International Information Programs
Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

May 29, 2003

May 29, 2003





**  Writers see Administration hawks and doves "deeply split" over U.S. policy options for Iran.


**  Despite heightened rhetoric, few believe Washington will risk war in Iran.


**  Skeptics say talk of destabilizing the regime plays into the hands of Tehran's hard-liners and will encourage Iran to pursue "the nuclear option."




The 'two souls' of the Bush administration grapple over policy--  A common view in the global press is that "Pentagon hawks" who "know only one recipe for the Middle East"--regime change--are struggling with Secretary of State Powell and Foggy Bottom "doves" to influence what direction U.S. policy takes towards Tehran.  The choice, one Italian daily stated, is between the Pentagon's desire to "extirpate the evil immediately" and Powell's desire "to make moderation and realpolitik prevail."  Pakistani papers argued that the "neo-con clique" in Washington, "puffed up" by triumph in Iraq, was behind a "mindless and radical shift" in U.S. policy to destabilize the Tehran regime.


Few believe Washington's rhetorical 'attack' will lead to war--  Despite the "warlike rhetoric" emanating from the Administration, few observers saw "Washington's war of words" leading to the real thing.  "Even the hawks" don't want a war with Iran, Turkey's mass-appeal Milliyet declared.  Canada's conservative National Post agreed:  "The consensus of policy wonks left and right is that invading Iran would be a foolish idea."  Even analysts on the right, the paper noted, believe "regime change" can be accomplished without firing a shot.  Muslim editorialists saw parallels between pre-war accusations against Iraq and the Administration's charges about Iran's WMD ambitions and its ties to al-Qaida, terming them a "pretext" for military action against the Tehran regime.  An Australian writer was one of the few non-Muslim commentators to fear that the "psychological warfare" the U.S. was now engaged in might also be "the essential precursor" to a shooting war.  


'High risk' U.S. strategy could imperil reformers, reinforce Tehran's nuclear ambitions--  Conservative writers claimed that the "remarkably successful" Iraq operation showed that "external threats can in themselves undermine...a regime that is in fear of its own people."  Algeria's anti-Islamist Le Matin held that U.S. accusations "are being adopted by the Iranian opposition."  More outlets, though, took the view that U.S. attempts to alter Iran's "complex internal structure" would "increase resistance" to reform elements, giving Tehran's hard-liners an excuse to "whip up war preparations."  An even "more likely choice" for the regime in the face of U.S. hostility is "to build and deploy nuclear weapons and missiles" to deter a U.S. attack.  To prevent this, Canada's leading Globe and Mail urged Washington to "constructively engage" Tehran instead of threatening destabilization, even though the paper admitted that engagement offers "no guarantee of speedy change" in Iran.

EDITOR:  Steven Wangsness

EDITOR'S NOTE:  This analysis is based on 44 reports from 18 countries, May 23-29, 2003.  Editorial excerpts from each country are listed from the most recent date.




BRITAIN:  "U.S. Advisors Divided Over Policy On Iran"


Roland Watson, Washington bureau chief of the conservative Times wrote (5/29):  "Senior Bush administration officials are deeply split about whether to isolate, destabilize or engage Iran, setting the stage for a foreign policy tussle that could dwarf divisions over Iraq.  Hawks in the Pentagon are pushing for a more aggressive policy against Iran's clerics, involving increased support for the country's reformist movement in an effort to topple the Islamic rulers.  Officials in the State Department and White House are more cautious, arguing that any sign of U.S. involvement with the reformist movement would discredit the reformers.  But they have yet to offer an alternative way forward.  The problems presented by Iran are significant.  Despite its inclusion in Mr. Bush's 'axis of evil' the strategy deployed against other states on the U.S. blacklist does not necessarily apply." 


"U.S. Attitude Is Disconcerting"


Belfast's broadly nationalist Irish News editorialized  (5/29):  The U.S. defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, can certainly not be accused of taking a low-key approach to American foreign policy.  Having successfully argued for a military solution to the Iraq problem, he has now turned his attentions to neighboring Iran.  Mr Rumsfeld warned Iran against any efforts to influence the reconstruction of Iraq.  He specifically said that an attempt to remake Iraq in Iran's image would be 'aggressively put down'.  The defense secretary's tone added some weight to unconfirmed reports from Washington that a U.S. intervention in Iran was under consideration.  However, there would be enormous dangers in embarking on such a course of action.  The Iraqi campaign may well have been achieved its military aims, but it most certainly did not result in the wider outcome envisaged by the U.S. administration.  Mr Rumsfeld was yesterday forced to concede the real possibility that no weapons of mass destruction would ultimately be found in Iraq.  Given that these weapons were cited as the main reason for the invasion in the first place, this was quite an admission.  He said unconvincingly that Saddam Hussein's regime might have destroyed its illegal arsenal before the coalition forces entered Iraq....  The U.S. has now been left in full control of Iraq, but cannot produce either Saddam or his weapons of mass destruction.  This sobering thought should dominate the debate over America's attitude towards Iran.  The U.S. attitude is disconcerting."


"Next Stop Tehran?"


