Seymour Hersh: Bush actively planning to Nuke Iran
Source Brian McKenna
Date 06/04/14/14:26

Would President Bush go to war to stop Tehran from
getting the bomb?
Issue of 2006-04-17

The Bush Administration, while publicly advocating
diplomacy in order to stop Iran from pursuing a
nuclear weapon, has increased clandestine activities
inside Iran and intensified planning for a possible
major air attack. Current and former American military
and intelligence officials said that Air Force
planning groups are drawing up lists of targets, and
teams of American combat troops have been ordered into
Iran, under cover, to collect targeting data and to
establish contact with anti-government ethnic-minority
groups. The officials say that President Bush is
determined to deny the Iranian regime the opportunity
to begin a pilot program, planned for this spring, to
enrich uranium.

American and European intelligence agencies, and the
International Atomic Energy Agency (I.A.E.A.), agree
that Iran is intent on developing the capability to
produce nuclear weapons. But there are widely
differing estimates of how long that will take, and
whether diplomacy, sanctions, or military action is
the best way to prevent it. Iran insists that its
research is for peaceful use only, in keeping with the
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and that it will not
be delayed or deterred.

There is a growing conviction among members of the
United States military, and in the international
community, that President Bush’s ultimate goal in the
nuclear confrontation with Iran is regime change.
Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has challenged
the reality of the Holocaust and said that Israel must
be “wiped off the map.” Bush and others in the White
House view him as a potential Adolf Hitler, a former
senior intelligence official said. “That’s the name
they’re using. They say, ‘Will Iran get a strategic
weapon and threaten another world war?’ ”

A government consultant with close ties to the
civilian leadership in the Pentagon said that Bush was
“absolutely convinced that Iran is going to get the
bomb” if it is not stopped. He said that the President
believes that he must do “what no Democrat or
Republican, if elected in the future, would have the
courage to do,” and “that saving Iran is going to be
his legacy.”

One former defense official, who still deals with
sensitive issues for the Bush Administration, told me
that the military planning was premised on a belief
that “a sustained bombing campaign in Iran will
humiliate the religious leadership and lead the public
to rise up and overthrow the government.” He added, “I
was shocked when I heard it, and asked myself, ‘What
are they smoking?’ ”

The rationale for regime change was articulated in
early March by Patrick Clawson, an Iran expert who is
the deputy director for research at the Washington
Institute for Near East Policy and who has been a
supporter of President Bush. “So long as Iran has an
Islamic republic, it will have a nuclear-weapons
program, at least clandestinely,” Clawson told the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March 2nd. “The
key issue, therefore, is: How long will the present
Iranian regime last?”

When I spoke to Clawson, he emphasized that “this
Administration is putting a lot of effort into
diplomacy.” However, he added, Iran had no choice
other than to accede to America’s demands or face a
military attack. Clawson said that he fears that
Ahmadinejad “sees the West as wimps and thinks we will
eventually cave in. We have to be ready to deal with
Iran if the crisis escalates.” Clawson said that he
would prefer to rely on sabotage and other clandestine
activities, such as “industrial accidents.” But, he
said, it would be prudent to prepare for a wider war,
“given the way the Iranians are acting. This is not
like planning to invade Quebec.”

One military planner told me that White House
criticisms of Iran and the high tempo of planning and
clandestine activities amount to a campaign of
“coercion” aimed at Iran. “You have to be ready to go,
and we’ll see how they respond,” the officer said.
“You have to really show a threat in order to get
Ahmadinejad to back down.” He added, “People think
Bush has been focussed on Saddam Hussein since 9/11,”
but, “in my view, if you had to name one nation that
was his focus all the way along, it was Iran.” (In
response to detailed requests for comment, the White
House said that it would not comment on military
planning but added, “As the President has indicated,
we are pursuing a diplomatic solution”; the Defense
Department also said that Iran was being dealt with
through “diplomatic channels” but wouldn’t elaborate
on that; the C.I.A. said that there were
“inaccuracies” in this account but would not specify

“This is much more than a nuclear issue,” one
high-ranking diplomat told me in Vienna. “That’s just
a rallying point, and there is still time to fix it.
But the Administration believes it cannot be fixed
unless they control the hearts and minds of Iran. The
real issue is who is going to control the Middle East
and its oil in the next ten years.”

