By Hooshang Amirahamdi, American Iranian Council (AIC)
This is a question that is on many minds these days. In Tehran, Washington and London, where I have spent time in the last three months, this question tops any other issues of concern in the US-Iran spiral conflict. After talking to many senators, representatives, Lords, MPs, and Iranian deputies, as well as officials in the three capitals, I have concluded that while it is almost impossible to provide a definitive answer, complacency is also unacceptable.
In an interview with Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), on May 19, he told me in many words that the Bush Administration has a "plan to attack Iran" and that the President "does not need months but days" to implement the plan if he wanted or found the right opportunity to do such. When the Congressman was asked about the source of his information, he referred to the "public reports" published in various media and discussions he has held with colleagues and others (Read the Interview in the next Update).
One such report of a possible military attack was published in the Jerusalem Post on May 20. The report claimed that in a "closed-door meeting" in Israel, an unidentified "senior official" of the Bush Administration disclosed that the President plans to attack Iran in the coming months and that Vice President Cheney was also on board with the idea. The original story was aired by Israeli Army Radio and the Jerusalem Post withdrew the article after the White House issued a denial.
The official, who was accompanying President Bush in Israel during his visit there to participate in its 60th birthday anniversary, also said that the only remaining problem is that Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, and Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice disagree with the plan. Gates and Rice are known for advocating a diplomatic settlement and increased informal exchanges with Iran. It is not known if the US intelligence agencies support the plan.
The White House, as expected, immediately denied the report that the President intended to attack Iran: "An article in today's Jerusalem Post about the president's position on Iran that quotes unnamed sources is not worth the paper it's written on," White House press secretary Dana Perino said in a statement. Yet, the Press Secretary reiterated the Administration's position that such an attack remains an option.
The press secretary also said that, for the time being, the US and its European allies will continue to stay with diplomacy: "Our preference and our actions for dealing with this matter remain through peaceful diplomatic means. Nothing has changed in that regard." By "this matter," Perino was referring to the Iranian nuclear uranium enrichment issue at the UN Security Council. The Council is asking Iran to suspend the activity prior to any negotiation.
While the US and its European allies are prepared to wait for a diplomatic resolution to the matter, Israel is adamantly making time of the essence, arguing that in the next six months to a year, Iran will reach the "point of no return." Israelis have been offering the same assessment in the last few years! In a speech this last April at Yale University, Shaul Mofaz, Israel's Deputy Prime Minster, reiterated the position. Mr. Mofaz has served as defense minister and chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Forces.
Mofaz, who was in the US to discuss Iran with leaders in Washington, told me in a private discussion that Israel considers Iran's nuclear enrichment an "existential threat," and that he has advised Washington that "its intelligence on Iran's nuclear programs is defective." While he did not say that Israel is asking the US to attack Iran or that otherwise Israel will do the job, he did in many words imply that no other alternatives were credible. According to Mofaz, "the current diplomatic approach is only giving Iran more time to build its bombs."
I told the Iran-born Israeli official that it was
not wise for Israel and Iran to become more inimical than they are. I reminded
him that 1400 years ago an Arab man called Yazid killed a Shi'a Imam called
Hussein and that after fourteen centuries still Muslim Iranians are looking for
the killer and morn the Imam's death every year in full force! He concurred but
blamed Iran for the spiral conflict. Tehran of course holds Israel responsible.
The blaming game has now reached a dangerous level.
While these exchanges were taking place, Iran released a "comprehensive initiative" to deal with "regional and global" problems impacting its relations with the international community. Specifically, Iran offered to join the 5+1 Group to comprehensively negotiate problems of regional security and peace including the idea of a "consortium" to enrich uranium in Iran and beyond. While Iran does not offer to temporarily halt its enrichment activities, it does open a small window toward that possibility if it were not made a condition for negotiation.
Significantly, The Iranian initiative is a call for negotiation with the US on mutually respectful basis and without any precondition to reach a global settlement of the disputes. The initiative even opens door for a settlement of Israeli-Palestinian conflict, implicitly accepting a two-state solution and the Jewish state's right to exist. A lot can be built on the Iranian initiative. The US and Israel must carefully consider this grand bargain offer from Tehran. Missing this opportunity could spell disaster for all parties involved (Read the Initiative in this Update).
The idea of Iran joining the 5+1 group was
initially proposed in an
article by this author in 2006: "Nuclear Crisis Calls for US-Iran Dialogue
within a Collective 6+1 Framework." It called for adopting an innovative
diplomacy based on an "out of court settlement" mechanism that ensures good
intentions and partnership as opposed to an approach that is set to verify
intentions or punish a suspected one.". The grand bargain idea was also
previously initiated by the
American Iranian Council.
Will then the US attack Iran or accept to comprehensively negotiate its disputes with it? The fact is that both war and peace with Iran have their friends and foes. A reasoned mind will sure choose peace given the overall situation in the US and in the region. I cannot believe that the Bush Administration will make war with Iran its official policy in the comings few months. It will not be also advisable for the Israelis to insist on a war game. The American public is too war weary to accept such a policy.
Yet, the war with Iran could happen and we cannot remain complacent. Those who wish to make the US attack Iran know well that it cannot happen as a matter of policy. Thus, they will take an alternative two-prong approach in the days and weeks ahead. In the one hand they will create conditions for some sort of an "incident" to happen against the American interests in the region and then argue that the incident was caused by Iran and therefore a quick military response is called for.
Iran is particularly fearful that a planned incident could happen in the coming months. As I write these lines, Iranian defense and intelligence forces are in full alert to detect and prevent any movement directed against American interests, and respond to a possible attack on Iran if it were to ever occur. My discussions with many diplomats, legislators and experts also make me conclude that the remaining months of the Bush Administration will not be months of policy but months of incidents in US-Iran relations.
The one theater where such an incident could occur is Iraq and the vicinity. While Iran's nuclear programs remain a source of serious concern in the US and Israel, it could not provide the pretext that the war mongers need to attack Iran. The situation in Iraq and its vicinity is, however, more fluid and less controllable by Iran or the forces for diplomacy and peace. It is no wonder that the war mongers are increasingly linking Iran to problems in Iraq, where American kids are being killed and American tax dollars lost.
The danger of a pretext for an attack on Iran emanating from Iraq is real. Unfortunately, US-Iran negotiations about the Iraqi security have not produced results. In recent discussions with officials on both sides, I have head Americans accusing Iran "not being serious" about the negotiations, and likewise, the Iranians I heard accusing the US "not being serious." Meanwhile, many of the anti-US and anti-Iran resistance and terrorist groups are plotting more violent acts, and some could be directed by the war mongers to commit murderous pretext for an American attack on Iran.
It is time that pro-diplomacy forces and peace lovers becoming increasingly more active during the remaining months of the Bush Administration. These are not going to be the months of policy but months of incidents in US-Iran relations. As such, those who do not want to see the US attack Iran in the coming months, must not pay a lot of attention to US policy toward Iran but to the war-causing incidents that could be created by the war mongers. Iraq is the most important theater to watch in this regard.
The Iranian initiative is a call for negotiation with the US on mutually respectful basis and without any precondition to reach a global settlement of the disputes. The initiative even opens door for a settlement of Israeli-Palestinian conflict, implicitly accepting a two-state solution and the Jewish state's right to exist. A lot can be built on the Iranian initiative. The US and Israel must carefully consider this grand bargain offer from Tehran. Missing this opportunity could spell disaster for all parties involved.
... Payvand News - 05/23/08 ... --