On May 31st, Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice announced what appeared to be a major change in
U.S. foreign policy. The Bush Administration, she said, would be
willing to join Russia, China, and its European allies in direct
talks with Iran about its nuclear program.
There was a condition, however: the
negotiations would not begin until, as the President put it in a
June 19th speech at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy,
“the Iranian regime fully and
verifiably suspends its uranium enrichment and reprocessing
Iran, which has insisted on its
right to enrich uranium, was being asked to concede the main point
of the negotiations before they started. The question was whether
the Administration expected the Iranians to agree, or was laying the
diplomatic groundwork for future military action.
In his speech,
Bush also talked about,
“freedom for the Iranian people,”
and he added, “Iran’s leaders have a clear choice.”
There was an unspoken threat: the U.S.
Strategic Command, supported by the Air Force, has been drawing up
plans, at the President’s direction, for a major bombing campaign in
Inside the Pentagon, senior commanders have increasingly challenged
the President’s plans, according to active-duty and retired officers
and officials. The generals and admirals have told the
Administration that the bombing campaign will probably not succeed
in destroying Iran’s nuclear program. They have also warned that an
attack could lead to serious economic, political, and military
consequences for the United States.
A crucial issue in the military’s dissent, the officers said, is the
fact that American and European intelligence agencies have not found
specific evidence of clandestine activities or hidden facilities;
the war planners are not sure what to hit.
“The target array in Iran is huge,
but it’s amorphous,” a high-ranking general told me. “The
question we face is, When does innocent infrastructure evolve
into something nefarious?”
The high-ranking general added that the
military’s experience in Iraq, where intelligence on weapons of mass
destruction was deeply flawed, has affected its approach to Iran.
“We built this big monster with
Iraq, and there was nothing there. This is son of Iraq,” he
“There is a war about the war going
on inside the building,” a Pentagon consultant said. “If we go,
we have to find something.”
In President Bush’s June speech, he
accused Iran of pursuing a secret weapons program along with its
civilian nuclear-research program (which it is allowed, with limits,
under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty). The senior officers in
the Pentagon do not dispute the President’s contention that Iran
intends to eventually build a bomb, but they are frustrated
by the intelligence gaps.
A former senior intelligence official told
me that people in the Pentagon were asking,
“What’s the evidence? We’ve got a
million tentacles out there, overt and covert, and these
guys”—the Iranians—“have been working on this for eighteen
years, and we have nothing? We’re coming up with jack shit.”
A senior military official told me,
“Even if we knew where the Iranian
enriched uranium was—and we don’t—we don’t know where world
opinion would stand. The issue is whether it’s a clear and
present danger. If you’re a military planner, you try to weigh
options. What is the capability of the Iranian response, and the
likelihood of a punitive response—like cutting off oil
shipments? What would that cost us?”
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
and his senior aides,
“really think they can do this on
the cheap, and they underestimate the capability of the
adversary,” he said.
In 1986, Congress authorized the
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to act as the “principal
military adviser” to the President. In this case, I was told, the
current chairman, Marine General Peter Pace, has gone further
in his advice to the White House by addressing the consequences of
an attack on Iran.
“Here’s the military telling the
President what he can’t do politically”—raising concerns about
rising oil prices, for example—the former senior intelligence
official said. “The J.C.S. chairman going to the President with
an economic argument—what’s going on here?”
(General Pace and the White
House declined to comment. The Defense Department responded to a
detailed request for comment by saying that the Administration
was “working diligently” on a diplomatic solution and that it
could not comment on classified matters.)
A retired four-star general, who ran a
major command, said,
“The system is starting to sense the
end of the road, and they don’t want to be condemned by history.
They want to be able to say, ‘We stood up.’ ”
The military leadership is also raising
tactical arguments against the proposal for bombing Iran, many of
which are related to the consequences for Iraq.
According to retired
Army Major General William Nash, who was commanding general
of the First Armored Division, served in Iraq and Bosnia, and worked
for the United Nations in Kosovo, attacking Iran would heighten the
risks to American and coalition forces inside Iraq.
“What if one hundred thousand
Iranian volunteers came across the border?” Nash asked. “If we
bomb Iran, they cannot retaliate militarily by air—only on the
ground or by sea, and only in Iraq or the Gulf. A military
planner cannot discount that possibility, and he cannot make an
ideological assumption that the Iranians wouldn’t do it. We’re
not talking about victory or defeat—only about what damage Iran
could do to our interests.”