A senior Pentagon adviser on the war on terror
expressed a similar view. “This White House believes
that the only way to solve the problem is to change
the power structure in Iran, and that means war,” he
said. The danger, he said, was that “it also
reinforces the belief inside Iran that the only way to
defend the country is to have a nuclear capability.” A
military conflict that destabilized the region could
also increase the risk of terror: “Hezbollah comes
into play,” the adviser said, referring to the terror
group that is considered one of the world’s most
successful, and which is now a Lebanese political
party with strong ties to Iran. “And here comes Al

In recent weeks, the President has quietly initiated a
series of talks on plans for Iran with a few key
senators and members of Congress, including at least
one Democrat. A senior member of the House
Appropriations Committee, who did not take part in the
meetings but has discussed their content with his
colleagues, told me that there had been “no formal
briefings,” because “they’re reluctant to brief the
minority. They’re doing the Senate, somewhat

The House member said that no one in the meetings “is
really objecting” to the talk of war. “The people
they’re briefing are the same ones who led the charge
on Iraq. At most, questions are raised: How are you
going to hit all the sites at once? How are you going
to get deep enough?” (Iran is building facilities
underground.) “There’s no pressure from Congress” not
to take military action, the House member added. “The
only political pressure is from the guys who want to
do it.” Speaking of President Bush, the House member
said, “The most worrisome thing is that this guy has a
messianic vision.”

Some operations, apparently aimed in part at
intimidating Iran, are already under way. American
Naval tactical aircraft, operating from carriers in
the Arabian Sea, have been flying simulated
nuclear-weapons delivery missions—rapid ascending
maneuvers known as “over the shoulder” bombing—since
last summer, the former official said, within range of
Iranian coastal radars.

Last month, in a paper given at a conference on Middle
East security in Berlin, Colonel Sam Gardiner, a

military analyst who taught at the National War
College before retiring from the Air Force, in 1987,
provided an estimate of what would be needed to
destroy Iran’s nuclear program. Working from satellite
photographs of the known facilities, Gardiner
estimated that at least four hundred targets would
have to be hit. He added:

I don’t think a U.S. military planner would want to
stop there. Iran probably has two chemical-production
plants. We would hit those. We would want to hit the
medium-range ballistic missiles that have just
recently been moved closer to Iraq. There are fourteen
airfields with sheltered aircraft. . . . We’d want to
get rid of that threat. We would want to hit the
assets that could be used to threaten Gulf shipping.
That means targeting the cruise-missile sites and the
Iranian diesel submarines. . . . Some of the
facilities may be too difficult to target even with
penetrating weapons. The U.S. will have to use Special
Operations units.

One of the military’s initial option plans, as
presented to the White House by the Pentagon this
winter, calls for the use of a bunker-buster tactical
nuclear weapon, such as the B61-11, against
underground nuclear sites. One target is Iran’s main
centrifuge plant, at Natanz, nearly two hundred miles
south of Tehran. Natanz, which is no longer under
I.A.E.A. safeguards, reportedly has underground floor
space to hold fifty thousand centrifuges, and
laboratories and workspaces buried approximately
seventy-five feet beneath the surface. That number of
centrifuges could provide enough enriched uranium for
about twenty nuclear warheads a year. (Iran has
acknowledged that it initially kept the existence of
its enrichment program hidden from I.A.E.A.
inspectors, but claims that none of its current
activity is barred by the Non-Proliferation Treaty.)
The elimination of Natanz would be a major setback for
Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but the conventional weapons
in the American arsenal could not insure the
destruction of facilities under seventy-five feet of
earth and rock, especially if they are reinforced with

