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US confrontation with Iran

 
  

Project: US confrontation with Iran

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July 2004

       The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) publishes a 79-page report, titled “Iran: Time for a New Approach,” urging Washington to resume talks with Tehran. The study, co-chaired by Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser under President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981), argues against the view—held by many prominent neoconservatives in Washington—that Iranians would welcome a US-led effort to change Iran's government. “Despite considerable political flux and popular dissatisfaction,” the report says, “Iran is not on the verge of another revolution. Those forces that are committed to preserving Iran's current system remain firmly in control.” Instead, it argues, Washington should resume bilateral talks with the government. The authors of the report also argue that the administration should discourage Israel from attacking Iran's nuclear facilities because of the “extremely adverse consequences” that such an action would have on Western relations with Iran and because it would likely provoke an Iranian retaliation against US positions in Iraq and Afghanistan. The report recommends a five-step process: [Inter Press Service, 7/20/2004 Sources: Iran: Time for a New Approach]
The US should offer Tehran a “direct dialog on specific issues of regional stabilization.” [Inter Press Service, 7/20/2004]

The administration should work out an agreement with Iran on the status of al-Qaeda operatives being detained by Tehran and that of the militant Iranian exile group, Mujahedeen-e-Khalq which is currently being held in US custody in Iraq. Tehran would have to agree not to provide any support to groups seeking to violently oppose the governments in Iraq and Afghanistan. [Inter Press Service, 7/20/2004]

The administration should work with Europe and Russia to negotiate an agreement with Iran requiring it to permanently ban all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities. In exchange, The US should end its objections to an Iranian civil nuclear program. [Inter Press Service, 7/20/2004]

Washington should take a lead role in resolving the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, which the report notes is “central to eventually stemming the tide of extremism in the region” [Inter Press Service, 7/20/2004]

The US should encourage an expansion of trade and relations between Iran and the wider world and support Iran's application to begin accession talks with the World Trade Organization (WTO). [Inter Press Service, 7/20/2004]

People and organizations involved: Zbigniew Brzezinski, Council on Foreign Relations
          

September 2004

       The Atlantic Monthly magazine commissions retired military officers, intelligence officials, and diplomats to participate in a war game scenario involving Iran. The three-hour war game deals “strictly with how an American President might respond, militarily or otherwise, to Iran's rapid progress toward developing nuclear weapons.” Its main objective is to simulate the decision-making process that would likely take place during a meeting of the “Principals Committee” in the event that Iran ignores the deadline set by the IAEA to meet its demands. Kenneth Pollack, of the Brookings Institution, and Reuel Marc Gerecht, of the American Enterprise Institute, both play the role of secretary of state—Pollack with a more Democratic perspective and Gerecht as more of a Republican. David Kay plays the CIA director and Kenneth Bacon, a chief Pentagon spokesman during the Clinton Administration, is the White House chief of staff. Sam Gardiner, a retired Air Force colonel, serves mostly as National Security Adviser, but plays other roles as well. He is also the person who designed the game. During the game, Israel's influence on the administration's Iran policy is highlighted, with Pollack noting at one point, “[I]n the absence of Israeli pressure how seriously would the United States be considering” the use of military force against Iran? One of the largest concerns raised, shared by all of the participants, is that a US attack on Iran would provoke the Iranians to interfere in Iraq. “[O]ne of the things we have going for us in Iraq, if I can use that term, is that the Iranians really have not made a major effort to thwart us ... If they wanted to make our lives rough in Iraq, they could make Iraq hell.” At the conclusion of the three-hour exercise, it is apparent that the players believe that the game's scenario offered the US no feasible options for using military force against Iran. [Atlantic Monthly, 12/2004; Guardian, 1/18/2005]
People and organizations involved: Kenneth Pollack, Sam Gardiner, Reuel Marc Gerecht, David Kay
          

January 2005

       The Guardian of London interviews Reuel Marc Gerecht, a prominent neoconservative at the American Enterprise Institute, about the Bush administration's policy in Iran. Gerecht, who is also a former CIA officer, says he believes that US strikes on Iran could set back Iran's nuclear program. “It would certainly delay [the program] and it can be done again. It's not a one-time affair. I would be shocked if a military strike could not delay the program.” Gerecht says that members of the Bush administration have not yet agreed on a policy for dealing with Iran and that the internal debate is just beginning. “Iraq has been a fairly consuming endeavor, but it's getting now toward the point where people are going to focus on [Iran] hard and have a great debate.” [Guardian, 1/18/2005]
People and organizations involved: Reuel Marc Gerecht
          

(Early January 2005)

       Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh interviews a government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon about the administration's plans to invade Iran. He says that Pentagon officials, including Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, believe that a limited attack on Iran would inspire a secular revolution in the country. “The minute the aura of invincibility which the mullahs enjoy is shattered, and with it the ability to hoodwink the West, the Iranian regime will collapse,” the consultant says. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005; CNN, 1/17/2005]
People and organizations involved: Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz
          

April 2, 2005

       Fox News interviews two retired US military generals and a military expert and asks them to discuss the Bush administration's military options for dealing with Iran. [Fox News, 4/24/2005] They offer four possible scenarios:
Covert action - The Bush administration could send CIA agents or commandos to sabotage Iran's nuclear facilities.

Naval blockade - The US could implement a naval blockade at the Strait of Hormuz and halt Iranian oil exports.

Surgical strikes - The US could launch cruise missiles at Iran's nuclear facilities. “We are moving some aircraft carrier groups into the Persian Gulf as we speak,” notes retired Army Major Gen. Paul Vallely. “They will be positioned to launch any aircraft from the Mediterranean Sea, the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf.” After the cruise missiles, F-117 stealth fighter jets would destroy the country's radar system and B-2 bombers would drop 5,000-pound laser-guided bunker busters on buried targets like the Natanz enrichment site or the deep tunnels in Isfahan.

All-out assault - An all-out assault involving ground troops, according to the experts interviewed by Fox, would be the least likely scenario.

People and organizations involved: Council on Foreign Relations
          


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