Harsh Rhetoric for Iran Is Only Isolating U.S.

The Bush administration's "tough talk" on Iran is intended to isolate the country, but the harsh rhetoric may be doing more to isolate the United States from the international community.

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Last week, the United States announced new sanctions against Iran's Revolutionary Guard. The idea is to pressure Tehran to stop enriching uranium.

News analyst Daniel Schorr has doubts about whether the tough U.S. stance will work.

DANIEL SCHORR: President Bush sometimes uses words loosely. And so at his October 17th news conference, he conjured up the specter of World War III as he talked about Iran's nuclear program. If that was meant to scare other countries and to journey a new coalition of the willing aimed at isolating Iran, it didn't.

The trouble is that the Bush administration has done better at isolating itself than isolating Iran. The Washington Post says today that Iran will likely be able to withstand the financial sanctions imposed by the United States Treasury.

The administration has talked of a third U.N. sanctions resolution. But Russian President Vladimir Putin, after a friendly visit to the Ayatollah and the president of Iran, announced that Russia will veto any new sanctions proposal. China indicates it will do the same, and even Europe seems cool to the idea of any further economic squeeze.

Iranian scholar Shaul Bakhash says that oil-rich Iran has a huge cushion of foreign exchange reserves. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, might be expected to lead the charge against Iran's nuclear program. He hasn't.

ElBaradei has now begun a critical round of talks with Iran. He has urged the Bush administration to temper its rhetoric, warning that we cannot add fuel to the fire. Still, the president talks of all options being on the table, and Vice President Dick Cheney talks of serious consequences. The chances are that there's no consensus in the administration about what these words mean.

Cheney maybe more hawkish than Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; the chances are, too, that Iranian leaders are not of one mind about how far to push their luck. There doesn't appear to be any agreement in Congress about how far to push the Iranian regime.

Republican Senator Trent Lott says you do need to be careful about rhetoric, but Senator Lindsey Graham says we need to be more aggressive. Without some kind of coalition behind him, President Bush will find it difficult to move unilaterally. Or, maybe he will feel provoked into moving unilaterally. Who knows?

This is Daniel Schorr.

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