Simon Tisdall wrote in the center-left Guardian (5/27):  "Without some new terrorist enormity in the U.S. 'homeland', surely Bush is not so reckless as to start another all-out war as America's election year approaches?  Washington's war of words could amount to nothing more than that.  Maybe the U.S. foolishly believes it is somehow helping reformist factions in the Majlis (parliament), the media and student bodies.  Maybe destabilisation and intimidation is the name of the game and the al-Qaida claims are a pretext, as in Iraq.  Perhaps the U.S. does not itself know what it wants to do....  But who knows? Tehran's dilemma is real: Washington's intentions are dangerously uncertain....


"Iran's alternative course is the worst of all, but one which Bush's threats make an ever more likely choice.  It is to build and deploy nuclear weapons and missiles in order to pre-empt America's regime-toppling designs. The U.S. should hardly be surprised if it comes to this.  After all, it is what Washington used to call deterrence before it abandoned that concept in favour of 'anticipatory defence' or, more candidly, unilateral offensive warfare. To Iran, the U.S. now looks very much like the Soviet Union looked to western Europe at the height of the cold war....  If this is Iran's choice, the U.S. will be much to blame.  While identifying WMD proliferation as the main global threat, its bellicose post-9/11 policies have served to increase rather than reduce it....  Bush's greatest single disservice to non-proliferation came in Iraq. The U.S. cried wolf in exaggerating Saddam's capability.  Now it is actively undermining the vital principle of independent, international inspection and verification by limiting UN access to the country....  If Iran ultimately does the responsible thing and forswears the bomb, it will not be for want of the most irresponsible American provocation."


FRANCE:  "Washington Raises Its Voice Against Teheran"


Right-of-center Les Echos editorialized (5/28):  “Even if President Bush has not yet publicly announced his position on Iran, several U.S. diplomats have had to cancel relations with their Iranian counterparts while the U.S. press announced that some Pentagon hawks were putting together their own vision of how to deal with Iran....  FM de Villepin shares the concerns of his American counterpart, Colin Powell, and has called on Teheran to accept inspections of its nuclear sites....  In spite of Iran’s denial that it has allowed al-Qaida terrorists to operate from its territory, it is a fact that its border with Pakistan is not secure, allowing many of Bin Laden’s men to find refuge in Iran.  But the latest tension between Iran and the U.S. goes well beyond these issues: since the war in Iraq, the U.S. is beginning to assess the real weight of Iraq’s Shiites and would like to keep Iran’s Shiites from intervening.  The dangerous task underway and which began with Iraq is forcing the Americans to put pressure on the entire region, including in Saudi Arabia.  This is all happening just when the situation in Iran is at a standstill because of the stalemate between reformers and conservatives.”


GERMANY:  "Urge To Restructure"


Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger noted in an editorial in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (5/27):  "It will depend on several factors whether there will be a confrontation [between the United States and Iran].  One factor is the outcome of the power struggle in Washington.  Those in Washington who want to return to the issue of regime change, should hold back their urge to restructure the region.  In Tehran in turn, those people who are interested in a dialogue must clarify what is the real value of opening the country--and what is not tolerable.  Iraq is a deterring example--in a double respect."


"U.S. Threats Against Iran"


Washington correspondent Malte Lehming filed the following editorial for centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (5/27):  "The U.S. government is systematically increasing pressure on Iran.  On Sunday, it leaked to the press that it wants to stop all contacts with Iran and that it is planning the ouster of the government.  In addition to the Al Qaida terrorism, those radical-Islamic forces that mainly fight Israel seem to come into the cross-hairs of the Americans.  And the German government that has special relations with Iran could also get into trouble.  Not only the skin of the Mullahs is getting thinner."


"Axis Of Chaos"


Business daily Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf (5/27) judged:  "America's hawks obviously know only one recipe for the Middle East:  regime change.  Following Afghanistan, Iraq and a minor bickering with Syria, the Pentagon is now focusing on Iran.  It is true that the issue is not war, but 'only' the subversive undermining of the religious state.  But even with such an approach, the hardliners--if they get a free hand--will create more chaos than order....  At issue is the ouster of the regime, but like in the Iraq war, other arguments are used as a pretext.  Indeed, Iran seems to be working on the production of the bomb, but only in order to deter U.S. intervention.  But the attempt to link Iran with Al Qaida seems to be construed....  Like no other Islamic country in the region, Iran fights Sunni terrorists.  If the United States is now shaking the unstable balance of the complex internal structure of Iran, it will run a high risk.  It will also raise the resistance to the reformers who have thus far pinned great hopes on the Americans.  And even if the regime is toppled, not too much will be won.  Like in Afghanistan and Iraq, a power vacuum is looming which offers an even more fertile ground to Islamic religious warriors."


ITALY:  "Iran Warns Bush: Ready To React"


Alberto Pasolini Zanelli observed in pro-government, leading center-right daily Il Giornale (5/28):  “Powell slows down, Tehran reacts harshly, Bush postpones a decision--not for very long, just a couple of days for the time being.  The meeting at the White House, urgently requested by the Pentagon ‘hawks,’ will probably take place tomorrow: the issue, or, better, the goal, will be Iran, with prospects that may have an immediate deadline.  It is exactly this development that the State Department tried to oppose with a firm and unambiguous ‘no.’  ‘Our policy towards Tehran is not destined to change,’ said Powell.  The world knows that the Secretary of State, of late, has seldom had the last word.  That’s why Tehran reacted promptly and harshly....  The Iranian regime is facing the highest tension in relations with the United States since the proclamation of the Evil Axis formula by Washington.”