There is a Cold War precedent for targeting deep
underground bunkers with nuclear weapons. In the early
nineteen-eighties, the American intelligence community
watched as the Soviet government began digging a huge
underground complex outside Moscow. Analysts concluded
that the underground facility was designed for
“continuity of government”—for the political and
military leadership to survive a nuclear war. (There
are similar facilities, in Virginia and Pennsylvania,
for the American leadership.) The Soviet facility
still exists, and much of what the U.S. knows about it
remains classified. “The ‘tell’ ”—the giveaway—“was
the ventilator shafts, some of which were disguised,”
the former senior intelligence official told me. At
the time, he said, it was determined that “only nukes”
could destroy the bunker. He added that some American
intelligence analysts believe that the Russians helped
the Iranians design their underground facility. “We
see a similarity of design,” specifically in the
ventilator shafts, he said.

A former high-level Defense Department official told
me that, in his view, even limited bombing would allow
the U.S. to “go in there and do enough damage to slow
down the nuclear infrastructure—it’s feasible.” The
former defense official said, “The Iranians don’t have
friends, and we can tell them that, if necessary,
we’ll keep knocking back their infrastructure. The
United States should act like we’re ready to go.” He
added, “We don’t have to knock down all of their air
defenses. Our stealth bombers and standoff missiles
really work, and we can blow fixed things up. We can
do things on the ground, too, but it’s difficult and
very dangerous—put bad stuff in ventilator shafts and
put them to sleep.”

But those who are familiar with the Soviet bunker,
according to the former senior intelligence official,
“say ‘No way.’ You’ve got to know what’s underneath—to
know which ventilator feeds people, or diesel
generators, or which are false. And there’s a lot that
we don’t know.” The lack of reliable intelligence
leaves military planners, given the goal of totally
destroying the sites, little choice but to consider
the use of tactical nuclear weapons. “Every other
option, in the view of the nuclear weaponeers, would
leave a gap,” the former senior intelligence official
said. “ ‘Decisive’ is the key word of the Air Force’s
planning. It’s a tough decision. But we made it in

He went on, “Nuclear planners go through extensive
training and learn the technical details of damage and
fallout—we’re talking about mushroom clouds,
radiation, mass casualties, and contamination over
years. This is not an underground nuclear test, where
all you see is the earth raised a little bit. These
politicians don’t have a clue, and whenever anybody
tries to get it out”—remove the nuclear
option—“they’re shouted down.”

The attention given to the nuclear option has created
serious misgivings inside the offices of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, he added, and some officers have
talked about resigning. Late this winter, the Joint
Chiefs of Staff sought to remove the nuclear option
from the evolving war plans for Iran—without success,
the former intelligence official said. “The White
House said, ‘Why are you challenging this? The option
came from you.’ ”

The Pentagon adviser on the war on terror confirmed
that some in the Administration were looking seriously
at this option, which he linked to a resurgence of
interest in tactical nuclear weapons among Pentagon
civilians and in policy circles. He called it “a
juggernaut that has to be stopped.” He also confirmed
that some senior officers and officials were
considering resigning over the issue. “There are very
strong sentiments within the military against
brandishing nuclear weapons against other countries,”
the adviser told me. “This goes to high levels.” The
matter may soon reach a decisive point, he said,
because the Joint Chiefs had agreed to give President
Bush a formal recommendation stating that they are
strongly opposed to considering the nuclear option for
Iran. “The internal debate on this has hardened in
recent weeks,” the adviser said. “And, if senior
Pentagon officers express their opposition to the use
of offensive nuclear weapons, then it will never

The adviser added, however, that the idea of using
tactical nuclear weapons in such situations has gained
support from the Defense Science Board, an advisory
panel whose members are selected by Secretary of
Defense Donald Rumsfeld. “They’re telling the Pentagon
that we can build the B61 with more blast and less
radiation,” he said.

