantity. One reason for pursuing diplomacy was, he said, Iran’s essential pragmatism. “The regime acts in its best interests,” he said. Iran’s leaders “take a hard-line approach on the nuclear issue and they want to call the American bluff,” believing that “the tougher they are the more likely the West will fold.” But, he said, “From what we’ve seen with Iran, they will appear superconfident until the moment they back off.”

The diplomat went on, “You never reward bad behavior, and this is not the time to offer concessions. We need to find ways to impose sufficient costs to bring the regime to its senses. It’s going to be a close call, but I think if there is unity in opposition and the price imposed”—in sanctions—“is sufficient, they may back down. It’s too early to give up on the U.N. route.” He added, “If the diplomatic process doesn’t work, there is no military ‘solution.’ There may be a military option, but the impact could be catastrophic.”

Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister, was George Bush’s most dependable ally in the year leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But he and his party have been racked by a series of financial scandals, and his popularity is at a low point. Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said last year that military action against Iran was “inconceivable.” Blair has been more circumspect, saying publicly that one should never take options off the table.

Other European officials expressed similar skepticism about the value of an American bombing campaign. “The Iranian economy is in bad shape, and Ahmadinejad is in bad shape politically,” the European intelligence official told me. “He will benefit politically from American bombing. You can do it, but the results will be worse.” An American attack, he said, would alienate ordinary Iranians, including those who might be sympathetic to the U.S. “Iran is no longer living in the Stone Age, and the young people there have access to U.S. movies and books, and they love it,” he said. “If there was a charm offensive with Iran, the mullahs would be in trouble in the long run.”

Another European official told me that he was aware that many in Washington wanted action. “It’s always the same guys,” he said, with a resigned shrug. “There is a belief that diplomacy is doomed to fail. The timetable is short.”

A key ally with an important voice in the debate is Israel, whose leadership has warned for years that it viewed any attempt by Iran to begin enriching uranium as a point of no return. I was told by several officials that the White House’s interest in preventing an Israeli attack on a Muslim country, which would provoke a backlash across the region, was a factor in its decision to begin the current operational planning. In a speech in Cleveland on March 20th, President Bush depicted Ahmadinejad’s hostility toward Israel as a “serious threat. It’s a threat to world peace.” He added, “I made it clear, I’ll make it clear again, that we will use military might to protect our ally Israel.”

Any American bombing attack, Richard Armitage told me, would have to consider the following questions: “What will happen in the other Islamic countries? What ability does Iran have to reach us and touch us globally—that is, terrorism? Will Syria and Lebanon up the pressure on Israel? What does the attack do to our already diminished international standing? And what does this mean for Russia, China, and the U.N. Security Council?”

Iran, which now produces nearly four million barrels of oil a day, would not have to cut off production to disrupt the world’s oil markets. It could blockade or mine the Strait of Hormuz, the thirty-four-mile-wide passage through which Middle Eastern oil reaches the Indian Ocean. Nonetheless, the recently retired defense official dismissed the strategic consequences of such actions. He told me that the U.S. Navy could keep shipping open by conducting salvage missions and putting mine- sweepers to work. “It’s impossible to block passage,” he said. The government consultant with ties to the Pentagon also said he believed that the oil problem could be managed, pointing out that the U.S. has enough in its strategic reserves to keep America running for sixty days. However, those in the oil business I spoke to were less optimistic; one industry expert estimated that the price per barrel would immediately spike, to anywhere from ninety to a hundred dollars per barrel, and could go higher, depending on the duration and scope of the conflict.

Michel Samaha, a veteran Lebanese Christian politician and former cabinet minister in Beirut, told me that the Iranian retaliation might be focussed on exposed oil and gas fields in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates. “They would be at risk,” he said, “and this could begin the real jihad of Iran versus the West. You will have a messy world.”

Iran could also initiate a wave of terror attacks in Iraq and elsewhere, with the help of Hezbollah. On April 2nd, the Washington Post reported that the planning to counter such attacks “is consuming a lot of time” at U.S. intelligence agencies. “The best terror network in the world has remained neutral in the terror war for the past several years,” the Pentagon adviser on the war on terror said of Hezbollah. “This will mobilize them and put us up against the group that drove Israel out of southern Lebanon. If we move against Iran, Hezbollah will not sit on the sidelines. Unless the Israelis take them out, they will mobilize against us.” (When I asked the government consultant about that possibility, he said that, if Hezbollah fired rockets into northern Israel, “Israel and the new Lebanese government will finish them off.”)

The adviser went on, “If we go, the southern half of Iraq will light up like a candle.” The American, British, and other coalition forces in Iraq would be at greater risk of attack from Iranian troops or from Shiite militias operating on instructions from Iran. (Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, has close ties to the leading Shiite parties in Iraq.) A retired four-star general told me that, despite the eight thousand British troops in the region, “the Iranians could take Basra with ten mullahs and one sound truck.”

“If you attack,” the high-ranking diplomat told me in Vienna, “Ahmadinejad will be the new Saddam Hussein of the Arab world, but with more credibility and more power. You must bite the bullet and sit down with the Iranians.”

The diplomat went on, “There are people in Washington who would be unhappy if we found a solution. They are still banking on isolation and regime change. This is wishful thinking.” He added, “The window of opportunity is now.”

Issue of 2006-04-17
Posted 2006-04-10
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 09, 2006 10:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good Ol Seymour Hersh

Nothing he says should be taken seriously!

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 10, 2006 9:51 am    Post subject: Straw Uses Tough Language to Rule Out Iran Strike Reply with quote

Straw Uses Tough Language to Rule Out Iran Strike

April 10, 2006
The Financial Times
Daniel Dombey


Jack Straw yesterday used his toughest language yet to rule out any military strike against Iran, highlighting the growing divide on the issue between the Foreign Office and Downing Street. "The reason why we're opposed to military action is because it's an infinitely worse option [than diplomacy] and there's no justification for it," the foreign secretary said

Mr Straw's intervention, in response to a report in the New Yorker that the US was studying the use of "bunker-busting" nuclear bombs to disable Iran's nuclear programme, came as it emerged that the European Union was considering a series of options to push Iran towards meeting its demands.