"The White House On The Attack On Iran"


Marcella Emiliani commented in Rome's center-left Il Messaggero (5/26):  “After Iraq, has Iran’s hour come?  For sure, relations between Washington and Tehran suddenly deteriorated yesterday...after a period when a cautious game between the U.S. and Iran had been played during the war on Iraq...notwithstanding the fact that last November President Bush had put the Ayatollah regime on the list of the rogue states....  Indeed, it is sure that al-Qaida terrorists have arrived in Iran.  The problem is to find out just how much the authorities knew and if they are aware of their exact number and their destabilization plans....  As for the Bush administration, it is unlikely that it wants to get involved in another war, after Afghanistan and Iraq....  Moreover, Iran has 55 million people who, for years, have been fed a virulent anti Americanism, and for sure are not ready to lay down their arms as Saddam’s Iraq did.  Perhaps, for Washington it is enough, at the moment, to make Iran toe the line under the threat of a war.  It worked with Syria.”


"Two New Scenarios And An Umpire: U.S. Voters"


Marcello Foa held in pro-government, leading center right daily Il Giornale (5/27):  “The coming days will be of decisive importance to understand if we are faced with a new international crisis....  America has to choose between two scenarios, which, once again, represent the two souls of the Administration.  The first one is Rumsfeld’s scenario....  The other one is Powell’s scenario....  Which of the two visions will prevail?  Is it better to extirpate the evil immediately, as Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz maintain, or is it better to make moderation and ‘realpolitick’ prevail, as Powell is asking for?  Of course, Bush has the final say.  And it is not sure he will make any decision now.  Perhaps, Rumsfeld’s position is a tactical one and is aimed at inducing Tehran to make new concessions, in particular with regard to the nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.  A lot will depend on other factors--the consequences on the peace process between the Arabs and the Israelis, the opinions of key members of the Administration, as Condoleezza Rice; and above all, the repercussions of a destabilization of Iran on the world economy, and, therefore, on the chances of an American recovery.  From now on, they are also thinking about the 2004 elections.  The Ayatollah’s fate also depends on the U.S. consumers’ trust.”


"A Second Front For Washington"


Alberto Negri opined in leading business daily Il Sole 24 Ore (5/27):  “What should be done with Iran?  The Administration’s tough faction maintains that there is an Iranian connection, and, in particular, that the command of the attacks in Saudi Arabia was Iran.  Iran acknowledges it has arrested dozens of al-Qaida member....  Indeed, after the war on Saddam, an Iranian crisis is shaping up in the oil gulf.  Perhaps it can be avoided as now the U.S. and its military deployment directly confine on two fronts with the Islamic Republic: in the north from Afghanistan and in the south from Iraq.  The surrounding of Iran is, at the moment, the most tangible change of geopolitics of George Bush’s new Middle East.”


RUSSIA:  "The U.S. Asks Russia To Break Off With Iran"


Georgiy Bovt and Maksim Yusin wrote in reformist Izvestiya (5/29):  "It looks as if nuclear cooperation between Moscow and Tehran has become the main stumbling bloc in Russo-American relations.  The Americans have made it clear that whether the United States and Russia make it up with one another and whether Bush and Putin forget their mini-tiff over Iraq depends on the kind of position Moscow will take on nuclear cooperation with Tehran....  Russian officials, talking to Americans confidentially, would intimate that Moscow, basically, might break off with Tehran...for compensation.  The Americans would listen and even nod in agreement but they would stop short of making concrete proposals.  The world's only superpower hates to commit itself.  The situation may change now, and the Administration may finally decide to take Russia's interests into account....  Objectively speaking, it is not in Russia's interest to have a radical Islamic regime with a nuclear potential next to its borders.  Losses from having such a neighbor may be far greater than profits from completing the Busher project."


"Nuclear Dossier Is Cause Of U.S. Pressure"


Dmitriy Suslov and Arif Guseynov in Baku stated in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (5/29):  "The 'nuclear dossier' is the chief cause of the United States' increased pressure on Iran....  A pro-American regime in Iran would automatically strengthen Turkey's position and weaken Russia's in the Caucasus.  In the longer term, it may end the Caucasus' dependence on Russia's energy resources....  The recent terrorist acts in Saudi Arabia and intelligence reports about Iran's ties with Al-Qaida have brought the positions of the Pentagon and State Department considerably closer together."


"Please No Ultimatums"


Arkadiy Dubnov commented in reformist Vremya Novostey (5/29):  "The Russian Foreign Minister has rebuffed Washington's attempts to accuse Moscow of conniving at Iran's nuclear ambitions.  Nobody will benefit by confrontation over Iran.  Russia is opposed to interference in any country's affairs, Igor Ivanov stated.  Obviously, he said that in the heat of polemics--ever since September 11, 2001, the world's agenda, otherwise called a fight against the threat of international terrorism, has been one of solid interference, interference in the affairs of the countries that pose that threat.  On the other hand, you can't but agree with Ivanov railing against the Americans having made their 'unsubstantiated accusations' in the form of an ultimatum.  As for the 'nuclear' component of Washington's Iranian dossier, it looks more substantiated document-wise.  Moscow is ready to take U.S. arguments very seriously as far as that goes." 


