Washington's Iran tough talk questionable
As the motives for the war against Iraq disintegrate, the United States has seemingly found a new target against which to act tough.
US Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton warned on Sunday the United States will pursue sanctions against Iran if Teheran does not renounce its quest for nuclear weapons.
Bolton also said President George W. Bush is "determined to try to find a peaceful and diplomatic solution" to the issue, but hinted that all options, including the use of force, remain open.
Such talk is not new. We heard a similar tone from Washington when it targeted Iraq.
As early as almost three years ago, the US blacklisted Iran with Iraq, Syria, Sudan and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).
Urging the so-called "axis of evil" to renounce terrorism, Washington singled out Iran to be the "epicentre" of international terrorist funding.
The US Congress has been drafting a joint resolution since May, calling for punitive action against Teheran if it does not fully reveal details of its nuclear programme.
It seems inevitable that Iran will come into the military crosshairs of the United States.
Bolton spoke a day before the opening of a key meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog.
A draft resolution on the Iran issue made by Britain, France and Germany was presented to IAEA's meeting yesterday.
Iran rebuffed on Sunday the key demand by the European powers which have threatened to intensify pressure if Teheran does not curb its nuclear programme.
The three European powers have set a November deadline for it to meet certain conditions meant to banish concerns that it is secretly trying to make nuclear weapons.
The warning is viewed as shorthand for the referral of Iran's case to the UN Security Council, raising the possibility of Security Council sanctions.
Up to now, the three European countries have resisted US attempts to have Iran hauled before the Security Council.
With the US presidential election drawing ever closer, the Bush administration's Iran policy may remain unclear because of this.
According to US officials, decisions on how to deal with Iran will not be made until after the US elections in November, noting that the US is awaiting the findings of the IAEA on Iran's nuclear activity.
The IAEA has been investigating Iran's nuclear programme for two years, ever since the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) reported in August 2002 that Teheran was concealing several massive nuclear facilities from the UN watchdog.
It has uncovered many potentially weapons-related activities but has so far found nothing to confirm US allegations that Iran has a covert nuclear programme that goes beyond what is required to generate electricity.
How can the world, then, trust the reliability of US intelligence on Iran after the information it gave on Iraq turned out to be so dubious?
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