Such steps - listed in a confidential EU paper sent to the 25 foreign ministries - include a crackdown on credit guarantees, visa bans and a formal arms embargo.

Some of the measures are likely to be controversial within the EU - Italy alone provides €4.8bn (£3.3bn) of credit guarantees for its companies' activities within Iran - but are far less divisive than talk of military action.

While Mr Straw has repeatedly described an air strike on Iran as "inconceivable", Tony Blair, prime minister, never has.

Officials at both the Foreign Office and Downing Street privately acknowledge the difference of emphasis between the two men. Mr Blair has shown signs of exasperation with Mr Straw's cautious approach, giving rise to suggestions that the foreign secretary's focus on ruling out military action is intended to heal the breach with Labour MPs upset over the Iraq war.

The Conservative party, which believes that the threat of military action should be used to force Iran to comply, is likely to exploit the divergence between the prime minister and the foreign secretary.

Yesterday Mr Straw was still franker than before. "There is no smoking gun, there is no casus belli," he said, arguing that the west merely had well-grounded suspicions that Tehran was seeking to develop nuclear weapons capability. Iran has always argued that its nuclear programme is purely peaceful.

The foreign secretary added: "The idea of a nuclear strike on Iran is completely nuts."

The New Yorker report, by veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, contends that, while the US joint chiefs of staff are strongly opposed to considering a nuclear strike on Iran, the Defense Science Board, an advisory panel for the Pentagon, has backed "the idea of using tactical nuclear weapons in such situations". The article maintains that the US is stepping up contingency plans for an air strike against Iran - as did a separate report yesterday in the Washington Post.

At present the US is seeking to build support for censuring Iran at the United Nations, as well as gathering a "coalition of concerned countries" to impose sanctions on Tehran should the Security Council prove unwilling or unable to do so.

The EU paper, drawn up by the staff of Javier Solana, the bloc's foreign policy chief, may be a step in such a direction.

"A key reason for this policy review is that Iran has taken negative steps in many areas and we have to adapt our tools accordingly," said an EU diplomat.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 10, 2006 12:58 pm    Post subject: Bush Calls Iran Talk 'Wild Speculation' Reply with quote

US President George W. Bush delivers remarks on the global 'war on terror' at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, The Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC. The US wants to settle the Iran nuclear crisis through diplomacy even if President Bush does not rule out a military option, the White House said(AFP/Tim Sloan) Email Photo Print Photo

Bush Calls Iran Talk 'Wild Speculation'
By NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press Writer
25 minutes ago


WASHINGTON - President Bush said Monday that force is not necessarily required to stop Iran from having a nuclear weapon, and he dismissed reports of plans for a military attack against Tehran as "wild speculation."

Bush said his goal is to keep the Iranians from having the capability or the knowledge to have a nuclear weapon.

"I know we're here in Washington (where) prevention means force," Bush said during an appearance at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. "It doesn't mean force necessarily. In this case it means diplomacy."

Bush and other administration officials have said repeatedly that the military option is on the table, and White House officials acknowledge "normal" military planning is under way. Several reports published over the weekend said the administration was studying options for military strikes, and an account in The New Yorker magazine raised the possibility of using nuclear bombs against Iran's underground nuclear sites.

Bush did not directly respond to that report but said, "What you're reading is just wild speculation."

But Bush said he was correct to include Iran in the "axis of evil" with Iraq and North Korea and that he's glad to see other countries taking the threat from Iran seriously, too.

"I got out a little early on the issue by saying 'axis of evil,'" Bush said. "But I meant it. I saw it as a problem. And now many others have come to the conclusion that the Iranians should not have a nuclear weapon."

Taking questions from the SAIS audience, Bush also made these points:

_He declassified part of a prewar intelligence report on Iraq in 2003 to show Americans the basis for his statements about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. "I wanted people to see the truth," he told a questioner who said there was evidence of a concerted effort by the White House to punish war-critic Joseph Wilson. Bush said he could not comment on the CIA leak case because it is a matter under investigation.

_He intends to remain on the sidelines as Republicans choose their nominee for president in 2008. "I will be an interested observer," said Bush. He said he would focus his energy on issues such as decreasing the nation's reliance on foreign oil and finding answers to the solvency problems of Medicare and Social Security. "But I'm just going to let the politics run its course."

The White House sought Monday to minimize new speculation about a possible military strike against Iran while acknowledging that the Pentagon is developing contingency plans to deal with Tehran's nuclear ambitions. The Pentagon has refused to describe its planning further.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan refused to confirm or deny The New Yorker report. "Those who are seeking to draw broad conclusions based on normal military contingency planning are misinformed or not knowledgeable about the administration's thinking," he said.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, in an interview Sunday with the British Broadcasting Corp., called the idea of a nuclear strike "completely nuts."

Straw said Britain would not launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran and he was as "certain as he could be" that neither would the U.S. He said he has a high suspicion that Iran is developing a civil nuclear capability that, in turn, could be used for nuclear weapons, but he said there is "no smoking gun" to prove it and rationalize abandoning the plodding diplomatic process.

"The reason why we're opposed to military action is because it's an infinitely worse option and there's no justification for it," Straw said.

Defense experts say a military strike on Iran would be risky and complicated. U.S. forces already are preoccupied with Iraq and Afghanistan, and an attack against Iran could inflame U.S. problems in the Muslim world.

The U.N. Security Council has demanded Iran suspend its uranium enrichment program. But Iran has so far refused to halt its nuclear activity, saying the small-scale enrichment project was strictly for research and not for development of nuclear weapons.