"U.S. Ready For Regime Change. This Time In Iran"


Boris Volkhonskiy wrote in reformist business-oriented Kommersant (5/28):  "High-ranking officials in the U.S. administration claim that Iran develops nuclear weapons, hides Al-Qaida militants, and staged terrorist acts in Saudi Arabia on May 12.  They disregard Tehran's official denials of the charges and the fact that since September 11, 2001, the Iranians have arrested more than 500 people on suspicion of ties with Al-Qaida.  More than that, Washington ignores that Iran's Shi'a leadership, by definition, can't be connected to a Sunni-led international network.  Nonetheless, an antiterrorist element among the old 'nuclear' charges against Iran, so it seems, is beginning to take effect.  Russia no longer dismisses accusations of nuclear cooperation with Iran as lightly as before....  The aim of the current propaganda broadside on Iran must be to see what comes of it.  In any event, there is not going to be any armed action of the kind that took place in Afghanistan or Iraq--the traditionally poor Afghanistan and the embargo-emaciated Iraq are no match for Iran in terms of its economic, military and human potential....   Most U.S. politicians, while urging caution, agree that Iran is a threat, just as bad as Iraq was a year ago."


"Heeding Russia's Interests Is A Price For Its Support"


Gennadiy Sysoyev held in reformist business-oriented Kommersant (5/28):  "The United States' Iran policy having become tangibly tougher is not just a desire to do away with another would-be sponsor of global terrorism.  It is much more than that.  As far as the Americans are concerned, Iran has become almost the chief danger to their victories in Afghanistan and Iraq.  With a full and ultimate triumph in Afghanistan and Iraq so close, the Americans have suddenly realized that it may slip away.  To see their plans through, the Americans need a regime change.  But that is not easy.  Russian support may come in handy.  It looks like Washington can count on it.  Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Georgiy Mamedov yesterday expressed concern over Iran's nuclear research, which is quite symptomatic.  Russia has adjusted its position on Iran.  And that, too, has a price, as the Americans are going to have to take into account Russian companies' interests in Iraq."


"Warlike Rhetoric Won't Help"


Vladimir Skosyrev commented in reformist Vremya MN (5/28):  "EU and IAEA observers have recently been wondering about Iran's nuclear sites, unsure that all of them are for peaceful purposes alone....  Unlike the United States, the EU has been actively cooperating with Iran.  But that policy is likely to change if the IAEA report turns out to be bad for Iran.  The situation does not seem like a deadlock, though.  There is a way out, provided Iran agrees to a more stringent control by the IAEA, that is, if Iran submits to international pressure.  The trouble is that the warlike rhetoric George Bush and his aides have been using is not conducive to compromise at all.  Iran's religious leader Hamenei and his advisors have every reason to believe that a concession on their part might be taken as a sign of weakness and whip up war preparations."


"A New Dialogue Needed"


Vladimir Frolov stated in reformist Vremya MN (5/28):  "Russia, the EU and the United States must start a qualitatively new dialogue on Iran to try to make it shut down its secret WMD programs, primarily in the nuclear field, and stop sponsoring terrorism.  Russia might support the EU's limited interaction policy as a pragmatic alternative to the Americans seeking to isolate Iran.  The EU and Russia might join hands to demand that Tehran offer the IAEA free access to its nuclear sites and give up its nuclear fuel program as a condition of continued cooperation in the nuclear energy area."


CZECH REPUBLIC:  "Vain Evasions Of Moscow"


Pavel Masa commented in the center-right daily Lidove Noviny (5/29):  "Headlines of main U.S. dailies yesterday announced that Russia had joined the U.S. in its pressure on Iran.  In reality, Moscow has not joined anybody.  Even less so to pressure a country in which it is building a reactor for hundreds of millions of dollars.  The Russian diplomacy chief Ivanov repealed yesterday phrases about a 'principled position.'  However, similar reminiscences of former Russian power do not apply in the world after Iraq.  Whether one likes it or not, George W. Bush is winning and he does not accept neutrality or evasions.  And certainly not principles.  Ivanov should seek different words, or a different job."


SWEDEN:  "Iran And The U.S."


The independent, liberal Dagens Nyheter held (5/28):  "It is said that the familiar conflict has resurfaced between the hawks...and the doves [vis-a-vis Iran policy]....  There is broad international agreement that no country should be able to house terrorists with impunity, and that the non-proliferation treaty on nuclear weapons should be respected.  [However,] the dispute [on how to deal with these] is about method.  If the U.S.' conclusion from the [Iraq] war is that similar tactics can be used in Iran, then the world order is in for a bad time."


TURKEY:  "The New Target"


Sami Kohen noted in mass appeal Milliyet (5/28):  “Even the ‘hawks’ in Washington are not planning to hit Iran....  The hawks, including Secretary Rumsfeld are getting tougher on Iran because of allegations about Tehran’s backing of the last month’s al Qaida suicide attack in Saudi Arabia....  Another reason is the concern that Iran was attempting to exert influence on the Iraqi Shiites via their leader Al-Haqim, who came back to Karbala from his long exile in Iran....  The Bush administration might see the Iranian problem as an opportunity to ‘test’ Turkey’s closeness to the U.S.  After Iraq, this will be a tough test for Turkish diplomacy, for Ankara would not want tension with Iran and Syria.  If the Bush administration chooses to compromise, instead of fighting with Tehran, Ankara’s good dialogue with both countries might help U.S. to that end.”




