Straw and Bush respond to Iran situation

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary Jack Straw dismissed the nuclear 'first-strike' plan reported in the New Yorker magazine on Saturday.

According to the New Yorker story, written by Seymour M. Hersh, American military and intelligence officials were making plans for a massive nuclear strike on Iran in order to stop the country developing nuclear weapons. The story also said that US special forces were already operating in Iran gathering target information.

The Iranian government insists that its nuclear development program is purely for meeting civilian energy needs, but several intelligence agencies around the world believe that Iran's true goal is to develop nuclear weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency has said that it has not seen indications of diversion of nuclear material to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices after several years of intensive inspections in Iran, but has also expressed uncertainty about the nature of Iran's nuclear program and called for confidence building measures from Iran.

A former US intelligence official claimed that Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is referred to as "the new Adolf Hitler" within the White House. Some military officials believe that Bush wants a "regime change" in Iran. President Ahmadinejad has previously disputed the existence of the Holocaust and at a conference discussing Zionism, he described Ayatollah Khomeini's statement that Israel as an occupying force in Palestine should be "wiped off the map" as "a wise statement".

An anonymous Pentagon official said "This White House believes that the only way to solve the problem is to change the power structure in Iran, and that means war. It also reinforces the belief inside Iran that the only way to defend the country is to have a nuclear capability."

US aircraft flying from carriers in the Arabian Sea have been flying practice nuclear weapon missions within range of Iranian radar, widely seen as an effort to intimidate Iran.

In the last few years Iran has been constructing a series of underground facilities to support its work. Colonel Sam Gardiner, a military analyst, says there are over 400 targets in Iran that would need to be destroyed to end Iran's nuclear program. In one option of a plan reportedly presented to the White House by the Pentagon this winter, "bunker-busting" mini-nuclear weapons would be used to penetrate the deepest-buried facilities, some of which are 75 feet below the surface.

An insider claimed that the Joint Chiefs of Staff tried to remove the nuclear option from the plan, citing problems of huge casualties and radioactive contamination, but the White House retained it. Another source claimed that while nuclear weapons were seeing more interest amongst civilian staff and within "policy circles", military officers remained very much opposed to their potential use, with some high-level officers threatening resignation.

The insider said "if senior Pentagon officers express their opposition to the use of offensive nuclear weapons, then it will never happen".

When asked about the veracity of the claims made in the New Yorker article, the White House said "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". The C.I.A. said that there were "inaccuracies" in the account.

Since then, Bush has described the plan as "wild speculation", without denying it, in a speech delivered at Johns Hopkins University in Washington DC.

"The doctrine of prevention is to work together to prevent the Iranians from having a nuclear weapon," he said. "I know here in Washington prevention means force. It doesn't mean force necessarily. In this case it means diplomacy. What you are reading is just wild speculation which happens quite frequently here in the nation's capital."

Jack Straw said "the idea of a nuclear strike on Iran is completely nuts." Speaking on a BBC television show, Straw said "I have made clear the British Government's position on this time and time again which is widely shared across Europe."

"The American administration, Condoleezza Rice, [and] President Bush use slightly different language. They say that it is not on the agenda. They are very committed indeed to resolving this issue - it is a complicated issue - by negotiation and, yes, by diplomatic pressure. "

Straw stated that the UK would not launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran, going on to say that he was as "certain as he could be" that neither would the US.


  Learn more about Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations on Wikipedia.