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1/18/2005 10:30:00 AM GMT www.aljazeera.com
With George Bush's second inauguration coming up on Thursay, the debate amongst foreign policy analysts and experts in Washington is whether theU.S. President will extend the "global war on terror" to Iran. And if so,when?The increase in the Iran talks is down to the "neo-conservatives" in thePentagon. Even though they managed to amass completely misleading so-calledintelligence on Iraq's weapons in the run-up to the invasion, they have kepttheir positions even with the post-election Bush reshuffling.While the European Union has been involved in the recent negotiations withIran, Washington has chosen to observe from the sides.
Pentagon hardlinersare convinced that the deal being brokered - which calls for the suspensionof nuclear enrichment and the increase of weapons inspections - will not beimplemented and thus prove to be a failure in a few months.What Pentagon hardliners are contending for is that only when the U.S.issues a credible threat and if necessary the use of air and specialoperations attacks on the suspected Iranian nuclear facilities, will Tehranput a halt to the acquisition of warheads.The doves in Bush's administration, who this time round are even fewer innumber than before, are insisting that even if Iran does have a secretweapons programme, more than likely they'll be so widely spread out andburied in locations rendering it virtually impossible for Americanintelligence to locate them. Furthermore, the moderates believe the chances for Iranian retaliation frominside Iraq and other locations would be so great that there is in effect nomilitary option.A senior administration official heavily involved in the development of theIran policy naturally rejects the doves argument saying, "It is not assimple as that. It is not a straightforward problem but at some point thecosts of doing nothing may just become too high. In Iran you have theintersection of nuclear weapons and proven ties to terrorism. That is what we are looking at now."
However, the chances of the U.S. switching its attentions to Iran have become higher following Seymour Hersh's report on the Pentagon's running ofspecial operations teams in Iran to try and locate nuclear weapons sites. The report was 'brushed aside' by the White House and the Pentagon, thoughnot denied completely. "The Iranian regime's apparent nuclear ambitions and its demonstratedsupport for terrorist organisations is a global challenge that deserves muchmore serious treatment than Seymour Hersh provides," Lawrence DiRita, thechief Pentagon spokesman, said. "Mr Hersh's article is so riddled with errors of fundamental fact that thecredibility of his entire piece is destroyed."
But according to a British media report, the Pentagon has been consideringthe infiltration of members belonging to the Iranian rebel group,Mujahedine-e-Khalg (MEK) in order to collect intelligence over the Iraq-Iranborder.The Iranian group is based near Baghdad and was under the protection ofSaddam Hussein. Currently the U.S. is 'keeping an eye' on them while thePentagon decides on its strategy. The American State Department has declared MEK to be a 'terrorist group'.The status of the group has not deterred Pentagon hardliners from includingthem in future Iran plans.A former CIA agent had been asked by Pentagon officers to oversee "MEKcross-border operations"."They are bringing a lot of the old war-horses from the Reagan andIran-contra days into a sort of kitchen cabinet outside the government towrite up policy papers on Iran," he said.
Furthermore, this policy discussion is being overseen by one Douglas Feith,the Under-Secretary of Defence for Policy and one of the strongest advocatesof the Iraq war. Prior to the invasion of Iraq, Feith's Office of SpecialPlans had contracted "like-minded experts to serve as consultants" inhelping the Pentagon "counter the more cautious positions of the StateDepartment and the CIA." The former CIA agent believes the neo-conservatives have an extremely simpleminded view as to how objectives can be achieved, and one that is dangerous." They think in Iran you can just go in and hit the facilities and destabilise the government. They believe they can get rid of a few crazymullahs and bring in the young guys who like Gap jeans, all the world's problems are solved. I think it's delusional," he said.
Others believe that's not the case. Reuel Marc Gerecht, another former CIA officer, now a leadingneo-conservative voice on Iran at the American Enterprise Institute, said:"It would certainly delay [the programme] and it can be done again. It's nota one-time affair. I would be shocked if a military strike could not delaythe programme." He adds: "The internal debate in the administration was only justbeginning".