ISRAEL:  "The Road To A Nuclear Iran"


Extreme right-wing columnist Caroline B. Glick wrote on page one of conservative, independent Jerusalem Post (5/23):  "The prime danger to U.S. national security lies in Teheran.  The key to the global Islamic terror nexus that stretches across the world is found in the dark allies of Teheran, not in the well-lit streets of Jerusalem.  Rather than pressuring an ally to reward Teheran's terrorist friends, the U.S. should be using all its leverage throughout the world to prevent the ayatollahs from acquiring nuclear weapons.  The price the U.S. paid in 1990 for ignoring Saddam Hussein in favor of pressuring Israel was the Gulf War.  The price it will pay for repeating the mistake with Iran will be a nuclear nightmare."


ALGERIA:  "Anger Erupts Against Mullahs"


Anti-Islamist pro-Berber opposition French-language daily Le Matin reported (5/26):  “There is double pressure on the Iranian regime.  Recently, American accusations are being adopted by the Iranian opposition inside the country.  Will a popular revolt overthrow the Mullahs, just like the one, which brought them to power in 1979?  After Baghdad’s collapse Washington is planning to destabilize Teheran--another capital city on the ‘Axis of Evil’--by public and secret actions....  The Pentagon favors the encouragement of popular unrest in Iran in order to overthrow the Iranian regime.  In addition to its ‘disquieting’ nuclear program and its hindrance to the peace process in the Middle East, the country of the Mullahs is accused by the Americans of giving shelter to ten members of the Al-Qaida terrorist network among whom, according to CIA reports, are those involved in the recent Saudi Arabian blasts.”




AUSTRALIA:  "U.S. Bent On Making Its Mark On Iran"


Foreign affairs writer Nick Hordern observed in the business-oriented Australian Financial Review (5/28):  “Just as it did with Baghdad, the U.S. is waging a psychological war to change the regime in Tehran....  Washington’s current tone recalls the ramping up of its psychological warfare operations ahead of the invasion of Iraq....  So the psychological campaign--now an official part of the Pentagon’s war-fighting strategy--is both an alternative to war (if it works) and the essential precursor to a successful war.  Which will it prove in Iran?...  Washington knows international opposition to any third Gulf War would be, if anything, even more intense than that to the second.  But would Washington care?  The mood among the neo-conservatives in Washington, basking in their Iraqi victory, might be such that they are prepared to go it entirely alone--except, perhaps, for Australia.”


CHINA:  "The U.S. Has Shown More And More 'Concerns' About Iran"


Guan Jianbin commented in the official Communist Youth League China Youth Daily (Zhongguo Qingnianbao) (5/29):  "Recently, the Bush administration, which has not yet found any 'evidence' of Saddam in Iraq, has shifted its focus to the Iran government, which 'covers up for terrorists.'...  The U.S. will not take any major action against Iran within the near future.  Since the U.S. supports the opposition's activities in Iran, the domestic situation of Iran will not be calm." 


"The U.S. Intends To Topple Iran"


Ren Yujun and Ze Chun commented in the official Communist Party international news publication Global Times (Huanqiu Shibao) (5/28):  “No matter what measures Iran will adopt to react, the primary issue is what kind of action the U.S. will take against Iran.”


INDONESIA:  "American Adventure in Iran"


Nanang Pamuji, commented in independent afternoon daily Suara Pembaruan (5/28):  "Iran cannot be compared with Iraq because its political system is relatively more democratic than Iraq's.  In fact, there are still a lot of loopholes for building a coalition with pro-U.S. groups in Iran.  For these reasons, some U.S. think tanks find that the hard-line policy of Bush will bring more harm than good.  Perhaps the primary problem lies in the characteristics of the current U.S. government that chooses to take a hard-line path rather than diplomacy.  In the long term, this will only favor anti-U.S. hard-line groups in Iran.…  The U.S. policy and adventure in the Middle East are obviously very dangerous.  What is more risky is perhaps that the U.S. plan in Iran is only aimed at concealing their failures in the reconstruction of post-war Afghanistan and Iraq.  The two countries are now in an unstable and fragile condition after the U.S. invasions."


"Act Blindly"


Muslim intellectual Republika commented (5/28):  “Now the U.S. is eyeing Iran with the same allegation as that against Iraq: Iran possesses weapons of mass destruction and pursues nuclear weapons and, of course, ‘hides’ Bin Laden followers.  Reportedly the U.S. might also ask Israel to destroy Iran's nuclear plant as it did Osiraq, the Iraqi nuclear plant, in 1981....  We understand the U.S. has a grudge against Iran.  Just remember, a senile old man, Ayatollah Khomeini, was able to topple the powerful regime of Shah Reza with his tapes.  How elegant the way he toppled the regime, not by force because he and his followers did not have any.  It was only with people power that the most powerful regime in the Middle East could be conquered....  Bush now found a chance to take revenge.  He could make up any pretext and would not care about the reaction.  That’s the characteristic of evilness.”