The chairman of the Defense Science Board is William
Schneider, Jr., an Under-Secretary of State in the
Reagan Administration. In January, 2001, as President
Bush prepared to take office, Schneider served on an
ad-hoc panel on nuclear forces sponsored by the
National Institute for Public Policy, a conservative
think tank. The panel’s report recommended treating
tactical nuclear weapons as an essential part of the
U.S. arsenal and noted their suitability “for those
occasions when the certain and prompt destruction of
high priority targets is essential and beyond the
promise of conventional weapons.” Several signers of
the report are now prominent members of the Bush
Administration, including Stephen Hadley, the
national-security adviser; Stephen Cambone, the
Under-Secretary of Defense for Intelligence; and
Robert Joseph, the Under-Secretary of State for Arms
Control and International Security.

The Pentagon adviser questioned the value of air
strikes. “The Iranians have distributed their nuclear
activity very well, and we have no clue where some of
the key stuff is. It could even be out of the
country,” he said. He warned, as did many others, that
bombing Iran could provoke “a chain reaction” of
attacks on American facilities and citizens throughout
the world: “What will 1.2 billion Muslims think the
day we attack Iran?”

With or without the nuclear option, the list of
targets may inevitably expand. One recently retired
high-level Bush Administration official, who is also
an expert on war planning, told me that he would have
vigorously argued against an air attack on Iran,
because “Iran is a much tougher target” than Iraq.
But, he added, “If you’re going to do any bombing to
stop the nukes, you might as well improve your lie
across the board. Maybe hit some training camps, and
clear up a lot of other problems.”

The Pentagon adviser said that, in the event of an
attack, the Air Force intended to strike many hundreds
of targets in Iran but that “ninety-nine per cent of
them have nothing to do with proliferation. There are
people who believe it’s the way to operate”—that the
Administration can achieve its policy goals in Iran
with a bombing campaign, an idea that has been
supported by neoconservatives.

If the order were to be given for an attack, the
American combat troops now operating in Iran would be
in position to mark the critical targets with laser
beams, to insure bombing accuracy and to minimize
civilian casualties. As of early winter, I was told by
the government consultant with close ties to civilians
in the Pentagon, the units were also working with
minority groups in Iran, including the Azeris, in the
north, the Baluchis, in the southeast, and the Kurds,
in the northeast. The troops “are studying the
terrain, and giving away walking-around money to
ethnic tribes, and recruiting scouts from local tribes
and shepherds,” the consultant said. One goal is to
get “eyes on the ground”—quoting a line from
“Othello,” he said, “Give me the ocular proof.” The
broader aim, the consultant said, is to “encourage
ethnic tensions” and undermine the regime.

The new mission for the combat troops is a product of
Defense Secretary Rumsfeld’s long-standing interest in
expanding the role of the military in covert
operations, which was made official policy in the
Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review, published in
February. Such activities, if conducted by C.I.A.
operatives, would need a Presidential Finding and
would have to be reported to key members of Congress.

“ ‘Force protection’ is the new buzzword,” the former
senior intelligence official told me. He was referring
to the Pentagon’s position that clandestine activities
that can be broadly classified as preparing the
battlefield or protecting troops are military, not
intelligence, operations, and are therefore not
subject to congressional oversight. “The guys in the
Joint Chiefs of Staff say there are a lot of
uncertainties in Iran,” he said. “We need to have more
than what we had in Iraq. Now we have the green light
to do everything we want.”