Nash, now a senior fellow at
the Council on Foreign Relations,
“Their first possible response would
be to send forces into Iraq. And, since the Iraqi Army has
limited capacity, it means that the coalition forces would have
to engage them.”
The Americans serving as advisers to the
Iraqi police and military may be at special risk, Nash added, since
an American bombing,
“would be seen not only as an attack
on Shiites but as an attack on all Muslims. Throughout the
Middle East, it would likely be seen as another example of
American imperialism. It would probably cause the war to
In contrast, some conservatives are
arguing that America’s position in Iraq would improve if Iran chose
to retaliate there, according to a government consultant with close
ties to the Pentagon’s civilian leaders, because Iranian
interference would divide the Shiites into pro- and anti-Iranian
camps, and unify the Kurds and the Sunnis.
The Iran hawks in the White House and
the State Department, including Elliott Abrams and
Michael Doran, both of whom are National Security Council
advisers on the Middle East, also have an answer for those who
believe that the bombing of Iran would put American soldiers in Iraq
at risk, the consultant said.
He described the counterargument this
“Yes, there will be Americans under
attack, but they are under attack now.”
Iran’s geography would also complicate
an air war.
The senior military official said that, when it came to
air strikes, “this is not Iraq,” which is fairly flat, except in the
“Much of Iran is akin to Afghanistan
in terms of topography and flight mapping—a pretty tough
target,” the military official said.
Over rugged terrain, planes have to come
in closer, and,
“Iran has a lot of mature
air-defense systems and networks,” he said. “Global operations
are always risky, and if we go down that road we have to be
prepared to follow up with ground troops.”
The U.S. Navy has a separate set of
concerns. Iran has more than seven hundred undeclared dock and port
facilities along its Persian Gulf coast.
The small ports, known as
“invisible piers,” were constructed two decades ago by Iran’s
Revolutionary Guards to accommodate small private boats used for
smuggling. (The Guards relied on smuggling to finance their
activities and enrich themselves.)
The ports, an Iran expert who advises
the U.S. government told me, provide “the infrastructure to enable
the Guards to go after American aircraft carriers with suicide water
bombers”—small vessels loaded with high explosives. He said that the
Iranians have conducted exercises in the Strait of Hormuz, the
narrow channel linking the Persian Gulf to the Arabian Sea and then
on to the Indian Ocean.
The strait is regularly traversed by oil
tankers, in which a thousand small Iranian boats simulated attacks
on American ships.
“That would be the hardest problem
we’d face in the water: a thousand small targets weaving in and
out among our ships.”
America’s allies in the Gulf also
believe that an attack on Iran would endanger them, and many
American military planners agree.
“Iran can do a lot of things—all
asymmetrical,” a Pentagon adviser on counter-insurgency told me.
“They have agents all over the Gulf, and the ability to strike
In May, according to a well-informed
oil-industry expert, the Emir of Qatar made a private visit
to Tehran to discuss security in the Gulf after the Iraq war.
He sought some words of non-aggression
from the Iranian leadership. Instead, the Iranians suggested that
Qatar, which is the site of the regional headquarters of the U.S.
Central Command, would be its first target in the event of an
American attack. Qatar is a leading exporter of gas and
currently operates several major offshore oil platforms, all of
which would be extremely vulnerable.
(Nasser bin Hamad M. al-Khalifa,
Qatar’s ambassador to Washington, denied that any threats were
issued during the Emir’s meetings in Tehran. He told me that it was
“a very nice visit.”)
A retired American diplomat, who has experience in the Gulf,
confirmed that the Qatari government is “very scared of what America
will do” in Iran, and “scared to death” about what Iran would do in
response. Iran’s message to the oil-producing Gulf states, the
retired diplomat said, has been that it will respond, and “you are
on the wrong side of history.”
In late April, the military leadership, headed by General Pace,
achieved a major victory when the White House dropped its insistence
that the plan for a bombing campaign include the possible use of
a nuclear device to destroy Iran’s uranium-enrichment plant at
Natanz, nearly two hundred miles south of Tehran.
The huge complex includes large
underground facilities built into seventy-five-foot-deep holes in
the ground and designed to hold as many as fifty thousand
“Bush and Cheney were
dead serious about the nuclear planning,” the former senior
intelligence official told me. “And Pace stood up to them. Then
the world came back: ‘O.K., the nuclear option is politically
At the time, a number of retired
officers, including two Army major generals who served in Iraq,
Paul Eaton and Charles Swannack, Jr., had begun speaking
out against the Administration’s handling of the Iraq war. This
period is known to many in the Pentagon as “the April Revolution.”