"Rhetoric At Destabilizing Iran"


Independent Koran Tempo noted (5/28):  “Iran has regional political lines that cannot be compromised with U.S. demands.  Iran will insist on peaceful and comprehensive solutions to Middle East issues.  Therefore, the neo-conservatives in Washington would happily hail the end of Iran’s nuclear contracts with Moscow and of its relations with the Hizbullah or radical groups in Palestine.  That way Israel, which always encourages the U.S. to change the regime in Iran, would not only feel ‘safer’ after the fall of Saddam Hussein but would become more aggressive as well.  It is not impossible that Iran would resort to the doctrine of pre-emptive unilateral strikes à la America: rather than being attacked, it would be better to build up preemptive means, and the alternative for this would be nuclear weapons!  This alternative on one hand would strengthen the level of the threat of U.S. aggression, but on the other hand it would also provide deterrence against the regime change design by the U.S.  Had Iraq had nuclear warheads, Saddam’s regime might have not fallen.”


"Controlling The U.S. Ego"


Independent Media Indonesia commented (5/26):  “The theory is often different from the practice....  In the global perspective, that’s what the U.S. is showing now.  The sole superpower, in the name of democracy, has increasing ambitions to defeat any country it considers it should.  To that end, it does not have to listen to anybody, not even the UN....  The U.S. keeps veiling its motif to plunder oil [in Iraq] using numerous justifications.  We must tell the world that oil will become the reason the U.S. uses to control Iran, after Iraq.  And no one knows when the U.S. will stop invading because no one can predict when George Bush will stop his willful ambitions.  Power must be controlled.  The greater the power, the greater the need for control.  It is for this reason that nations of the world must unite to pressure and weaken the U.S. egoism and ambitions for power."


MALAYSIA:  "U.S. Looking For Excuses To Attack Iran"


Government-influenced, Malay language daily Berita Harian took this view (5/28):  "With the swift success of overthrowing Saddam Hussein, President George W. Bush is looking at removing the leadership of Iran--a country included in his Axis of Evil.  Apparently Teheran is guilty of supporting and sheltering al Qaeda as well the Hizbollah, Palestinian fighters and most recently, building weapons of mass destruction.  The Jewish lobby and special interests groups are at it again, harassing Bush and the Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz to start a war with Iran.  Israel is an enemy of Iran, so they are trying to fan the flames as well by claiming there is development of nuclear weapons in Iran.  The media have joined in by condemning Iran for the oppression of women--all the same stories that were used before Afghanistan was attacked.  If Bush continues his trend of waging war and finding lies and excuses to justify his actions, it would only add weight to the accusation that the U.S. views Islamic countries as enemies.  Communist North Korea with its open nuclear arms program remains ignored by the Bush administration."


"U.S. Stops Iran’s Developments"


Government-influenced Malaysia language daily Utusan Malaysia held (5/26):  “Because of their support of terrorism and their efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction, Iran is the world’s most dangerous country.   Although Iran played a helpful role to set up an interim Afghan government, it has lately been trying to exert undue influence in western Afghanistan and Kabul.  The U.S. needs to tone down its warnings to Iran and concentrate on improving relations between the two longtime foes, which have improved considerably since 11 September.  The political class in Tehran is quite unhappy with these new waves of accusations against their policies in the region.  The sheer fact that Tehran has been very quick in denying all these accusations shows that they are not happy with these developments and that they would like to return to a climate where they can repair their relationship with the United States.  Other developments also have troubled Iranian relations with the U.S.  If the U.S. is going to make such accusations, it needs to provide evidence.  Otherwise, the U.S. runs the risk of alienating Iran and damaging attempts to build stability and cooperation in the region.”


"U.S. Threats"


Government-influenced Malay language daily Mingguan Malaysia commented (5/25):  “U.S. views of Iran will be difficult to transform because of the anti-American rhetoric of the ruling Iranian clergy and the strong pro-Israeli voice in the United States. Furthermore, any Iranian steps to meet U.S. concerns will be difficult to measure.  Thus, it may be easier for the United States government to meet Iranian demands than for Iran to meet U.S. demands.  However, changes in Iran's policies have a significant impact on its domestic political balance of power.  Indeed, if Iran perceives a reduction in U.S. hostility, this will help bring about domestic changes favorable to both countries.  Each should recognize that U.S. rhetoric and posturing have substantive character of their own, apart from the largely procedural or financial demands Tehran makes upon Washington.  Even more difficult and less concrete is the issue of Iran's commitment to social modernization within the Muslim world.  Iran, joined by a large number of Arab Islamists, some of whom do not like Iran, believe that the Americans are dedicated to the preservation of the status quo and oppose any new order in the Middle East.  In Iranian eyes this is not simply an issue of contention between Washington and Tehran, but a broader struggle between modernizing forces in the region and the entrenched authoritarian regimes along with their Western allies.  Iran is seen by many as a potent symbol of rejection of the old pro-U.S. authoritarian order, even by those unsympathetic to Iran.  To a certain extent, an ongoing choice of lesser evils pervades the climate of the region and impacts on political decision-making.”




IRAN:  "U.S. Aims"


Reformist Mardom Salari had this to say (as reported on BBC website, 5/28):  "One can deduce from the behaviour and statements of White House leaders that an influential sector of the current American government is not optimistic about negotiating with or making contacts with the Iranian leadership.  They are pursuing ways to implement policies ultimately aimed at toppling the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran.  And without doubt, to realize their plan they will focus chiefly on Iran's internal conditions."


