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Is the U.S. about to attack Iran?

ASK THIS | April 06, 2006

An expert says administration posturing is very reminiscent of the coordinated campaign before the Iraq war. But proponents of attacking Iran haven’t come close to making their case – and there are many questions they need to answer.

By Dan Froomkin

Q. How close is Iran really to making nuclear weapons?

Q. Is there any indication of an imminent threat?

Q. Is there any reason not to declassify the August 2005 national intelligence estimate on Iran, which, according to The Washington Post, says Iran is a decade away from making a nuclear bomb?

Q. What is the evidence to support the administration’s contention that Iran is the main state sponsor of terrorism in the world?

Q. What is the evidence to support Bush’s attempt to link Iran to the Iraqi insurgency and the improvised explosive devices used to kill and maim U.S. troops there?

Q. Wouldn’t a military strike be more likely to strengthen the hold of the Islamic government in Iran, rather than weaken it?

Q. Wouldn’t it further inflame anti-American anger around the Muslim world, and further jeopardize the already fragile U.S. position in Iraq?

Q. Would it even succeed in delaying the Iranian nuclear program?

Q. Is Saudi Arabia’s fear of Iran’s becoming a nuclear power a factor in U.S. decision-making?

Joseph Cirincione, director of the Non-Proliferation Center at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, writes in Foreign Policy magazine (registration required) that he used to think that the Bush administration wasn’t seriously considering a military strike on Iran. But now he thinks some U.S. officials have already decided they want to hit Iran hard.

“Three years after senior administration officials systematically misled the nation into a disastrous war, they could well be trying to do it again,” he writes.

“[A] military strike would be disastrous for the United States. It would rally the Iranian public around an otherwise unpopular regime, inflame anti-American anger around the Muslim world, and jeopardize the already fragile U.S. position in Iraq. And it would accelerate, not delay, the Iranian nuclear program. Hard-liners in Tehran would be proven right in their claim that the only thing that can deter the United States is a nuclear bomb. Iranian leaders could respond with a crash nuclear program that could produce a bomb in a few years.…

“The unfolding administration strategy appears to be an effort to repeat its successful campaign for the Iraq war. It is now trying to link Iran to the 9/11 attacks by repeatedly claiming that Iran is the main state sponsor of terrorism in the world (though this suggestion is highly questionable).”

In an interview with former New York Times foreign editor Bernard Gwertzman, on the Council on Foreign Relations Web site, Cirincione says: “I previously dismissed talk about U.S. military strikes as left-wing conspiracy theory and the kind of stuff that bloggers are chattering about on the Internet. But in just the past few weeks I've been convinced that at least some in the administration have already made up their minds that they would like to launch a military strike against Iran… I've also been convinced by some of the reports in the papers about discussions with the Israelis, for example, or even articles in the British press of leaked documents that indicate that the British believe that a military strike against Iran is inevitable….

“The Iranian threat is a serious one but it is not an imminent one. Iran does not have a nuclear weapon; it is not going to get a nuclear weapon this year or even this decade. The Iranians are at least ten years away from the ability to enrich uranium either for fuel rods or a nuclear weapon.” [Click here for a bio of Joseph Cirincione.]

Elsewhere on the Council on Foreign Relations Web site, Gwertzman also interviews Flynt L. Leverett, who served in senior posts at the National Security Agency, the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency.

Says Leverett: “We got into this dilemma because we essentially don’t have a strategy for dealing with the Iranian nuclear issue. By ‘we’ I mean the United States and the Bush administration. The Bush administration has deliberately ruled out direct negotiations with Iran either over the nuclear issue or over the broad range of strategic issues that you would need to talk to Iran about if you were going to get a real diplomatic settlement on the nuclear issue.

“The administration has, literally for years, ruled out that kind of strategic dialogue with Iran. In the absence of that sort of approach, that sort of channel, the administration is left with two options, one of which is to try and get something done in the Security Council. [But] it has been foreseeable literally for months, if not for longer, that Russia and China at a minimum were not going to be prepared to support serious multilateral sanctions or other serious multilateral punitive measures on Iran….

“The other option that the administration would have is unilateral military action.”

Supposedly rational
Posted by Felicity Smith -
04/25/2006, 02:43 PM

politicians (is that an oxymoron) and half-way rational political commentators all say that Iran's possession of a nuclear weapon would be disastrous but nobody goes on to say why. Nowhere can I find a "why." I suppose the reasoning is that Iran would use it, but against whom? Are the Iranians really into suicide, because that's what it would amount to.

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