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Sunday, February 06, 2005

War with Iran?

The President talked tough about Iran in the 2005 State of the Union address.
Today, Iran remains the world's primary state sponsor of terror -- pursuing nuclear weapons while depriving its people of the freedom they seek and deserve. We are working with European allies to make clear to the Iranian regime that it must give up its uranium enrichment program and any plutonium reprocessing, and end its support for terror.
Does that have a familiar ring?

On January 20, the day before the President's inaugural address, Vice President Dick Cheney was on Don Imus's radio program:
IMUS: Back to not Iraq, but Seymour Hersh, in the current issue of The New Yorker, suggesting that you all are up to something in Iran, and I guess my question is—I don’t understand that much about it, but my question is, are we trying to determine what they have? And if we find out that they have a nuclear program, then what?

R. CHENEY: Well, we are, I’d say, very concerned about Iran, because for two reasons, again, one, they do have a program. We believe they have a fairly robust new nuclear program. That’s been developed by, or being pursued I guess would be the best way to put it, by members of the E.U.—the Brits, the Germans and the French—have been negotiating with the Iranians to get them to allow greater transparency in their program so the outside world can be confident they’re not building weapons, that it’s for peaceful purposes.

The other problem we have, of course, is that Iran is a noted sponsor of terror. They’ve been the prime backers of the Hezbollah over the years, and they have, in fact, been—used terror in various incendiary ways to kill Americans and a lot of other folks around the globe, too, and that combination is of great concern.

We’ll continue to try to address those issues diplomatically, continue to work with the Europeans. At some point, if the Iranians don’t live up to their commitments, the next step will be to take it to the U.N. Security Council, and seek the imposition of international sanctions to force them to live up to the commitments and obligations they’ve signed up to under the non-proliferation treaty, and it’s—but it is a—you know, you look around the world at potential trouble spots, Iran is right at the top of the list.

...We don’t want a war in the Middle East, if we can avoid it. And certainly in the case of the Iranian situation, I think everybody would be best suited by or best treated and dealt with if we could deal with it diplomatically.
So, is the US gearing up for war, or not?

Saturday's Washington Post provided this news from Condi Rice's road trip:
In London, Rice met with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and at a subsequent joint news conference with the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, she was pressed on whether there were any circumstances in which the United States would take military action against Iran. She replied, "The question is simply not on the agenda at this point in time." She said no American president was ever asked to take options off the table, but noted that there were "plenty of diplomatic means at our disposal to get the Iranians to finally live up to their international obligations."

...In an attempt to defuse the debate, Rice emphasized Friday the "complete unity of purpose" between the United States and the European governments on Iran, Iraq and the Arab-Israeli conflict.
More from Rice on this topic:
Rice flew Friday from London to Berlin, where she met with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and again stressed common goals. "The Iranians need to be in compliance with their international obligations, and we have very good cooperation and discussions with . . . European colleagues on a solid message to the Iranians that that is a necessity," she told reporters at a joint news conference with Schroeder.
Do you feel better?

One interesting related story. The Senate Intelligence Committee plans to investigate the quality of the Iran intelligence before it is used to sell a war. I found the story in the Chicago Tribune:
The Senate Intelligence Committee has launched what its chairman called a "pre-emptive" examination of U.S. intelligence on Iran as part of an effort to avoid the problems that plagued America's prewar assessments on Iraq.

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said he had sought the unusual review because the erroneous prewar claims about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction had made lawmakers wary of the CIA's current assessments on Iran....

A recent CIA report concludes that Tehran is vigorously pursuing programs to produce nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

The aim of the Senate review, Roberts said Friday, is to ensure that any weaknesses in American intelligence on Iran are being disclosed to policymakers and that U.S. spy agencies have adequate resources to fill gaps in collecting information on the Islamic republic.
Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller supports the move.
"One of the lessons we learned from Iraq was not to take all information at face value and to ask more questions in the beginning than in the end."
As the story notes, in the LAST paragraph, the US has few good sources of information in Iran.

The IAEA, of course, is conducting on-site inspections.
ELBARADEI: It depends how you define soft. The results in Iran are something I am quite proud of. Eighteen months ago, Iran was a black box - we didn´t know much about what was happening. Now, we have a fairly good picture of what is happening. We understand how complex and extensive that program is. Through our tenacity, Iran´s facilities that could produce fissile material are frozen. And we are still going everywhere we think we need to go to be sure there are no undeclared activities in Iran. Between our tenacious verification and the diplomatic process, I hope we will be able to get a package solution in Iran...

Iran has clearly cheated in the past - that is something we reported. Corrective action was taken. Now, they say they are embarking on a new path of cooperation and since then they are cooperating. If they are still cheating, we haven´t seen any evidence of that... When they cheated, we said so. When they are cooperating, we say so. We have been supervising their suspension of fuel cycle activities. Recently, we got access to a partial military site.
El Baradei called for the US to join the dialogue -- something Rice explicitly rejected on her European trip -- and said that military threats are "unhelpful." The world must continue to engage Iran in a dialogue, he says, and to try to address their motives for proliferating.

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