"Enemy Preparing"


Hardline, pro-Khamenei Jomhuri-ye Eslami judged (as reported on BBC website, 5/28):  "We must bear in mind that, by preoccupying our officials with political issues, the enemy is preparing the ground for its lackeys to perpetrate acts of corruption and immorality.  The country's law enforcement force and the judiciary must not wait for their superiors or be made to retreat in the face of the enemy's psychological warfare."


"America's Threats Are Serious"


Ali Shirazi-Nasab contended in reformist Aftab-e Yazd (5/25):  "Were we to cast a passing glance at a range of America's operations in the Middle East region we would realize that American government leaders have pursued in all those attacks a defined and clear--and nearly repetitious in all cases--line leading in the end to military attack and exertion of various pressures on the targeted country....  In this context, the new round of threats against the Islamic Republic of Iran has started by various American officials, and also their newspapers, and they are being pursued with increasing and greater intensity....    There is no doubt about it or in the fact that Israel considers our country as being its most dangerous enemy.  Thus, taking a look at the benefits that America would gain by its military attack on Iran, we would have no alternative other than taking this...seriously, and we should think of a way and solution to counter it.  Perhaps one of the factors that encourages America to attack Iran is the people's sense of discontent with respect to certain issues with whose elimination--which is not too difficult in most cases--we would be able at least to take the first step to counter America's threats and propaganda.  In addition, increasing the people's sense of participation in the country's affairs and elimination of certain misconceptions that have been brought about by certain ill advised comments about the people's ability to discern and choose is also a solution that would go a long way to mitigating the threats."


INDIA:  "Hawks Of Folly"


The pro-BJP right-of-center Pioneer judged (5/29):  "Pentagon hawks, who are pressing for action to destabilize the present regime in Iran by engineering uprisings against it, can land the United States in serious trouble.  The justification cited for doing so, that Al Qaeda operatives based in Iran played a key role in the blasts in Saudi Arabia on May 12, which killed 34 persons, including 10 Americans, does not appear convincing....  The U.S. has to date not been able to find in Iraq any trace of the weapons of mass destruction for the elimination of which it and its allies had gone to war against that country....  In fact, it will be disastrous not only for the U.S. but all countries wedded to modernity and democracy, if the destabilization of the moderate Khatami Government brings to power a hard-line regime that takes Iran back to the days of Ayatollah Khomeini....  [The hawks] are talking of destabilizing Iran even before they have established firm control over Iraq....  Meanwhile, the Al Qaeda has regrouped....  At this rate, the U.S. will become involved in a protracted and expanding conflict which...will turn world opinion increasingly against it and create conditions in which the Al Qaeda will thrive.  Is this what the Bush administration wants?  It is time it did some serious rethinking of the strategy of its global war against terrorism and the basic premises of its foreign policy."


PAKISTAN:  "Taking On Iran"


The Lahore-based Daily Times editorialized (5/28):  "Having been upstaged from post-war Iraq by the U.S. State Department, the Department of Defense is now eyeing Iran....  The ability of the neo-con clique in that city to reduce complex categories to absurdly simplistic equations is amazing.  Iran is not a rogue state; it is not under UN sanctions; it has a vibrant social, political and economic life; and while it is passing through a critical stage in the evolution of its institutions and the direction of its state and society, it is a highly developed entity in every sense--intellectual, political, social and cultural.  Neither is it a dictatorship like Afghanistan or Iraq.  What does the United States want to gain from a patently outrageous and highly destabilizing exercise?...  Not only would it put paid to the natural evolution within Iran going, mercifully, in favor of the reformers, but it would also generate major chaos in the region.  Iraq has only now begun; Afghanistan is slipping back; to add Iran to the list of targets would mean creating one big swamp in the region and beyond instead of filling it up....  Secretary of State Colin Powell's original formulation that Washington intended to deal with Iran at two levels was a smart strategy.  It would have allowed the U.S. to erode the influence of the hard-liners within Iran while reaching out to, and keeping communication channels open with, the reformers.  Were the U.S. now to decide on a military option, Secretary Powell's nuanced policy would be the first casualty of such an abrasive approach.  It would also give Iran greater incentive to move quickly towards developing a nuclear-weapon option, which presumably is not the stated intention of the United States.  The DOD cannot continue to make a mess of things and then get the State Department to clean up after it."


"Tehran Next?"


An editorial in the Karachi-based independent national daily, Dawn held (5/28):  "This marks a mindless and radical shift in Washington's Iran policy.  A destabilized Iran at this critical time in the Middle East will only boost Israel's interests, and certainly not those of the U.S. in the long run.  If Washington decides to play this dangerous game to the finish, it will arouse widespread resentment and anger against its policies and motives not only in Iran but also in the entire region."


"All American Guns Pointing Towards Iran"


The sensationalist Urdu daily Ummat argued (5/28):  "The United States has now pointed its guns towards Iran.  There is nothing new about the latest U.S. posture against Iran since the Bush administration does not want to see any Muslim country in the world growing stronger."


"Continuation Of American Terrorism"


Shahnawaz Farooqi opined in the Karachi-based, right-wing, pro-Islamic unity Urdu daily, Jasarat (5/28):  "The United States has targeted Iran, but the Muslim leaders still feel that they could avoid a clash with the U.S. by exercising 'prudence.'  Iran is a land of revolution, and it has written history by taking on American conspiracies.  But even then it would be difficult to say what the Iranian leadership is thinking right now.  Circumstances have proved that rapprochement with the United States is no longer possible, and there is no other way than resistance left to the Muslims.  The more this resistance is delayed the more it would be harmful for the Muslims and beneficial for the U.S." 


