Iran's President Decries U.S. 'Psychological Warfare'

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The Bush administration hasn't ruled out a military strike against nuclear targets in Iran — a non-denial that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calls "psychological warfare." Madeleine Brand speaks with Graham Fuller, former vice chairman of the CIA's National Intelligence Council, about the significance of the dispute and the diplomatic efforts behind the scenes.


From the Studios of NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand. Coming up, a New York City Police Officer teaches survival skills in Iraq. First, though, the president of Iran is now saying that nothing can stop his country's nuclear program. Even what he called a "psychological war waged from the West." President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is referring to news reports that the U.S. is preparing plans for military action against nuclear targets in Iran. President Bush has called those reports wild speculation. Graham Fuller is a former vice chairman of the CIA's National Intelligence Council and an expert on Iran's strategic capabilities. And he joins us now from his home in British Columbia. Welcome to the program.

Mr. GRAHAM FULLER (Former vice chairman, CIA National Intelligence Council): Thank you.

BRAND: Is the president of Iran correct when he says that the U.S. is waging a psychological war against Iran? That it does not intend to carry out these military strikes?

Mr. FULLER: Well, there's no question that the United States is carrying out a psychological war against Iran at this point. I think all the various leaks that have occurred both in the United States and in U.K.--visits of various American officials overseas to ally countries to talk about potential talks in Iran--all of this is designed to impress upon Tehran that we are very, very serious about this issue. On the other hand, I think that if we objectively look at the problems that are involved in an American attack against Iran, they are huge. The odds in the end are that the U.S. is hoping that this will intimidate Iran into a more reasonable policy to back down and impress our allies that we mean business about the deal. But war, I don't think so.

BRAND: Well, when we say we mean business, are we really saying we mean business, or are we just trying to scare off Iran?

Mr. FULLER: Well, I think it means that we're very determined on this particular issue up to a point. But, you know, if this had been going on, say, in 2003 before the attack on Iraq, it would've been a very different ballgame. I think then the options were truly wide open. But today, I think the president's options are extraordinarily limited. Iraq is a failure. It's getting worse. Our troops are bogged down there. There's immense anger in the Muslim world at us. I mean, there're just multiple reasons why I think a very heavy military attack against Iran is not in the cards.

BRAND: Military planners are constantly coming up with military scenarios and drawing up plans for attacks around the world, but usually they're theoretical. What's the difference in this case?

Mr. FULLER: The plans are still the same. Indeed, those plans would be drawn up, but they're a great deal more public and there's a great deal more so-called leaks about them and discussions. This is not to say that these concerns and anxieties in the West are not real, but I think they come against a background of awareness, a rising awareness that American options are really limited at this point. And that we're probably going to have to find some other means of combination of diplomacy or...I mean, you know, here it is, 25 years after the Iranian revolution, and this is one of the most important counties in the Middle East, and we're still not talking to them. I think that in itself is something that will have to change. We've got to deal with them, whether we like them or not.

BRAND: Graham Fuller is former vice chairman of the CIA's National Intelligence Council. His latest book is The Future of Political Islam. Graham Fuller, thank you for joining us.

Mr. FULLER: You're most welcome.

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