White House denies Iran story

Press secretary Dana Perino says a Jerusalem Post report that President Bush wants to attack Iran before he leaves office is not true.

By Alex Koppelman
May 20, 2008 10:49PM (UTC)
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The White House has responded to the Jerusalem Post story alleging that President Bush and Vice President Cheney want to attack Iran before they leave office. It is denying the report.

In a statement, White House press secretary Dana Perino said, "An article in today's Jerusalem Post about the president's position on Iran that quotes unnamed sources -- quoting unnamed sources -- is not worth the paper it's written on ... Our preference and our actions for dealing with this matter remain through peaceful diplomatic means. Nothing has changed in that regard."


Update: As a reader noted in an e-mail to me, and despite the AP's characterization that I was working off of, Perino's statement isn't a denial as much as it is a deflection. And in a press conference after her statement, reporters tried to pin Perino down on a denial, but she continually tried to dodge. Here's part of the exchange:

QUESTION: Dana, it doesn't -- you don't deny the premise of the Post article, the Jerusalem Post article, which was that the senior U.S. official said that the president and vice president were of the opinion that military action is called for in Iran.

PERINO: I have no knowledge of anybody saying that to anybody in Israel. No...

QUESTION: ... before you go to another one, what about the substance of it, though? Do the president and the vice president feel that an attack is called for, whether someone said that in Israel or not?

PERINO: I feel that I just answered that question when I talked about what our policy is.

QUESTION: Can you answer yes or no to that?

PERINO: I just told you -- said what our policy is and that our preference is to solve this diplomatically. And that's what we're trying to do.

QUESTION: But that doesn't answer the question.

PERINO: It does answer the question, that that is what we are working with our allies to do...

QUESTION: But do the president and the vice president think an attack is called for on Iran, yes or no?

PERINO: I just said what the United States policy was, which is our preference is try to solve this diplomatically.

QUESTION: Look, skepticism seems warranted here, because in the run-up to the war in 2003 the line was officially that, you know, negotiations were still called for and that there was no decision to attack, when, in fact, subsequent reporting has shown that there probably was a decision to attack well before the attack took place.

So why shouldn't we be skeptical of the claim that, you know, there's no intention to bomb Iran?

PERINO: You can be as skeptical as you want to be. I stated what our policy is, and I don't have anything else that I can give you. I'm not going to be able to -- if you're going to be a skeptic, that's your right. You're the fourth estate. Go for it.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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