Monday, April 10, 2006

THE US AND IRAN: NUKE ON, NUKE OFF...

On Sunday, all the talk was of Seymour Hersh's article in the New Yorker on whether Bush would go to war to prevent Iran obtaining nuclear weapons, with a nice round-up in yesterday's Sunday Times.

Today, it's all change. Well kind of. Jack Straw has talked down the prospects of a tactical nuclear strike against Iran by describing it as "completely nuts":
Jack Straw sought yesterday to silence renewed sabre-rattling from hardliners within the US Administration who are pressing for military action — even the use of tactical nuclear weapons — against Iran.

The Foreign Secretary described the idea that the White House wanted a nuclear strike as “completely nuts”. He insisted that Britain would not support pre-emptive military action, adding: “I’m as certain as I can be sitting here that neither would the United States.”
It all seems like a lot of bluster over a (predictably) poorly sourced Seymour Hersh article. To back up his claims that the White House is considering the nuclear option against Tehran, he has not one named source and has to rely on anonymous leaks instead. Interesting.

The main evidence he puts forward is that William Schneider Jr., chairman of the Defense Science Board served on an "ad-hoc panel on nuclear forces" which:
recommended treating tactical nuclear weapons as an essential part of the U.S. arsenal and noted their suitability “for those occasions when the certain and prompt destruction of high priority targets is essential and beyond the promise of conventional weapons.”
Isn't that quite a sensible thing to recommend? That in certain military situations where conventional weapons don't appear likely to do the trick, there may be no other choice than to use a tactical nuke? I'm not sure anyone other than CND would disagree with that. Hersh continues:
Several signers of the report are now prominent members of the Bush Administration, including Stephen Hadley, the national-security adviser; Stephen Cambone, the Under-Secretary of Defense for Intelligence; and Robert Joseph, the Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.
So what? Is he suggesting things would be different under the Democrats? I doubt it.

Finally, there's a real gem in the Times piece:
The Iranian Foreign Ministry dismissed the US media reports yesterday as a form of “psychological warfare” that stemmed “from America’s anger and helplessness”.
That's a bit rich, given last week's announcement from the hardline Abadgaram party that:
[W]e, recommend to the new Iranian defense minister to take the initiative and prepare a military exercise with the countries of the western hemisphere such as Cuba and Venezuela.
(Translation courtesy of Winston at the Spirit of Man blog.)

Now, if that doesn't smack of "anger and helplessness"...

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