The President’s deep distrust of Ahmadinejad has
strengthened his determination to confront Iran. This
view has been reinforced by allegations that
Ahmadinejad, who joined a special-forces brigade of
the Revolutionary Guards in 1986, may have been
involved in terrorist activities in the late eighties.
(There are gaps in Ahmadinejad’s official biography in
this period.) Ahmadinejad has reportedly been
connected to Imad Mughniyeh, a terrorist who has been
implicated in the deadly bombings of the U.S. Embassy
and the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, in 1983.
Mughniyeh was then the security chief of Hezbollah; he
remains on the F.B.I.’s list of most-wanted

Robert Baer, who was a C.I.A. officer in the Middle
East and elsewhere for two decades, told me that
Ahmadinejad and his Revolutionary Guard colleagues in
the Iranian government “are capable of making a bomb,
hiding it, and launching it at Israel. They’re
apocalyptic Shiites. If you’re sitting in Tel Aviv and
you believe they’ve got nukes and missiles—you’ve got
to take them out. These guys are nuts, and there’s no
reason to back off.”

Under Ahmadinejad, the Revolutionary Guards have
expanded their power base throughout the Iranian
bureaucracy; by the end of January, they had replaced
thousands of civil servants with their own members.
One former senior United Nations official, who has
extensive experience with Iran, depicted the turnover
as “a white coup,” with ominous implications for the
West. “Professionals in the Foreign Ministry are out;
others are waiting to be kicked out,” he said. “We may
be too late. These guys now believe that they are
stronger than ever since the revolution.” He said
that, particularly in consideration of China’s
emergence as a superpower, Iran’s attitude was “To
hell with the West. You can do as much as you like.”

Iran’s supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Khamenei,
is considered by many experts to be in a stronger
position than Ahmadinejad. “Ahmadinejad is not in
control,” one European diplomat told me. “Power is
diffuse in Iran. The Revolutionary Guards are among
the key backers of the nuclear program, but,
ultimately, I don’t think they are in charge of it.
The Supreme Leader has the casting vote on the nuclear
program, and the Guards will not take action without
his approval.”

The Pentagon adviser on the war on terror said that
“allowing Iran to have the bomb is not on the table.
We cannot have nukes being sent downstream to a terror
network. It’s just too dangerous.” He added, “The
whole internal debate is on which way to go”—in terms
of stopping the Iranian program. It is possible, the
adviser said, that Iran will unilaterally renounce its
nuclear plans—and forestall the American action. “God
may smile on us, but I don’t think so. The bottom line
is that Iran cannot become a nuclear-weapons state.
The problem is that the Iranians realize that only by
becoming a nuclear state can they defend themselves
against the U.S. Something bad is going to happen.”

While almost no one disputes Iran’s nuclear ambitions,
there is intense debate over how soon it could get the
bomb, and what to do about that. Robert Gallucci, a
former government expert on nonproliferation who is
now the dean of the School of Foreign Service at
Georgetown, told me, “Based on what I know, Iran could
be eight to ten years away” from developing a
deliverable nuclear weapon. Gallucci added, “If they
had a covert nuclear program and we could prove it,
and we could not stop it by negotiation, diplomacy, or
the threat of sanctions, I’d be in favor of taking it
out. But if you do it”—bomb Iran—“without being able
to show there’s a secret program, you’re in trouble.”

Meir Dagan, the head of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence
agency, told the Knesset last December that “Iran is
one to two years away, at the latest, from having
enriched uranium. From that point, the completion of
their nuclear weapon is simply a technical matter.” In
a conversation with me, a senior Israeli intelligence
official talked about what he said was Iran’s
duplicity: “There are two parallel nuclear programs”
inside Iran—the program declared to the I.A.E.A. and a
separate operation, run by the military and the
Revolutionary Guards. Israeli officials have
repeatedly made this argument, but Israel has not
produced public evidence to support it. Richard
Armitage, the Deputy Secretary of State in Bush’s
first term, told me, “I think Iran has a secret
nuclear-weapons program—I believe it, but I don’t know