Bush has said Iran may pose the greatest challenge to the United States of any other country in the world. And while he has stressed that diplomacy is always preferable, he has defended his administration's strike-first policy against terrorists and other enemies.

"The threat from Iran is, of course, their stated objective to destroy our strong ally Israel," the president said last month in Cleveland. "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."
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 10, 2006 1:25 pm    Post subject: Bush says Iran attacks reports 'wild speculation' Reply with quote

Bush says Iran attacks reports 'wild speculation' 8 minutes ago


WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States wants to settle the Iran nuclear crisis through diplomacy, President George W. Bush said describing reports of plans to attack Iran as "wild speculation."

While the White House is still warning Iran about its uranium enrichment, which Washington and its allies believe hides a nuclear weapons programme, the administration went out of its way Monday to play down reports of planning for military strikes.

"The doctrine of prevention is to work together to prevent the Iranians from having a nuclear weapon," Bush said at Johns Hopkins University in Washington.

"I know we hear in Washington 'prevention means force'," he added.

"In this case, it means diplomacy, by the way. I read the articles in the newspapers this weekend -- it was wild speculation," he said.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said however that Bush is not taking the military option off the table.

The UN Security Council set a 30 day deadline on March 29 for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment activities, which Washington and its allies believes hides a nuclear weapons programme.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed again Monday not to give in to the Security Council demand and many diplomats say the United Nations may be forced to take take action.

The United States has let Britain, France and Germany take the lead in international negotiations with Tehran, which insists that its nuclear programme is peaceful.

Bush said that the international community is "making pretty good progress" despite opposition from China and Russia to talk of sanctions against Iran.

The US leader put Iran with Iraq and North Korea in an "axis of evil" in a speech in 2003. "I meant it," he declared.

"I saw there is a problem. And now many others have come to the conclusion that the Iranians should not have a nuclear weapon."

The Washington Post newspaper and New Yorker magazine reported over the weekend about plans for possible military strikes.

The New Yorker said the US administration plans a bombing campaign against Iran, including the use of bunker-buster nuclear bombs to destroy the suspected main Iranian nuclear weapons facility.

The Washington Post said Bush is studying options for military strikes as part of a broader strategy of coercive diplomacy to pressure Iran over its nuclear program.

Citing unnamed US officials and independent analysts, the newspaper said no attack appeared likely in the short term, but officials were using the threat to convince Iran that Washington is serious.

Military experts said that any military strike would be full of risk. European leaders have also spoken out against any immediate military threat in the dispute.

McClellan told reporters: "We are pursuing a diplomatic solution by working with the international community.

"Some of the media reports I've seen, which are based on anonymous outside advisors and former officials, appear to me to be based on people that do not know the administration's thinking.

"I think it is a lot of wild speculation."

He said reports and comments "based on normal military contigency planning are misinformed or not knowledgeable about the administration's thinking."

"We've said multiple times that Iran is not Iraq."

But McClellan repeated the administration's warning to Iran, saying that the nuclear programme is of "serious and growing concern."

He said "no president takes options off the table but our focus is on working with the international community to find a diplomatic solution."
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 11, 2006 5:13 pm    Post subject: Talk of US military strikes on Iran are "fantasyland&qu Reply with quote

Talk of US military strikes on Iran are "fantasyland" : Rumsfeld
43 minutes ago


WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Defense Secretry Donald Rumsfeld dismissed as "fantasyland" reports that the Pentagon is planning military strikes against Iran.

Rumsfeld refused to discuss whether the US military has stepped up plans for military strikes against Iran, and joining President George W. Bush in attacking such news reports as unfounded speculation.

"It is just simply not useful to get into fantasyland," Rumsfeld said.

The New Yorker magazine reported over the weekend that the Bush administration was considering the use of bunker busting tactical nuclear weapons against alleged Iranian underground nuclear sites.

"We have I do not know how many various contingency plans in this department," Rumsfeld said at a press conference with General Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"And the last thing I am going to do is to start telling you or anyone else in the press or the world at what point we refresh a plan or do not refresh a plan and why," he said. "It just is not useful."

"And I have responded with respect to Iran," he added. "We are on a diplomatic track. The president has said exactly what he wants said. And we support the president."

Pace refused to discuss the military's ability to take out deeply buried bunkers with conventional weapons, saying he did not want to give away secrets to the enemy.

But senior US military officials have said publicly that while some conventional weapons can dig through concrete, steel and earth, their effectiveness depends on how deeply buried the target is.

"It depends on how deep and it depends on how the structure is put together," General T. Michael Moseley, the air force chief of staff, told reporters earlier in the day.

"There are potentials I would suppose of things so deep and so hardened that it would be hard to get through with anything," he said.

In arguing for funding for the so-called Robust Nuclear Earth-Penetrator feasibility study, Rumsfeld told the Senate a year ago that "the only option we currently have is to use a vastly overpowered nonconventional weapon."

The New Yorker story said the attention to nuclear weapons in the Iran planning raised serious misgivings within the offices of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and some officers were talking about resigning.

Asked about the story, Moseley said he was not planning to resign and that he had not taken part in any debate or discussion of the kind discussed in the report.

Pace, meanwhile, used the press conference to respond to growing calls for Rumsfeld's resignation by respected retired generals.

The latest was retired lieutenant general Gregory Newbold, the operations director of the Joint Staff through the war in Afghanistan, who called on serving officers to speak up.

"With the encouragement of some still in positions of military leadership, I offer a challenge to those still in uniform: a leader's responsibility is to give voice to those who can't -- or don't have the opportunity to -- speak," Newbold wrote in a column in Time magazine over the weekend.

Rumsfeld said he was not aware of Newbold's criticism in the lead up to the Iraq war. Pace said the general left the Pentagon in September 2002 and did not have personal knowledge ofthe later phases of the military planning on Iraq.

