U.S. Seeks to Dampen Talk of Iran Strike
Dan Bartlett, counselor to Bush, cautioned against reading too much into administration planning.
(AP) U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton, seen here in this file photo in Berlin from Jan. 13, said...
"The president's priority is to find a diplomatic solution to a problem the entire world recognizes," Bartlett told The Associated Press on Sunday. "And those who are drawing broad, definitive conclusions based on normal defense and intelligence planning, are ill-informed and are not knowledgeable of the administration's thinking on Iran."
Experts say a military strike on Iran would be risky and complicated. U.S. forces already are preoccupied with Iraq and Afghanistan, and an attack against Iran could inflame U.S. problems in the Muslim world.
The U.N. Security Council has demanded Iran suspend its uranium enrichment program. But Iran has so far refused to halt its nuclear activity, saying the small-scale enrichment project was strictly for research and not for development of nuclear weapons.
Bush has said Iran may pose the greatest challenge to the United States of any other country in the world. And while he has stressed that diplomacy is always preferable, he has defended his administration's strike-first policy against terrorists and other enemies.
"The threat from Iran is, of course, their stated objective to destroy our strong ally Israel," the president said last month in Cleveland. "That's a threat, a serious threat. It's a threat to world peace; it's a threat, in essence, to a strong alliance. I made it clear, I'll make it clear again, that we will use military might to protect our ally."
Vice President Dick Cheney told the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC last month, "The United States is keeping all options on the table in addressing the irresponsible conduct of the regime. And we join other nations in sending that regime a clear message: We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon."
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stressed in an April 1 interview with British television channel ITV that the United States is committed to diplomacy to solve the issue. "However," she added, "the president of the United States doesn't take his options off the table."
Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Mark Ballesteros said Sunday that the president and State Department are working with other nations "to address diplomatically the troublesome activities of the Iranian government. And the U.S. military never comments on contingency planning."
Stephen Cimbala, a Pennsylvania State University professor who studies U.S. foreign policy, said it would be no surprise that the Pentagon has contingency plans for strike on Iran. But he the administration's hint of military strikes is more of a show to Iran and the public than a feasible option.
"If you look at the military options, all of them are unattractive," Cimbala said. "Either because they weren't work or because they have side effects where the cure is worse than the disease."