"Clouds Over Iran"


The centrist national The Nation editorialized (5/27) (Internet version):   "U.S. intelligence agencies have supposedly traced some ill-defined link between the May 12 bombings in Riyadh and Iran.  About a dozen Al-Qaeda operatives are thought to be operating in north-eastern Iran, on the Afghan border.  Because of this apparently grave threat to world peace, the USA has decided to break off its cautious contacts and policy of quiet engagement with Iran, and today a full-blown meeting at the White House will decide how to proceed.  Mr Donald Rumsfeld and his Defence Department, puffed up with his triumphs in Afghanistan and Iraq, wishes to go for a policy of destabilising the Iranian regime, the 'regime change' trick.  The State Department, however, is more cautious, realising the magnitude of the task.  


"For a start, Iran is not a rogue state in any sense, unlike the Taliban's Afghanistan, unrecognised by all but three countries, or Saddam's Iraq, under UN sanctions for over 12 years.  And directly related to this, Iran, having recovered from its 1980s war with Iraq, is not a debilitated country like Afghanistan, shattered by two decades of invasion and civil war, or Iraq, worn down by 12 years of sanctions.  Perhaps most important of all, Iran is not so easily destabilised....  Its form of democracy may not meet with Western approval, but it is well entrenched and Iranian state institutions are both solid and sophisticated....   American credibility internationally, including in Pakistan, has been wrecked by the failure to find any WMDs in Iraq (another issue now being played up with reference to Iran)....   Iran evidently needs the support of the world community more than ever before, especially that of the Muslim world....  In this respect, Pakistan can and should play an important bridging role, not just with the Muslim world, but also in persuading the USA to desist from yet another disastrous adventure."  


"... And Now Iran's Turn?"


 An editorial in the second largest Urdu daily, Nawa-e-Waqt noted (5/27):  "America has severed contacts with Iran and started planning for a regime change in that country....  Iran has neither a dictatorship nor a theocracy which most countries don't recognize as legitimate and just. Despite this fact, the international media, political observers and self-respecting countries like Malaysia are apprehending U.S. aggression against Iran, in the pattern of Afghanistan and Iraq. The reasons for such an eventuality include President Bush having declared Iran a part of the axis of evil, Iran's independent policy, Islamic fundamentalism, it's being anti-Israel and its revolutionary idealism....  America is sending a message to Muslims of all schools of thought, that they are unsafe."




CANADA:  "Turn Up The Rhetoric On Iran"


David Warren wrote in the conservative National Post (5/28) (Internet version):  "The United States is not going to invade Iran, however.  I am aware of not even one hawk in the Pentagon who wants to do that, to say nothing of the fey State Department.  The consensus of policy wonks left and right is that invading Iran would be a foolish idea; and on the right, that 'regime change' can be accomplished without this....  As the Americans are still learning from their remarkably successful Iraq incursion, external threats can in themselves undermine and discombobulate a regime that is in fear of its own people.  It is among the chief reasons the Saddamites became frozen in the headlights with the approach of war. Therefore, turn up the rhetoric."


"How Will Bush Play The Iran Card?"


Jeffrey Simpson observed in the leading Globe and Mail (5/27):  "Is Iran now on the Bush administration's hit list for 'regime change'?  The Americans...believe that the recently discovered Natanz nuclear facility is for producing weapons, a charge Tehran denies.  Some U.S. intelligence officials insist that the Iranians are harbouring al-Qaeda members who might be linked to the recent bombing in Riyadh....  Today, Iran is arguably one of the world's most fascinating and consequential countries, and not just because of tensions with the United States. Internally, the country is badly split between conservative, even reactionary, forces that support the governing Shia theocracy and those who favour more democracy....  Just as the Bush administration is trying to decide how to handle Iran, the Iranians, with their own internal divisions, are trying to figure out how to react to Washington.  The two countries recently held quiet meetings in Geneva, but they are now on hold.


"Look at the region from Iran's perspective.  Suddenly, the Americans are surrounding their country.  They've conquered neighbouring Iraq and are settling in for a prolonged stay.  They've put a friendly regime in Afghanistan....  U.S. ships are patrolling the Persian Gulf....  The U.S. has cozied up to the countries to Iran's north....  Hard-liners might conclude that one reason the U.S. dealt with Iraq and not North Korea was because one did not possess a nuclear weapon and the other did.  Lesson?  Get a nuclear weapon.  Quietly support Shia militants in Iraq, where Shiites are the largest religious group, to make life tough for the conquerors.  Others in Iran might read matters differently....  Don't cause trouble for the United States in Iraq or Afghanistan, where the Iranians have been co-operative in the fight against the Taliban.  Open nuclear plants to full inspections.  How Tehran handles its touchy relations with Washington depends in part on how the reform-conservative tensions play themselves out within Iran's complicated political system and its divided society.  The answer also depends on how the Bush administration decides to press an 'axis of evil' country.  Constructive engagement would take patience and diplomacy and offer no guarantee of speedy change.  Does that sound like the preferred approach of the Bush administration?"



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