“An event like this doesn’t get
papered over very quickly,” the former official added. “The bad
feelings over the nuclear option are still felt. The civilian
hierarchy feels extraordinarily betrayed by the brass, and the
brass feel they were tricked into it”—the nuclear planning—“by
being asked to provide all options in the planning papers.”
Sam Gardiner, a military analyst
who taught at the National War College before retiring from the Air
Force as a colonel, said that Rumsfeld’s second-guessing and
micromanagement were a fundamental problem.
“Plans are more and more being
directed and run by civilians from the Office of the Secretary
of Defense,” Gardiner said. “It causes a lot of tensions.
I’m hearing that the military is increasingly upset about not
being taken seriously by Rumsfeld and his staff.”
Gardiner went on,
“The consequence is that, for Iran
and other missions, Rumsfeld will be pushed more and more in the
direction of special operations, where he has direct authority
and does not have to put up with the objections of the Chiefs.”
Since taking office in 2001, Rumsfeld
has been engaged in a running dispute with many senior commanders
over his plans to transform the military, and his belief that future
wars will be fought, and won, with airpower and Special Forces.
combination worked, at first, in Afghanistan, but the growing
stalemate there, and in Iraq, has created a rift, especially inside
the Army. The senior military official said, “The policymakers are
in love with Special Ops—the guys on camels.”
The discord over Iran can, in part, be ascribed to Rumsfeld’s testy
relationship with the generals. They see him as high-handed and
unwilling to accept responsibility for what has gone wrong in Iraq.
A former Bush Administration official described a recent meeting
between Rumsfeld and four-star generals and admirals at a military
commanders’ conference, on a base outside Washington, that, he was
told, went badly.
The commanders later told General Pace that,
“they didn’t come here to be lectured by the Defense Secretary. They
wanted to tell Rumsfeld what their concerns were.”
A few of the officers attended a
subsequent meeting between Pace and Rumsfeld, and were
unhappy, the former official said, when “Pace did not repeat any of
their complaints. There was disappointment about Pace.” The retired
four-star general also described the commanders’ conference as “very
“We’ve got twenty-five hundred dead,
people running all over the world doing stupid things, and
officers outside the Beltway asking, ‘What the hell is going
Pace’s supporters say that he is in a
difficult position, given Rumsfeld’s penchant for viewing generals
who disagree with him as disloyal.
“It’s a very narrow line between
being responsive and effective and being outspoken and
ineffective,” the former senior intelligence official said.
But Rumsfeld is not alone in the
Administration where Iran is concerned; he is closely allied with
Dick Cheney, and, the Pentagon consultant said, “the President
generally defers to the Vice-President on all these issues,” such as
dealing with the specifics of a bombing campaign if diplomacy fails.
“He feels that Cheney has an
informational advantage. Cheney is not a renegade. He represents
the conventional wisdom in all of this. He appeals to the
strategic-bombing lobby in the Air Force—who think that carpet
bombing is the solution to all problems.”
Bombing may not work against Natanz, let
alone against the rest of Iran’s nuclear program. The possibility of
using tactical nuclear weapons gained support in the Administration
because of the belief that it was the only way to insure the
destruction of Natanz’s buried laboratories.
When that option proved to be
politically untenable (a nuclear warhead would, among other things,
vent fatal radiation for miles), the Air Force came up with a new
bombing plan, using advanced guidance systems to deliver a series of
large bunker-busters—conventional bombs filled with high
explosives—on the same target, in swift succession.
The Air Force
argued that the impact would generate sufficient concussive force to
accomplish what a tactical nuclear warhead would achieve, but
without provoking an outcry over what would be the first use of a
nuclear weapon in a conflict since Nagasaki.
The new bombing concept has provoked controversy among Pentagon
planners and outside experts.
Robert Pape, a professor at the
University of Chicago who has taught at the Air Force’s School of
Advanced Air and Space Studies, told me,
“We always have a few new toys, new
gimmicks, and rarely do these new tricks lead to a phenomenal
breakthrough. The dilemma is that Natanz is a very large
underground area, and even if the roof came down we won’t be
able to get a good estimate of the bomb damage without people on
We don’t even know where it goes underground, and we
won’t have much confidence in assessing what we’ve actually
done. Absent capturing an Iranian nuclear scientist and
documents, it’s impossible to set back the program for sure.”