"We had then, and have now, every opportunity to speak our minds. And if we do not, shame on us, because the opportunity is there. It is elicited from us. And we're expected to," Pace said.
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 12, 2006 10:29 am    Post subject: Iran and the U.S. Maneuver Carefully Toward Confrontation Reply with quote

Islamofascist Regime (Iran) and the U.S. Maneuver Carefully Toward Confrontation

April 11, 2006
The Power and Interest News Report
Intelligence Brief

In the latest edition of the New Yorker, journalist Seymour Hersh argues that the United States is currently in the process of planning an attack on Iran. The purpose of the plan, according to Hersh, is to eliminate Iran's nuclear research program. The Bush administration believes that Iran's nuclear research program is part of a covert Iranian strategy to develop nuclear weapons.

While there is no doubt that the Bush administration has drawn up contingency plans for an attack on Iran, it is unlikely that in the immediate future Washington will execute an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. Indeed, after Hersh's article hit the press, the Bush administration was quick to reassure that while the military option remains on the table, it is seeking a "diplomatic" solution to the current dispute. President George W. Bush himself labeled Hersh's claim as "wild speculation."

Although the United States is perfectly capable of launching air strikes on Iran, such a scenario could have a very negative effect on U.S. interests. The negative outcomes that are part of this policy may outweigh the positives. The negative outcomes involved in an attack were outlined by PINR on March 2: "The U.S. military is overburdened by the ongoing insurgency in Iraq, making a realistic ground invasion of Iran improbable. While strategic air strikes are certainly an option, it is unlikely that such strikes would destroy completely Iran's nuclear research program. Furthermore, an actual attack on its facilities would probably hasten Iran's drive toward nuclear weapons, similar to the effect that Israel's 1981 strike on the Osirak reactor in Iraq had on Baghdad." There is also the very real concern that an attack on Iran would cause it to exercise its levers of power in neighboring Iraq, using its power brokers to increase instability. [See: "Intelligence Brief: Iran Tests Washington's Limits"]

In addition to the above strategic costs, there are also economic repercussions. The price of oil currently stands at US$68 a barrel, and any instability introduced to the Middle East will raise this price substantially. The economies in oil dependent countries are already suffering from sustained high oil prices, and as the price of oil moves higher it will cause further damage to these economies. Even without an attack, any sanctions placed on Iran that include its energy industry will also cause an escalation of oil prices.

The above drawbacks explain why the current government in Tehran thinks that it can defy the United States and the E.U.-3 (France, Germany and the United Kingdom). For Tehran, the U.S. and the E.U.-3 have limited leverage options at their disposal. Tehran does not believe that the United States will initiate air strikes, and thinks that it can buy time and use Washington's current exposed position to accelerate its nuclear research program. Indeed, while Iran may not have an active nuclear weapons program, the further that it proceeds in nuclear research the closer that it comes to having the potential to quickly and efficiently develop a nuclear weapons arsenal.

It is very likely that Tehran sees nuclear weapons as an essential part of its drive for regional power. As PINR Senior Analyst Dr. Michael A. Weinstein examined in an in-depth analysis of Iran's regional strategy, "When the positives and negatives of Iran's strategic situation are weighed, it becomes clear that the complex balance of opportunities and threats provides the opportunity for Iran to try to expand its regional power at considerable risk."

According to Weinstein, "The best-case scenario for Iran is that the U.S. military is forced to withdraw from Iraq, leaving Iran with a dominant sphere of influence over a Shi'a-dominated Iraq or a breakaway Shi'a mini-state in the south, and that Iran is able to achieve nuclear weapons capability. Were this outcome to occur, Iran would be the dominant power in the Persian Gulf, displacing the United States." [See: "Iran's Bid for Regional Power: Assets and Liabilities"]

Iran's current U.N. declared deadline for halting uranium enrichment will come at the end of April. If Iran does not halt uranium enrichment by the deadline, Washington has said that it will attempt to punish Iran more concretely, with measures including sanctions. But placing sanctions on Iran may not have the desired effect since it is far from clear whether Russia or China will approve of any sanctions regime, especially one that targets Iran's energy exports. A sanctions regime without the support of Russia and China would have a limited effect on Iran. [See: "Intelligence Brief: Iran Tests Washington's Limits"]

Therefore, the conflict between the U.S., E.U.-3 and Iran continues forward, much as it has for the past three years. The U.S. has a clear policy of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Iran has a clear policy of preventing the U.S. from halting its robust nuclear research program; Tehran's more murky policy may be to develop and acquire nuclear weapons that will assist it in increasing its regional power. The two countries will continue to spar with each other, both playing a potentially hazardous game where any substantial move by either side could rapidly damage both countries' interests.

Both the U.S. and Iran continue to take little steps toward confrontation. Washington wants to prevent, or at least delay, Iran's move toward controlling the nuclear fuel cycle, and Tehran is testing Washington's limits since it believes that military action against it is unlikely and that the U.S. is in a weak position to confront Iran effectively. [See: "Intelligence Brief: Iran Tests Washington's Limits"]
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 12, 2006 10:40 am    Post subject: Iran Says It Is Making Nuclear Fuel, Defying U.N. Reply with quote

Iran Says It Is Making Nuclear Fuel, Defying U.N.
Sign In to E-Mail This Print Single Page Save By NAZILA FATHI, DAVID E. SANGER and WILLIAM J. BROAD
Published: April 12, 2006


TEHRAN, April 11 — Iran announced Tuesday that its nuclear engineers had advanced to a new phase in the enrichment of uranium, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and a series of the country's ruling clerics declared that the nation would now speed ahead, in defiance of a United Nations Security Council warning, to produce nuclear fuel on an industrial scale.

The White House, which has charged that Iran is secretly trying to develop fuel for nuclear weapons, at first reacted mildly to the announcement, saying Iran was "moving in the wrong direction." But later in the day it sounded a more ominous tone, with the National Security Council announcing that the United States would work with the United Nations Security Council "to deal with the significant threat posed by the regime's efforts to acquire nuclear weapons."