In recent months, the Pakistani government has given
the U.S. new access to A. Q. Khan, the so-called
father of the Pakistani atomic bomb. Khan, who is now
living under house arrest in Islamabad, is accused of
setting up a black market in nuclear materials; he
made at least one clandestine visit to Tehran in the
late nineteen-eighties. In the most recent
interrogations, Khan has provided information on
Iran’s weapons design and its time line for building a
bomb. “The picture is of ‘unquestionable danger,’ ”
the former senior intelligence official said. (The
Pentagon adviser also confirmed that Khan has been
“singing like a canary.”) The concern, the former
senior official said, is that “Khan has credibility
problems. He is suggestible, and he’s telling the
neoconservatives what they want to hear”—or what might
be useful to Pakistan’s President, Pervez Musharraf,
who is under pressure to assist Washington in the war
on terror.

“I think Khan’s leading us on,” the former
intelligence official said. “I don’t know anybody who
says, ‘Here’s the smoking gun.’ But lights are
beginning to blink. He’s feeding us information on the
time line, and targeting information is coming in from
our own sources— sensors and the covert teams. The
C.I.A., which was so burned by Iraqi W.M.D., is going
to the Pentagon and the Vice-President’s office
saying, ‘It’s all new stuff.’ People in the
Administration are saying, ‘We’ve got enough.’ ”

The Administration’s case against Iran is compromised
by its history of promoting false intelligence on
Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. In a recent essay
on the Foreign Policy Web site, entitled “Fool Me
Twice,” Joseph Cirincione, the director for
nonproliferation at the Carnegie Endowment for
International Peace, wrote, “The unfolding
administration strategy appears to be an effort to
repeat its successful campaign for the Iraq war.” He
noted several parallels:

The vice president of the United States gives a major
speech focused on the threat from an oil-rich nation
in the Middle East. The U.S. Secretary of State tells
Congress that the same nation is our most serious
global challenge. The Secretary of Defense calls that
nation the leading supporter of global terrorism.

Cirincione called some of the Administration’s claims
about Iran “questionable” or lacking in evidence. When
I spoke to him, he asked, “What do we know? What is
the threat? The question is: How urgent is all this?”
The answer, he said, “is in the intelligence community
and the I.A.E.A.” (In August, the Washington Post
reported that the most recent comprehensive National
Intelligence Estimate predicted that Iran was a decade
away from being a nuclear power.)

Last year, the Bush Administration briefed I.A.E.A.
officials on what it said was new and alarming
information about Iran’s weapons program which had
been retrieved from an Iranian’s laptop. The new data
included more than a thousand pages of technical
drawings of weapons systems. The Washington Post
reported that there were also designs for a small
facility that could be used in the uranium-enrichment
process. Leaks about the laptop became the focal point
of stories in the Times and elsewhere. The stories
were generally careful to note that the materials
could have been fabricated, but also quoted senior
American officials as saying that they appeared to be
legitimate. The headline in the Times’ account read,

I was told in interviews with American and European
intelligence officials, however, that the laptop was
more suspect and less revelatory than it had been
depicted. The Iranian who owned the laptop had
initially been recruited by German and American
intelligence operatives, working together. The
Americans eventually lost interest in him. The Germans
kept on, but the Iranian was seized by the Iranian
counter-intelligence force. It is not known where he
is today. Some family members managed to leave Iran
with his laptop and handed it over at a U.S. embassy,
apparently in Europe. It was a classic “walk-in.”

A European intelligence official said, “There was some
hesitation on our side” about what the materials
really proved, “and we are still not convinced.” The
drawings were not meticulous, as newspaper accounts
suggested, “but had the character of sketches,” the
European official said. “It was not a slam-dunk
smoking gun.”

The threat of American military action has created
dismay at the headquarters of the I.A.E.A., in Vienna.
The agency’s officials believe that Iran wants to be
able to make a nuclear weapon, but “nobody has
presented an inch of evidence of a parallel
nuclear-weapons program in Iran,” the high-ranking
diplomat told me. The I.A.E.A.’s best estimate is that
the Iranians are five years away from building a
nuclear bomb. “But, if the United States does anything
militarily, they will make the development of a bomb a
matter of Iranian national pride,” the diplomat said.
“The whole issue is America’s risk assessment of
Iran’s future intentions, and they don’t trust the
regime. Iran is a menace to American policy.”