One complicating aspect of the
multiple-hit tactic, the Pentagon consultant told me, is “the
liquefaction problem”—the fact that the soil would lose its
consistency owing to the enormous heat generated by the impact of
the first bomb.
“It will be like bombing water, with
its currents and eddies. The bombs would likely be diverted.”
Intelligence has also shown that for the
past two years the Iranians have been shifting their most sensitive
nuclear-related materials and production facilities, moving some
into urban areas, in anticipation of a bombing raid.
“The Air Force is hawking it to the
other services,” the former senior intelligence official said.
“They’re all excited by it, but
they’re being terribly criticized for it.” The main problem, he
said, is that the other services do not believe the tactic will
“The Navy says, ‘It’s not our plan.’
The Marines are against it—they know they’re going to be the
guys on the ground if things go south.”
“It’s the bomber mentality,” the Pentagon consultant said. “The
Air Force is saying, ‘We’ve got it covered, we can hit all the
distributed targets.’ ”
The Air Force arsenal includes a cluster
bomb that can deploy scores of small bomblets with individual
guidance systems to home in on specific targets.
The weapons were
deployed in Kosovo and during the early stages of the 2003 invasion
of Iraq, and the Air Force is claiming that the same techniques can
be used with larger bombs, allowing them to be targeted from
twenty-five thousand feet against a multitude of widely dispersed
“The Chiefs all know that ‘shock and
awe’ is dead on arrival,” the Pentagon consultant said. “All
except the Air Force.”
“Rumsfeld and Cheney are the pushers
on this—they don’t want to repeat the mistake of doing too
little,” the government consultant with ties to Pentagon
civilians told me.
“The lesson they took from Iraq is
that there should have been more troops on the ground”—an
impossibility in Iran, because of the overextension of American
forces in Iraq—“so the air war in Iran will be one of
Many of the Bush Administration’s
supporters view the abrupt change in negotiating policy as a
deft move that won public plaudits and obscured the fact that
Washington had no other good options.
“The United States has done what its
international partners have asked it to do,” said Patrick
Clawson, who is an expert on Iran and the deputy director
for research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a
conservative think tank. “The ball is now in their court—for
both the Iranians and the Europeans.”
Bush’s goal, Clawson said, was to
assuage his allies, as well as Russia and China, whose votes, or
abstentions, in the United Nations would be needed if the talks
broke down and the U.S. decided to seek Security Council sanctions
or a U.N. resolution that allowed for the use of force against Iran.
“If Iran refuses to re-start
negotiations, it will also be difficult for Russia and China to
reject a U.N. call for International Atomic Energy Agency
inspections,” Clawson said.
“And the longer we go without
accelerated I.A.E.A. access, the more important the issue of
Iran’s hidden facilities will become.” The drawback to the new
American position, Clawson added, was that “the Iranians
might take Bush’s agreeing to join the talks as a sign that
their hard line has worked.”
Clawson acknowledged that
intelligence on Iran’s nuclear-weapons progress was limited.
“There was a time when we had
reasonable confidence in what we knew,” he said. “We could say,
‘There’s less time than we think,’ or, ‘It’s going more slowly.’
Take your choice. Lack of information is a problem, but we know
they’ve made rapid progress with their centrifuges.”
(The most recent American
intelligence estimate is that Iran could build a warhead
sometime between 2010 and 2015.)
Flynt Leverett, a former National
Security Council aide for the Bush Administration, told me,
“The only reason Bush and Cheney
relented about talking to Iran was because they were within
weeks of a diplomatic meltdown in the United Nations. Russia and
China were going to stiff us”—that is, prevent the passage of a
Leverett, a project director at
the New America Foundation, added that the White House’s proposal,
despite offering trade and economic incentives for Iran, has not
“resolved any of the fundamental contradictions of U.S. policy.”
The precondition for the talks, he
said—an open-ended halt to all Iranian enrichment activity - “amounts
to the President wanting a guarantee that they’ll surrender before
he talks to them. Iran cannot accept long-term constraints on its
fuel-cycle activity as part of a settlement without a security
guarantee” - for example, some form of mutual non-aggression pact with
the United States.
Leverett told me that, without a change in U.S. policy, the
balance of power in the negotiations will shift to Russia.