Outside experts said that while the country appears to have passed a milestone — one it has approached before with smaller-scale enrichment of uranium — the announcement may have had less to do with an engineering feat than with carefully timed political theater intended to convince the West that the program is unstoppable.

The declaration comes at a time of intense speculation in Washington that preliminary plans are advancing to take military action against Iran's nuclear sites if diplomacy fails, an idea Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld dismissed Tuesday as "fantasy land."

The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, is scheduled to arrive in Tehran on Wednesday to make another appeal for Iran to halt its enrichment program and avoid a confrontation with the West. Iranian officials said Dr. ElBaradei would face a changed situation, and American officials said they suspected that Iran's strategy is to portray its effort as a fait accompli.

The news came as another major setback for the European nations that have pressed for three years to persuade Iran to halt its fuel production program, and for President Bush. On Monday, Mr. Bush repeated that his "stated goal" was that "we do not want the Iranians to have a nuclear weapon, the capacity to make a nuclear weapon, or the knowledge as to how to make a nuclear weapon."

For that reason, he has opposed allowing Iran to enrich uranium, even though Iran has signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and has the right to produce fuel for nuclear power reactors.

If the Iranian declaration is correct, the enrichment and what appear to be rudimentary bomb-making documents that international inspectors have found in Iran suggest Iranians may now have most of the knowledge that Mr. Bush has sought to deny them.

At the least, they appear poised to be able eventually to expand enrichment on an industrial scale and, if they are determined to do so, enrich the uranium to levels necessary for an atomic weapon. But so far the quantities that the country has produced appear to be minuscule, and the enrichment level announced today — 3.5 percent — would work for producing power, not warheads.

International inspectors are stationed at Iran's main enrichment facility at Natanz, and presumably will be able to confirm or refute Iranian claims in coming days, assuming they have access to centrifuges.

Centrifuges are devices whose rotors spin very rapidly to enrich, or concentrate, a rare form of uranium known as uranium 235, which can then be used to fuel nuclear reactors or atom bombs. The 164 centrifuges Iran said it has strung together in a cascade are enough to test the technology, but with such a small number would take years to produce enough uranium for even one weapon.

"This 164 machines is more industrial," said a European diplomat who monitors Iran's program and spoke on the condition of anonymity. "But still, it's not like they haven't come close to achieving this in the past."

Despite claims on Tuesday of an enrichment breakthrough, Iran has in the past seven years repeatedly used centrifuges and lasers to enrich uranium, according to reports by the nuclear agency. But the amounts have apparently been small and the setups experimental.

Mr. Ahmadinejad reiterated that Iran's nuclear program was being developed for industrial and power purposes alone, and said his country "does not get its strength from nuclear arsenals."

But he did his best to turn the development to political advantage.
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 12, 2006 1:20 pm    Post subject: U.S.'s Rice says time for 'strong steps' over Iran Reply with quote

U.S.'s Rice says time for 'strong steps' over Islamofacist In Iran
12/04/2006 15:45

By Sue Pleming

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Wednesday Iran’s assertion it has enriched uranium will require "strong steps" from the United Nations Security Council.

Rice said the announcement on Tuesday from Tehran that it has begun nuclear enrichment was further proof it was not adhering to requirements already set out by the international community.

"I do think the Security Council will need to take into consideration this move by Iran," Rice said at the U.S. State Department. She urged that when the council reconvened at the end of this month it should take "strong steps to make certain that we maintain the credibility of the international community."

Rice did not indicate what the steps might be but her spokesman Sean McCormack said it would be stronger than the presidential statement by the Security Council last month after weeks of wrangling at the United Nations.
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 12, 2006 2:25 pm    Post subject: Criticism mounts over Iran Reply with quote

Criticism mounts over Iran
By Parisa Hafezi
31 minutes ago

TEHRAN (Reuters) - The world's leading powers, including Russia and China, joined to condemn Iran on Wednesday for advancing its atomic program in defiance of the United Nations,
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 12, 2006 3:04 pm    Post subject: Freedom-loving Iranian People Demands Reply with quote

Freedom-loving Iranian People Condemn Wasted 20 Billion Dollars Islamofascist Regime Childish Nuclear Adventures
Fantasy Strategy Led by the Mad Mullahs, Revolutionary Guard Fools, Terror and Torture Masters in Iran

1) Spending over 20 billion dollars of Iranian People’s money for nuclear adventures while high percentage of Iranian people under poverty line without getting permission from Iranian people.
2) NUKE PLANTS IN A QUAKE ZONE- Building nuclear power stations, especially when designed by Russians and Chinese firms that are subject to no international scrutiny, on the world's most active earthquake zone might not be the best of ideas either for Iran or its neighbors. http://activistchat.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?p=27980#27980
3) Lying to International community regarding Regime nuclear adventures.
4) Due to the fact that Iran has vast reserve of natural Gas for over 200 years and creating electric power from natural Gas is at least 20 times cheaper for Iran than Nuclear Power and it is one of the safest way to generate electricity therefore Iran does not need any nuclear power plant.
5) Islamofascist Mad Mullahs and Revolutionary Guards Fools Wasted 20 Billion Dollars For Childish Nuclear Adventures Fantasy and Planning For Another Crisis to Survive ...... Creating another disaster for Iran

Animation of Nuclear Bunker Buster: Destructive impact on civilian population in Iran and beyond
Date: Sat, 15 Apr 2006 13:53:12 -0700


Conclusion and Freedom-loving Iranian People Demands For Support from International Community:

We have come to the conclusion that the only way to deal with this unelected and undemocratic regime is to deal with it strongly and with a comprehensive set of measures. The measures that we recommend and strongly advocate are as follows:

* Stop, with immediate effect, all international trades with the undemocratic Islamic “Republic” of Iran.
*Stop the purchase of oil from Iran and refrain from signing any new contracts and renewal of any existing ones.
* Blockade Iran’s ports in the Persian Gulf and possibly the Caspian Sea allowing passage of food and medicine.
*Stop all IRI satellite TV and Radio programming to the outside world.
* Cease all Mullahs personal assets outside Iran
* Freeze IRI assets outside of Iran and impose prohibition on investment, a travel ban, and asset freezes for government leaders and nuclear scientists.
* Worldwide announcement to all nations that any deals and contracts made with IRI (Islamic Republic of Iran) by any entity is null and void. The IRI does not represent Iranians.
* Publicly identify known IRI agents, arrest and prosecute their agents abroad as promoters of international terrorism and abusers of human rights. Shut down all illegal unregistered agent organizations representing IRI interests, their lobbyist and apologists.
* Close or limit Islamic Republic’s embassies and its activities including travel limits on Iranian diplomats.
* Release the frozen assets of Iran to the IRI opposition to be spent on strike funds and promotion of democracy.
* Expel IRI representatives from UN since the IRI constitution is contrary to the UDHR (Universal Declarations of Human Rights).
* Support Freedom-loving Iranian People for regime change NOW.


cyrus wrote:
Petition to FREE IRAN
Please sign and pass it on


Petition 17: Free Iran and Regime Change
Sign the Petition -
View Current Signatures


cyrus wrote:

ActivistChat 2006 Guideline Framework

1. The "War on Terror" is UNWINNABLE and the world peace can not be achieved as long as the Unelected Islamists Terror and Torture Masters are in power in Iran. The terror state and fear society can not create peace and stability.

2. Iranian people can decide about Nuclear Energy, Nuclear Research and Atomic Bomb after the regime change when they have established stable secular democracy and FREE society until then Iran should avoid any kind of Nuclear research program, resulting to acquire Atomic Bomb, under Islamist regime control.

3. Territorial integrity and national sovereignty of Iran.

4. Complete separation of religion from the State.

5. Acceptance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

6. Free, open and democratic referendum to elect the type of the new Government of Iran in the post-IRI era.

7. Minimum standard of living for all citizens of Iran and equal opportunity for all citizens to benefit from country's national wealth.

8. To avoid nuclear war, our message to Iranian people inside Iran: General Strike Now, our message to Security Forces (Police, Pasdaran and Military) must act now for regime change and replacing it with Free society and Secular Democracy. The Iranian people have already spoken by boycotting Elections. The Armed forces must choose between defending and serving the people or serving Mullahs. This is up to armed and security forces to choose between SHAME and HONOR, serving Mullahs or their Sisters, Brothers, Fathers & Mothers who pay their salary.
To avoid war Iranian people of all ages do not have any choice other than be prepared to fight to free their homeland from Viruses of Iranian society whether the armed forces serve them or serve the enemy of freedom and free society. Iranian people should be prepared for final battle for freeing their homeland and must not forget that their FOREVER leader Cyrus the Great died in battlefield in 530 BC at the age of 60 and not in bed.

9. Work within high standard of code of ethics not to fight with other political groups or fellow FREE Iran Activists unless they are violating one of the key principles or moving against the concept of Free Society and secular democracy.

10. We are Free Iran Activists and Watch Group monitoring high government officials, Journalists , writers and scholars words and their actions based on the following direction from James Madison:
"If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men! over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions. "
The Federalist No. 51 (James Madison).

11. Support and promote people, groups and leadership who are making positive contributions for Human Rights, Regime Change in Iran, Free
Iran, Free Society and Secular democracy from Center, Right and Left.

We thank all compatriots and organizations who contributed for defining part of above Guideline Framework for Human Rights, Regime Change in Iran, Free Iran, Free Society and Secular Democracy .

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 13, 2006 1:55 pm    Post subject: IRAN'S NUKES: RUSSIA'S KEY Reply with quote



April 13, 2006 -- AS the diplomatic maneuvers to pressure Iran to rein in its nu clear ambitions continue, the message one hears in policy circles in most capitals is simple: The key is in Moscow.
Of all the powers involved in this showdown with the Islamic Republic, only Russia is in a position to tip the balance between a peaceful resolution or war.

Russia is building Iran's first and, so far, only nuclear power plant near Bushehr. It could slow or suspend the project pending a diplomatic resolution of the crisis. Such a move could strengthen the hands of those within the Tehran establishment that want a moratorium on uranium processing to prevent tension from further escalating.

And Russia has another card to play: It has proposed to set up a special-uranium enrichment project for Iran to cover the needs of the Bushehr plant for its full 37-year lifespan. (An agreement now in place has Russia providing the plant's fuel for its first 10 years.) To sweeten it for the Tehran leadership, the Russian proposal could be modified to have part of the enrichment process done in Iranian facilities and with the participation of Iranian scientists and technicians.

All that, however, may lead nowhere. Some analysts suspect that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may actually want a military conflict with the United States as the opening shot in his promised "Clash of Civilizations." He seems convinced that America, plagued by bitter internal dissension, lacks the stomach for a serious fight with the Islamic Republic and its radical allies throughout the Middle East. Thus he may want a clash over the nuclear issue, which many Iranians (thanks to the regime's Goebbelsian presentation) see as a matter of national pride.

But even then Russia could either prevent a clash or hasten it by vetoing or voting for a strong resolution in the U.N. Security Council. The Russian position there is crucial because China, which also has a veto, would not be prepared to isolate itself by siding with Iran if Russia sides with the United States. If Russia vetoes, so will China. If Russia doesn't veto, the most that China might do to please Iran is to abstain.

The Bush administration knows all this. That's why it's starting to build pressure on Russia ahead of this July's G-8 summit, which Russian President Vladimir Putin is to host. The American calculation is that Putin, having won the presidency of the G-8 for Russia for the first time, is unlikely to start his tenure by splitting the group to please the Iranian mullahs.

