Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Bush dismisses Iran attack reports but admits leak role

Sydney Morning Herald:

By Mark Coultan Herald Correspondent in New York

April 12, 2006

PRESIDENT George Bush has dismissed as "wild speculation" suggestions that the US has plans to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities with a military strike.

He also confirmed that he had authorised the release of previously classified intelligence used to justify his decision to go to war with Iraq.

Writing in The New Yorker, the investigative reporter Seymour Hersh says that the US has drawn up plans to attack Iran's nuclear facilities including an option of using tactical bunker-busting nuclear weapons to destroy underground installations.

Speaking to a group of international relations students at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, Mr Bush sought to quell the outrage the article provoked. He said that some people interpreted his doctrine of pre-emption, which he referred to as the "doctrine of prevention", as meaning the use of force.

"It doesn't mean force, necessarily. In this case, it means diplomacy," he said. "And by the way, I read the articles in the newspapers this weekend. It was just wild speculation."

Earlier Mr Bush's spokesman, Scott McClellan, refused to confirm or deny the nuclear weapons report, saying: "Those … seeking to draw broad conclusions based on normal military contingency planning are misinformed or not knowledgeable about the Administration's thinking."

Mr Bush also gave new emphasis to denying Iran the technology to produce highly enriched uranium, saying that while he supported a Russian plan to provide enriched uranium to Iran, he did not support any proposal that included a research component.

"We do not want the Iranians to have a nuclear weapon, the capacity to make a nuclear weapon, or the knowledge as to how to make a nuclear weapon," he said.

He also rejected holding bilateral negotiations with Iran, saying multilateral negotiations were more effective. "It's amazing that when we're in a bilateral position … somehow the world ends up turning the tables on us."

Mr Bush also linked himself directly to the imbroglio over the naming of a CIA officer by confirming his role in attempting to silence criticism of the war in Iraq.

The media has pummelled Mr Bush as the "leaker in chief" - replaying his statement that if there was someone leaking intelligence in his administration he wanted to know who it was - since court documents last week linked him to such a leak to justify his decision to go to war.

Lewis Libby , the former chief of staff to the Vice-President, Dick Cheney - indicted in an investigation into who leaked the identity of a CIA agent - told a grand jury last week that he had been authorised by Mr Cheney, acting on the authority Mr Bush, to leak information on the intelligence used to go to war. He briefed a New York Times reporter about sections of the National Intelligence Estimate report.

Attempting to make a distinction between leaking and declassifying intelligence, Mr Bush said that after no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, there were "questions in people's minds about the basis on which I made statements … so I decided to declassify the [National Intelligence Estimate].

White House officials later emphasised that Mr Bush did not know that the intelligence was to be leaked to the media.


At 5:38 PM, Blogger Rizza said...

What is really amazing is how many people are ready to go to war with Iran for what Bush is saying as we are looking at all of the problems in Iraq. I heard an interview with Hersh on Fresh Air broadcast from Philadelphia. He said that it would take more than 13 years for Iran to develop true nuclear weapons. He also talked about a few top brass at the pentegon directly opposing the president and have announced they will resign if any such air strikes or nuclear attacks are taken out by the United States against Iran. Bush has repeatedly told the Pentegon that they need to consider a pre-emptive nuclear strike on Iran. He is suggesting we start a nuclear war in the middle east? Shouldn't that be the headline on CNN or Fox News?


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