“Russia sees Iran as a beachhead
against American interests in the Middle East, and they’re
playing a very sophisticated game,” he said.
“Russia is quite comfortable with
Iran having nuclear fuel cycles that would be monitored, and
they’ll support the Iranian position”—in part, because it gives
them the opportunity to sell billions of dollars’ worth of
nuclear fuel and materials to Tehran.
“They believe they can manage their
long- and short-term interests with Iran, and still manage the
security interests,” Leverett said.
China, which, like Russia, has veto
power on the Security Council, was motivated in part by its growing
need for oil, he said.
“They don’t want punitive measures,
such as sanctions, on energy producers, and they don’t want to
see the U.S. take a unilateral stance on a state that matters to
them.” But, he said, “they’re happy to let Russia take the lead
(China, a major purchaser of Iranian
oil, is negotiating a multibillion-dollar deal with Iran for the
purchase of liquefied natural gas over a period of twenty-five
As for the Bush Administration, he
added, “unless there’s a shift, it’s only a question of when its
policy falls apart.”
It’s not clear whether the Administration will be able to keep the
Europeans in accord with American policy if the talks break down.
Morton Abramowitz, a former head of State Department
intelligence, who was one of the founders of the International
Crisis Group, said,
“The world is different than it was
three years ago, and while the Europeans want good relations
with us, they will not go to war with Iran unless they know that
an exhaustive negotiating effort was made by Bush. There’s just
too much involved, like the price of oil. There will be great
pressure put on the Europeans, but I don’t think they’ll roll
over and support a war.”
The Europeans, like the generals at the
Pentagon, are concerned about the quality of intelligence.
European intelligence official said that while “there was every
reason to assume” that the Iranians were working on a bomb, there
wasn’t enough evidence to exclude the possibility that they were
bluffing, and hadn’t moved beyond a civilian research program.
intelligence official was not optimistic about the current
“It’s a mess, and I don’t see any
possibility, at the moment, of solving the problem,” he said.
“The only thing to do is contain it. The question is, What is
the redline? Is it when you master the nuclear fuel cycle? Or is
it just about building a bomb?”
Every country had a different criterion,
he said. One worry he had was that, in addition to its security
concerns, the Bush Administration was driven by its interest in
“democratizing” the region. “The United States is on a mission,” he
A European diplomat told me that his government would be willing to
discuss Iran’s security concerns—a dialogue he said Iran offered
Washington three years ago.
The diplomat added that,
“no one wants to be faced with the
alternative if the negotiations don’t succeed: either accept the
bomb or bomb them. That’s why our goal is to keep the pressure
on, and see what Iran’s answer will be.”
A second European diplomat, speaking of
the Iranians, said,
“Their tactic is going to be to
stall and appear reasonable—to say, ‘Yes, but . . .’ We know
what’s going on, and the timeline we’re under. The Iranians have
repeatedly been in violation of I.A.E.A. safeguards and have
given us years of coverup and deception. The international
community does not want them to have a bomb, and if we let them
continue to enrich that’s throwing in the towel—giving up before
The diplomat went on, “It would be a
mistake to predict an inevitable failure of our strategy. Iran
is a regime that is primarily concerned with its own survival,
and if its existence is threatened it would do whatever it
needed to do—including backing down.”
The Iranian regime’s calculations about
its survival also depend on internal political factors.
program is popular with the Iranian people, including those—the
young and the secular—who are most hostile to the religious
leadership. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran, has
effectively used the program to rally the nation behind him, and
against Washington. Ahmadinejad and the ruling clerics have said
that they believe Bush’s goal is not to prevent them from building a
bomb but to drive them out of office.
Several current and former officials I spoke to expressed doubt that
President Bush would settle for a negotiated resolution of
the nuclear crisis. A former high-level Pentagon civilian official,
who still deals with sensitive issues for the government, said that
Bush remains confident in his military decisions.
The President and others in the
Administration often invoke Winston Churchill, both privately and in
public, as an example of a politician who, in his own time, was
punished in the polls but was rewarded by history for rejecting
appeasement. In one speech, Bush said, Churchill
“seemed like a Texan to me. He wasn’t afraid of public-opinion
polls. . . . He charged ahead, and the world is better for it.”
