Monday, April 10, 2006

Bush Calls Reports of Plan to Strike Iran 'Speculation'

David Stout, The New York Times:
President Bush today dismissed reports that his administration is accelerating plans for a possible military strike against Iran, calling them "wild speculation."

Asked at a foreign-policy discussion whether the United States would allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons, the president began his reply with a "mmmm," then chuckled.

"We do not want the Iranians to have a nuclear weapon, the capacity to make a nuclear weapon, or the knowledge about how to make a nuclear weapon," Mr. Bush told a gathering at the Johns Hopkins Paul H. Nitse School of Advanced International Studies here. "That's our stated goal. It is also the goal, fortunately, of other friends and allies, starting with Great Britain, Germany and France."

But this "doctrine of prevention" does not necessarily mean force, Mr. Bush said. "In this case, it means diplomacy," he said.

Then he zeroed in on news reports that the Pentagon is well into planning for a strike on Iran. "What your reading is wild speculation," he said. "Happens quite frequently here in the nation's capital." READ MORE

An article by the investigative reporter Seymour M. Hersh in the current issue of The New Yorker magazine asserts that the Bush administration is stepping up its military planning for possible attacks against Iran, and that it has not ruled out using tactical nuclear weapons.

The Washington Post reported on its front page on Sunday that the Bush administration was studying its options for military strikes against Iran.

But while he was dismissive of the magazine and newspaper articles, Mr. Bush reiterated his firm opposition to Iran's nuclear ambitions. "I got out a little early on the issue by saying 'axis of evil,' " the president recalled, alluding to a remark he made during the 2002 State of the Union address in which he so described Iraq, Iran and North Korea.

"But I meant it," he went on. "And now many others have come to the conclusion that the Iranians should not have a nuclear weapon."

Responding to questions, Mr. Bush said the decision to go to war against Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein was a difficult one, but the correct one.

"After Sept. 11, America decided that we would fight the war on terror on the offense, and that we would confront threats before they fully materialized," the president said. "Saddam Hussein was a threat to the United States of America. America is safer today because Saddam Hussein is no longer in power. Now, it's time for the Iraqi leaders to do their part and finish the job of forming a unity government."