U.S. Plans For Iran Examined

This week's New Yorker magazine reports on increased covert operations against Iran. The U.S. says no talks with Iran are possible before Tehran suspends its nuclear program. That is unlikely to happen, leaving Washington's plans open to question.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Leaders from neighboring Iran are addressing the talk of a possible U.S. military action there. Today, Iran's foreign minister called it craziness. President Bush, on the other hand, did not call it crazy. But today, he once again sought to play down the possibility.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: I have always said that all options are on the table, but the first option for the United States is to solve this problem diplomatically.

NORRIS: NPR senior news analyst Daniel Schorr takes note of two articles this week that address what the current or future administration might do about Iran.

DANIEL SCHORR: Seven and a half years into the Bush presidency, two-thirds of his nuclear axis of evil countries have been delisted - Iraq by invasion, North Korea by negotiation. That leaves Iran, and the prospects that Iran will give up its nuclear ambitions are dim. It seems clear that the Bush-Cheney administration is intent on doing something to eliminate the Iranian threat, and the constant reiteration that all options are on the table is chilling.

An article by Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker magazine titled, "Preparing the Battlefield," describes a major escalation of covert operations against Iran. Authorized by a secret presidential finding, $400 million are being spent according to Hersh on activities in Iran designed to destabilize the leadership and to gather intelligence about Iran's nuclear program.

Iranian commandos have been seized and brought to Iraq for interrogation. Senator Obama calls for direct talks with Iran without preconditions; Senator McCain denounces him. I don't know what President Ahmadinejad will make of all that.

Brookings Institution scholars Ivo Daalder and Philip Gordon, who are also unpaid advisors to Senator Obama, have had intensive discussions with officials in Western Europe, Moscow and Beijing. They write in the Washington Post that these capitals would universally welcome the idea of an America willing to talk to Iran.

So far, the Bush position is no talks before Iran suspends its nuclear enrichment program. Judging from the Iranian reaction, that will not happen soon. And so, stand by if diplomacy fails for the administration to take the next of those unspecified options off the table.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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