Yet Putin won't want to make an unambiguous choice between Tehran and Washington. Russia needs the Islamic Republic for a number of reasons - including as part of Moscow's strategy to counter U.S. influence in Central Asia, the Caspian basin and the Middle East.(Tehran and Moscow have been working closely in Afghanistan for more than a decade; they're now developing a joint strategy in anticipation of U.S. withdrawal once President Bush leaves office.)

Moscow also needs Tehran to prevent the United States from imposing its proposed model for the exploitation of the Caspian Sea's immense oil and gas resources.And, having lost all of its Soviet-era Arab friends and clients, Moscow also needs Tehran as a bridgehead to the Middle East, the Gulf and the Indian Ocean.

The current analysis in Moscow is that, once Bush is gone, Iran will emerge as the dominant power in Iraq and would need Russia as a strategic partner in developing such major oilfields as Majnun which sit astride the Irano-Iraqi frontier.

The United States is not the only strategic rival that Russia has identified. Also looming large on the horizon is China which, Putin's recent visit to Beijing notwithstanding, many Moscow analysts see as a potential threat to Russian interests in Asia and the Middle East. A Sino-Iranian axis could isolate Russia in Western Asia and the Middle East and even shut it out of chunks of Central Asia.

Add to all that Russia's immense economic interest in the Islamic Republic. Iran is now the biggest market for Russian arms, including aircraft and submarines. The loss of the Iranian orders might force entire lines of Russian weapons industries to close down.

The two neighbors have also signed trade contracts worth $80 billion over the next decade. And Russia hopes to build most of the seven nuclear power plants that the Islamic Republic wants to set up in the next 10 years. More than 30,000 Russian technicians, both military and civilian, now work in Iran.

There is one more, and (according to Russian analysts) perhaps more important, factor: Putin can never be sure that, come the crunch, Washington will not strike a deal with Tehran, leaving Moscow in the lurch.

Iranian author Amir Taheri is a member of Benador Associates

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 13, 2006 6:26 pm    Post subject: UN should consider binding resolution on Iran: Rice Reply with quote

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, seen here 12 April 2006, said the United Nations must take action against Iran's nuclear programme and highlighted part of the UN charter that allows sanctions to escalate into military action.(AFP/File/Paul J. Richards )

UN should consider binding resolution on Iran: Rice

Thu Apr 13, 3:34 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United Nations should consider adopting a resolution against Iran's nuclear programme under chapter seven of the UN charter, which could allow military action.

Chapter seven sets out specific actions that can be taken when there is a threat to international peace or an act of aggression.

"When the Security Council reconvenes, there will have to be some consequence for that action and that defiance and we will look at the full range of options available," Rice said, referring to Iran's uranium enrichment activities in defiance of a previous non-binding UN Security Council resolution.

Several resolutions adopted by the United Nations Security Council against Iraq, before the March 2003 US-led invasion, were taken under chapter seven of the charter.

Rice told reporters the Security Council, unlike the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), had the authority to order a government to comply with its orders.

"One thing the Security Council has and the IAEA does not have is the ability to compel through chapter seven resolutions member states of the UN to obey the will of the international system," Rice said.

Rice Urges Iran's Nuclear Compliance

By ANNE GEARAN, AP Diplomatic Writer


WASHINGTON - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday that Iran will have no choice but to comply with worldwide insistence that it back off its disputed nuclear activities.

Rice indicated the next step against Iran will be a resolution at the United Nations Security Council seeking punitive or coercive sanctions to stop what the United States says is a covert drive to acquire nuclear weapons.

"When the Security Council reconvenes, there will have to be some consequence for that action and that defiance," Rice said after a meeting with Canada's new foreign minister, Peter MacKay. "And we will look at the full range of options available to the Security Council."

Rice referred to the Security Council's power to "compel ... member states of the U.N. to obey the will of the international system."

"I'm certain that we'll look at measures that could be taken to ensure that Iran knows that they really have no choice but to comply," Rice said.

Iran denies it intends to build weapons, and has refused to give up what it calls a legitimate program to develop nuclear power for electricity.

In Tehran, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran will make no concessions in talks this week with the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, who is visiting the Iranian capital to try to defuse Iran's standoff with the West.

"We won't hold talks with anyone about the right of the Iranian nation" to enrich uranium, as Iran announced this week it has done, Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying Thursday by the official Islamic Republic News Agency. "No one has the right to retreat, even one iota," he said.

Iran says it is enriching uranium to a low degree to be used as fuel for generating power in a reactor. Higher-level enrichment makes uranium suitable for a nuclear bomb, but Western experts familiar with Iran's program say the country is far from producing weapons-grade uranium.

"Our answer to those who are angry about Iran achieving the full nuclear fuel cycle is just one phrase: We say, 'Be angry at us and die of this anger,'" Ahmadinejad said.

The Security Council has given Iran until April 28 to cease uranium enrichment activities, a deadline Rice mentioned Thursday.

"We are still in a diplomatic phase, but we have set the end of the month essentially for Iran to respond," Rice said. "At that point, the Security Council has got to take this back up."

Russia and China, permanent members of the Security Council that hold veto power, have said they oppose sanctions, but U.S. officials say it is too soon to tell how the U.N. body might act.

MacKay, Canada's foreign minister, said his country would support sanctions if a graduated campaign of international pressure on Iran did not work.

"They appear to be consistently crossing the line step by step and becoming less and less communicative," MacKay said at the State Department.

At the White House, spokesman Scott McClellan was asked about the prospects for a "peaceful resolution," given Iran's stance and its latest announcement on uranium.

"Well, you can understand why we are skeptical, given the regime's history," McClellan replied. "This is a regime that has a history of hiding their nuclear activities from the international community and not abiding by their international obligations."

