May 20, 2008

U.S. Sending Conflicting Signals On Iran: Why?

By Joel Rosenberg

Is the Bush administration planning a military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities before the end of the President's second term?

Israeli Army Radio has a sources that says yes. The White House says no. But the administration does seem to be sending mixed signals. Why? Is it part of a strategy -- or evidence of internal division over how to truly stop the Iranian nuclear threat, not simply talk tough?...."The White House on Tuesday flatly denied an Army Radio report that claimed US President George W. Bush intends to attack Iran before the end of his term," reports the Jerusalem Post. "It said that while the military option had not been taken off the table, the administration preferred to resolve concerns about Iran's push for a nuclear weapon 'through peaceful diplomatic means."

Army Radio had quoted a top official in Jerusalem claiming that a senior member in the entourage of President Bush, who visited Israel last week, had said in a closed meeting here that Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were of the opinion that military action against Iran was called for. The official reportedly went on to say that, for the time being, 'the hesitancy of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice' was preventing the administration from deciding to launch such an attack on the Islamic Republic.

The Army Radio report, which was quoted by The Jerusalem Post and resonated widely, stated that according to assessments in Israel, the recent turmoil in Lebanon, where Hizbullah has established de facto control of the country, was advancing an American attack. Bush, the official reportedly said, considered Hizbullah's show of strength evidence of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's growing influence. In Bush's view, the official said, 'the disease must be treated -- not its symptoms."

However, the White House on Tuesday afternoon dismissed the story. In a statement, it said that '[the US] remain[s] opposed to Iran's ambitions to obtain a nuclear weapon. To that end, we are working to bring tough diplomatic and economic pressure on the Iranians to get them to change their behavior and to halt their uranium enrichment program....As the president has said, no president of the United States should ever take options off the table, but our preference and our actions for dealing with this matter remain through peaceful diplomatic means. Nothing has changed in that regard."

In an interview last week in the Oval Office, Bush told the Post that 'Iran is an incredibly negative influence' and 'the biggest long-term threat to peace in the Middle East....Iran is involved in funding Hamas and Hizbullah, and it's that Iranian influence which I'm deeply concerned about. But there needs to be more than just the United States concerned about it."

...That said, consider these other relevant headlines:

* "Top U.S. military officer says Iran jeopardizing peace in Iraq"
* Gates rebuffs calls for diplomacy with Iran
* Report: Iran's nuclear program feeding proliferation -- 13 Mideast nations now pursuing nuclear technology
* McCain, Obama trade fire over Iran