Sound familiar?


Mark Follman
November 20, 2004 1:05AM (UTC)

Steven Weisman, reporting in the New York Times today:

"Hawks in the administration and Congress are trumpeting ominous disclosures about Iran's nuclear capacities to make the case that Iran is a threat that must be confronted, either by economic sanctions, military action, or 'regime change.'

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"But Britain, France and Germany are urging diplomacy, placing their hopes in a deal they brokered last week in which Iran agreed to suspend its uranium enrichment program in return for discussions about future economic benefits.

"Secretary of State Colin L. Powell thrust himself into the debate on Wednesday by commenting to reporters that fresh intelligence showed that Iran was 'actively working' on a program to enable its missiles to carry nuclear bombs, a development he said 'should be of concern to all parties.' The disclosures alluded to by Mr. Powell were seen by hard-liners in the administration as another sign of Iranian perfidy, and by Europeans as little new."

While Iran's burgeoning nuclear program is clearly an urgent issue in an already roiling Middle East, numerous policy and security experts have long agreed that military action against Tehran's uncooperative mullahs is a dubious option. And one veteran Washington watcher says he sees no such move on the near horizon.

But in 2002, hardly anybody imagined a U.S. invasion of Baghdad, either.

Adds the Times report: "Officially, administration officials say that a military option like the one employed by Israel in 1981 against Iraq, when it bombed a reactor near Baghdad, is unrealistic because the Iranians have buried their most important nuclear facilities and can rebuild anything that is destroyed.

"But an administration official said that a military strike or sabotage was not out of the question -- 'you never take the military option off the table,' he said -- and that in any case it was 'money in the bank' for Iran to be concerned about such an option, because it might be goaded into a more conciliatory approach to the United States."

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Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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