Earlier Thursday, several top U.S. intelligence officials said Iran remains years away from obtaining the materials and technology necessary for a nuclear weapon despite its claims of progress announced this week.
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 14, 2006 10:44 am    Post subject: Nuclear Hostage Crisis Reply with quote

Nuclear Hostage Crisis

April 14, 2006
The Wall Street Journal
Michael Rubin

On April 11, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced, "Iran has joined the club of nuclear countries." State television broadcast the audience chanting "God is great." The presence of senior military commanders underlined the nature of the program, which the regime vowed to continue. Mohammad Saeedi, deputy chairman of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, told state-run television that the Islamic Republic would begin uranium enrichment on an industrial scale but Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi suggested a new status quo. "The West can do nothing and is obliged to extend to us the hand of friendship," he said.

Some diplomats are inclined to take the bait. Kofi Annan urged "everyone to work more actively in search of a diplomatic solution." Earlier this month, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier urged the U.S. to engage Iran directly. On April 11, Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass said that if he were still the State Department's policy planning director, a position he held between 2001 and 2003, he "would put together a diplomatic package." International Atomic Energy Agency director-general Mohamed ElBaradei continues to push the idea. The idea of a Grand Bargain -- diplomatic recognition, security guarantees, and economic incentives in exchange for Iranian forfeiture of its nuclear autonomy -- has had long resonance in the foreign policy debate, even though a similar strategy failed to halt North Korea's program.

Proposals for direct negotiations may be attractive, but they ignore Iranian history. Implicit in any deal is recognition of a system of government which, according to recent surveys, enjoys at most 20% popular support. The Islamic Republic's greatest fear is demography; 70% of Iranians came of age after the Islamic Revolution. They are proud and nationalistic, yet outward looking. They represent Iran's future and have no love for their leadership. The White House should not squander their goodwill. In 1953 and 1979, Washington supported an unpopular regime against the will of the Iranian people; any deal which would preserve the regime would be to make the same mistake again.

When it comes to the Islamic Republic, diplomatic outreach aggravates rather than ameliorates tension. Some realists argue that Washington should appeal to Iranian pragmatists. A 2004 Council on Foreign Relations task force labeled Expediency Council chairman and former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani one such pragmatist, but he is the father of the Islamic Republic's covert nuclear program; his pragmatism extends only to questions of personal -- not uranium -- enrichment.

Factionalism matters. But history suggests that rather than provide space for diplomacy, Iran's factional struggles aggravate it. However well-meaning, Western outreach empowers hard-liners and undercuts U.S. interests.

On April 1, 1979, when Ayatollah Khomeini declared the Islamic Republic, mutual antipathy was not assured. On Nov. 1, 1979, U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski and Iran's Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan met in Algiers to discuss resumption of relations. In order to scuttle rapprochement and embarrass moderates, hard-line students seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran, holding 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. Khomeini used the subsequent crisis to consolidate hard-liner control.

Seven years later, a misguided U.S. attempt to engage Iran sparked the worst Washington scandal since Watergate. In March 1986, U.S. National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane traveled secretly to Tehran to spearhead rapprochement as part of a scheme to divert proceeds from arms sales to the Nicaraguan resistance. Within days, pamphlets appeared on Tehran University bulletin boards condemning "the visit of an American official." On Nov. 3, 1986, Ash Shiraa, a pro-Syrian Lebanese magazine, detailed the secret contacts. While the scandal paralyzed Ronald Reagan's second term, the leaks originated not in Washington but in Tehran. The betrayal of Reagan's confidence had nothing to do with the U.S., but rather with an internal Iranian power struggle.

The Clinton administration took its own misstep toward reconciliation when, on Sept. 15, 2000, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright arranged to meet alone with her Iranian counterpart on the sidelines of a U.N. Afghanistan conference. Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi stood her up. Slights also matter. What Washington shrugged off as a minor embarrassment projected U.S. weakness to the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's inner circle.

Nor has engagement only backfired with Washington. Berlin spearheaded engagement with Tehran in 1992, but suspended it five years later after a German court found top Iranian officials, including Messrs. Khamenei and Rafsanjani, complicit in ordering the murder of dissidents in Berlin. But Brussels renewed engagement with vigor two years later after Iranian President Muhammad Khatami called for a "Dialogue of Civilizations." Between 2000 and 2005, European Union trade with Iran almost tripled. The regime invested the hard currency not in civil society but in its weapons program. Speaking softly while wielding a big carrot backfires.

It is comforting but dangerous and naive to believe a magic formula of incentives and guarantees can defuse the Iranian nuclear crisis. The cost of diplomacy alone is high. The Islamic Republic did not construct its centrifuge cascade overnight. Mr. Ahmadinejad may want glory, but the credit for Iran's nuclear enrichment lies with his reformist and pragmatist predecessors. That Iran is now enriching uranium is a testament to years of diplomatic insincerity.

There is little to negotiate. Either Iran agrees to open its sites -- both declared and undeclared -- to unfettered inspection, or it does not. Either Tehran details its dealings with Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, or it does not. While the National Intelligence Estimate says Iran is five to 10 years away from building a bomb, this assumption rests on an entirely domestic program. If Iran purchases weapons-grade material from outside suppliers, all bets are off. North Korea, partner in Washington's last Grand Bargain, would be happy to sell.

The cost of any military strike on Iran would be high, although not as high as the cost of the Islamic Republic gaining nuclear weapons. The Bush administration is paying the price for more than five years without a cogent, coordinated Iran policy. Each passing day limits policy options. Engaging the regime will preserve the problem, not eliminate it. Only when the regime is accountable to the Iranian people can there be a peaceful solution. To do this requires targeted sanctions -- freezing assets and travel bans -- on regimes officials, coupled with augmented and expedited investment in independent rather than government-licensed civil society, labor unions and media. It may be too late, but it would be irresponsible not to try.

Mr. Rubin, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is co-author, with Patrick Clawson, of "Eternal Iran: Continuity and Chaos" (Palgrave, 2005).
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