WASHINGTON, April 10: President George Bush on Monday dismissed as ‘wild speculation’ reports that the United States was considering nuclear strikes against Iran to force it to abandon its uranium enrichment programme.
Addressing the issue during comments at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, Mr Bush emphasised that his administration was trying to resolve concerns over Iran through diplomacy.
“The doctrine of prevention is to work together with other nations to prevent the Iranians from having a nuclear weapon,” he said. “We hear in Washington, you know, ‘prevention means force’. It doesn’t mean force necessarily. In this case, it means diplomacy.” Several US media reports published at the weekend said the administration was studying options for military strikes. The New Yorker magazine raised the possibility of using nuclear bombs against Iran’s underground nuclear sites. On Sunday, The Washington Post reported that the administration ‘is studying options for military strikes against Iran as part of a broader strategy of coercive diplomacy’.
Referring to these articles, Mr Bush said: “I read the articles in the newspapers this weekend. It was just wild speculation, by the way. What you’re reading is wild speculation. Which is, kind of a — you know, happens quite frequently here in the nation’s capital.”
STRAW: British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, in an interview to the British Broadcasting Corporation, called the idea of a nuclear strike ‘completely nuts’. Mr 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 US.
On Monday, White House spokesman Scott McClellan used the same term as President Bush to describe the New Yorker article, but said the Pentagon is conducting ‘normal military contingency planning’ to deal with Iran.
Earlier, a senior Bush aide, Dan Bartlett, also had indicated that the administration was conducting defence and intelligence planning for such an attack.
“Those who are drawing broad, definitive conclusions based on normal defence and intelligence planning are ill-informed and are not knowledgeable of the administration’s thinking on Iran,” he said.
Meanwhile, Republican Congressman Dan Burton, a senior member of the House International Relations Committee, warned that a military response was still possible.
In an interview to VOA radio he urged the international community to convince Iran to move away from a nuclear program. “If they don’t then I think we will have to take stronger measures. We cannot allow Iran to be a military nuclear power in my opinion,” he said.
But senior Middle East analysts, who spoke with various media outlets, said the war-talk aimed at persuading Iran to give up its nuclear program and that the war will be averted.
Joseph Cirincione, a Middle East expert, agreed. In an article in The prestigious Foreign Policy journal he wrote that no senior civilian or military official he spoke to was ‘seriously considering a military attack on Iran’.
WARNINGS: Several commentaries, published since the New Yorker reported the possibility of a nuclear attack, warned that Tehran has enough military capability to create problems for the US if war breaks out.
They warned that Iran’s ability to react, especially in terms of asymmetric warfare undertaken at a distance, is likely to be far more potent than that of Iraq. Some experts said that Iran may extend its reprisal attacks beyond the Middle East, if Washington launched air strikes on Tehran’s nuclear sites.