The Israelis have insisted for years that Iran has a
clandestine program to build a bomb, and will do so as soon as it
can. Israeli officials have emphasized that their “redline” is the
moment Iran masters the nuclear fuel cycle, acquiring the technical
ability to produce weapons-grade uranium. “Iran managed to surprise
everyone in terms of the enrichment capability,” one diplomat
familiar with the Israeli position told me, referring to Iran’s
announcement, this spring, that it had successfully enriched uranium
to the 3.6-per-cent level needed to fuel a nuclear-power reactor.
The Israelis believe that Iran must be
stopped as soon as possible, because, once it is able to enrich
uranium for fuel, the next step—enriching it to the ninety-per-cent
level needed for a nuclear bomb—is merely a mechanical process.
Israeli intelligence, however, has also failed to provide specific
evidence about secret sites in Iran, according to current and former
military and intelligence officials. In May, Prime Minister Ehud
Olmert visited Washington and, addressing a joint session of
Congress, said that Iran “stands on the verge of acquiring nuclear
weapons” that would pose “an existential threat” to Israel.
Olmert noted that Ahmadinejad had questioned the reality
of the Holocaust, and he added,
“It is not Israel’s threat alone. It
is a threat to all those committed to stability in the Middle
East and to the well-being of the world at large.”
But at a secret intelligence exchange
that took place at the Pentagon during the visit, the Pentagon
consultant said, “what the Israelis provided fell way short” of what
would be needed to publicly justify preventive action.
The issue of what to do, and when, seems far from resolved inside
the Israeli government.
Martin Indyk, a former U.S.
Ambassador to Israel, who is now the director of the Brookings
Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy, told me,
“Israel would like to see diplomacy
succeed, but they’re worried that in the meantime Iran will
cross a threshold of nuclear know-how—and they’re worried about
an American military attack not working. They assume they’ll be
struck first in retaliation by Iran.”
Indyk added, “At the end of
the day, the United States can live with Iranian, Pakistani, and
Indian nuclear bombs—but for Israel there’s no Mutual Assured
Destruction. If they have to live with an Iranian bomb,
there will be a great deal of anxiety in Israel, and a lot of
tension between Israel and Iran, and between Israel and the
Iran has not, so far, officially
answered President Bush’s proposal. But its initial response has
In a June 22nd interview with the Guardian, Ali
Larijani, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, rejected Washington’s
demand that Iran suspend all uranium enrichment before talks could
“If they want to put this
prerequisite, why are we negotiating at all?” Larijani said. “We
should put aside the sanctions and give up all this talk about
He characterized the American offer as a
“sermon,” and insisted that Iran was not building a bomb.
want the bomb,” he said.
Ahmadinejad has said that Iran would
make a formal counterproposal by August 22nd, but last week
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme religious leader,
declared, on state radio,
“Negotiation with the United States has no
benefits for us.”
Despite the tough rhetoric, Iran would be reluctant to reject a
dialogue with the United States, according to Giandomenico Picco,
who, as a representative of the United Nations, helped to negotiate
the ceasefire that ended the Iran-Iraq War, in 1988.
“If you engage a superpower, you
feel you are a superpower,” Picco told me. “And now the
haggling in the Persian bazaar begins. We are negotiating over a
carpet”—the suspected weapons program—“that we’re not sure
exists, and that we don’t want to exist. And if at the end there
never was a carpet it’ll be the negotiation of the century.”
If the talks do break down, and the
Administration decides on military action, the generals will, of
course, follow their orders; the American military remains loyal to
the concept of civilian control.
But some officers have been pushing
for what they call the “middle way,” which the Pentagon consultant
“a mix of options that require a
number of Special Forces teams and air cover to protect them to
send into Iran to grab the evidence so the world will know what
Iran is doing.”
He added that, unlike Rumsfeld,
he and others who support this approach were under no illusion that
it could bring about regime change. The goal, he said, was to
resolve the Iranian nuclear crisis.
Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the I.A.E.A.,
said in a speech this spring that his agency believed there was
still time for diplomacy to achieve that goal.
“We should have learned some lessons
from Iraq,” ElBaradei, who won the Nobel Peace Prize last
“We should have learned that we
should be very careful about assessing our intelligence... We
should have learned that we should try to exhaust every possible
diplomatic means to solve the problem before thinking of any
other enforcement measures.”
He went on,
“When you push a country into a
corner, you are always giving the driver’s seat to the
hard-liners... If Iran were to move out of the nonproliferation
regime altogether, if Iran were to develop a nuclear weapon
program, we clearly will have a much, much more serious