Options on the Table: U.S. and Iran

The White House is sending a complicated message about its intentions toward Iran. Daniel Schorr, senior news analyst for NPR, says the administration is attempting to convince Iran that military action is possible, while trying to convince Americans that military action is highly improbable.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Today President Bush dismissed reports that his administration is planning for an attack on Iran. At the Johns Hopkins School for Advance International Studies in Washington D.C., Mr. Bush spoke of his doctrine of prevention.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: I know, I know we're here in Washington, you know, prevention means force. It doesn't mean force necessarily. In this case, it means diplomacy. And by the way, I read the articles in the newspapers this weekend, there was just wild speculation, by the way. What you're reading is wild speculation, which is kind of a, you know, happens quite frequently here in the nation's capital.

NORRIS: NPR's Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr has been listening and reading about the situation with Iran. And he's not surprised by what's being said.

DANIEL SCHORR reporting:

From Baghdad to New Orleans not much has been coming up roses lately for President Bush's legacy. And so, with immigrants massing around the country against his immigration policy, it's not hard to understand why the administration would welcome a change of subject emphasizing Mr. Bush's role as Commander in Chief. It's vaguely reminiscent of the buildup to the invasion of Iraq. Seymour Hersh's revelations in The New Yorker magazine, that the administration is considering air strikes against Iran's nuclear installations, come at a delicate moment.

One of the installations reported to be a potential target of American air power is the uranium enrichment at Natans. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced today, I will give you, the Iranian nation, good nuclear news. As taken by Iranian newspapers to mean that in the next few days he will announce successful enrichment of uranium, and tightening Iran to membership in the nuclear club. This may coincide with a planned visit to Iran by Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

And indications are that the confrontation with Iran is nearing some kind of climax. Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has weighed in with a long and learned article in the Washington Post endorsing the administration's preventive strategy after other causes of action have been carefully analyzed.

Today, however, the president sought to reassure the public that he was not gearing up for another war. He said that prevention does not necessarily mean force. In this case, it means diplomacy, he said. Mr. Bush dismissed war talk as wild speculation, although much of Hersh's article is attributed to current and former American military and intelligence officials. Which leaves the administration in a position of telling Americans not to worry, and telling Iran time to worry. This is Daniel Schorr.

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