Monday, January 24, 2005

CBS News | Brits Not Eager To Attack Iran | January 24, 2005�07:00:01

CBS News | Brits Not Eager To Attack Iran | January 24, 2005�07:00:01: "Brits Not Eager To Attack Iran

LONDON, Jan. 24, 2005
British Prime Minister Tony Blair (above left, at the White House with President Bush last November) has paid a heavy political price for his backing of the war in Iraq. (Photo: AP)

The case for going to war against Iran is in fact stronger than the case against Iraq. It is widely believed that Iran is doggedly pursuing both uranium enrichment and plutonium production programs for producing nuclear weapons.

What a difference two years make. In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, Prime Minister's Tony Blair's office issued two public dossiers that made the case for war. Britain's arguments then - that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that could be used with only 15 minutes advance warning - were even stronger than the White House case. And just as fallacious.

Now that there is talk in Washington of a possible attack on another member of the so-called "Axis of Evil," the British government has prepared another dossier. This one, issued quietly in the British parliament shortly before the President's second inauguration, makes the case against a military attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. The 200-page document makes it clear that if America attacks Iran, Britain will not back it.

Blair paid a heavy political price for his unstinting support of America's war on Iraq. It cost him the good will of most of the rank and file of his Labor Party, and if Britain had a more credible opposition party, it could have cost him his job. Blair is not about to go down that road twice.

The new dossier, produced by Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, makes the case for curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions by negotiations rather than force. Publicly, the British government is trying to avoid an argument with its closest ally. Privately, tensions are running high between the two countries.

The White House is also trying to avoid a public split. It is paying lip service to the effort by Britain, France and Germany to use the diplomatic route to persuade Iran to give up its weapons program. Privately, administration officials put no more faith in European diplomacy than they did in the U.N. efforts before the Iraq war.

Strange, all this, since the case for going to war against Iran is in fact stronger than the case against Iraq. It is widely believed that Iran is doggedly pursuing both uranium enrichment and plutonium production programs for producing nuclear weapons.

It has conducted a massive cover-up, developed hidden underground facilities, and repeatedly tried to deceive the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Minutes of a key meeting of the IAEA last November state that "the agency is not yet in a position to conclude there are no undeclared nuclear materials or activities in Iran."

Moreover, Iran is committed to the destruction of Israel and has been labeled a state sponsor of terrorism, notably of Israel's archenemy, Hezbollah. Iran is at the top of the Bush administration's list of potential trouble spots.

To understand what is going on here, it is helpful to look at the facts as we know them. There is widespread agreement on the basic elements of the dilemma over how to handle Iran:


Unless a way can be found to stop it, Iran will have a nuclear weapon within the next few years.


Threats by Israel to launch a unilateral strike against Iranian facilities are intended to pressure America to act. Israel lacks the means to wipe out the Iranian program.


An American strike would delay the Iranian program, but would also invite retaliation.


Iran has ways to retaliate. It could stir up serious trouble for America in Iraq's Shiite population, and it could help drive up world oil prices to painful levels.


America already has a lot on its hands in Iraq and Afghanistan, so an invasion of Iran to force regime change would stretch our armed forces to the limit. Iran has three times the land area and four times the population of Iraq.
None of this necessarily precludes the possibility that the White House will decide to take on Iran next. But Britain hopes it will convince the presidents' advisors to give diplomacy a chance. If America does decide to go to war again, it will go it alone - or at least without its strongest ally. "

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