In Vienna, I was told of an exceedingly testy meeting
earlier this year between Mohamed ElBaradei, the
I.A.E.A.’s director-general, who won the Nobel Peace
Prize last year, and Robert Joseph, the
Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control. Joseph’s
message was blunt, one diplomat recalled: “We cannot
have a single centrifuge spinning in Iran. Iran is a
direct threat to the national security of the United
States and our allies, and we will not tolerate it. We
want you to give us an understanding that you will not
say anything publicly that will undermine us. ”

Joseph’s heavy-handedness was unnecessary, the
diplomat said, since the I.A.E.A. already had been
inclined to take a hard stand against Iran. “All of
the inspectors are angry at being misled by the
Iranians, and some think the Iranian leadership are
nutcases—one hundred per cent totally certified nuts,”
the diplomat said. He added that ElBaradei’s
overriding concern is that the Iranian leaders “want
confrontation, just like the neocons on the other
side”—in Washington. “At the end of the day, it will
work only if the United States agrees to talk to the

The central question—whether Iran will be able to
proceed with its plans to enrich uranium—is now before
the United Nations, with the Russians and the Chinese
reluctant to impose sanctions on Tehran. A discouraged
former I.A.E.A. official told me in late March that,
at this point, “there’s nothing the Iranians could do
that would result in a positive outcome. American
diplomacy does not allow for it. Even if they announce
a stoppage of enrichment, nobody will believe them.
It’s a dead end.”

Another diplomat in Vienna asked me, “Why would the
West take the risk of going to war against that kind
of target without giving it to the I.A.E.A. to verify?
We’re low-cost, and we can create a program that will
force Iran to put its cards on the table.” A Western
Ambassador in Vienna expressed similar distress at the
White House’s dismissal of the I.A.E.A. He said, “If
you don’t believe that the I.A.E.A. can establish an
inspection system—if you don’t trust them—you can only

There is little sympathy for the I.A.E.A. in the Bush
Administration or among its European allies. “We’re
quite frustrated with the director-general,” the
European diplomat told me. “His basic approach has
been to describe this as a dispute between two sides
with equal weight. It’s not. We’re the good guys!
ElBaradei has been pushing the idea of letting Iran
have a small nuclear-enrichment program, which is
ludicrous. It’s not his job to push ideas that pose a
serious proliferation risk.”

The Europeans are rattled, however, by their growing
perception that President Bush and Vice-President Dick
Cheney believe a bombing campaign will be needed, and
that their real goal is regime change. “Everyone is on
the same page about the Iranian bomb, but the United
States wants regime change,” a European diplomatic
adviser told me. He added, “The Europeans have a role
to play as long as they don’t have to choose between
going along with the Russians and the Chinese or going
along with Washington on something they don’t want.
Their policy is to keep the Americans engaged in
something the Europeans can live with. It may be

“The Brits think this is a very bad idea,” Flynt
Leverett, a former National Security Council staff
member who is now a senior fellow at the Brookings
Institution’s Saban Center, told me, “but they’re
really worried we’re going to do it.” The European
diplomatic adviser acknowledged that the British
Foreign Office was aware of war planning in Washington
but that, “short of a smoking gun, it’s going to be
very difficult to line up the Europeans on Iran.” He
said that the British “are jumpy about the Americans
going full bore on the Iranians, with no compromise.”

The European diplomat said that he was skeptical that
Iran, given its record, had admitted to everything it
was doing, but “to the best of our knowledge the
Iranian capability is not at the point where they
could successfully run centrifuges” to enrich uranium
in quantity...

[View the list]

InternetBoard v1.0
Copyright (c) 1998, Joongpil Cho