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False Steps On Iran

French President Jacques Chirac. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Pyotr Romanov
UPI Outside View Commentator
Moscow (UPI) Feb 13, 2007
Politicians often say things they don't really mean. But sometimes they let themselves loose and start telling the truth, which only brings more trouble. The blunders committed by U.S. President George W. Bush no longer surprise anyone. But a faux pas by such a seasoned politician as French President Jacques Chirac, and on such a delicate issue as Iran's nuclear program, makes a sensation.

Chirac was supposedly not himself during a meeting with journalists, failing to stipulate clearly what was meant for the press and what he was saying off the record, which two journalists from The New York Times used to their advantage. The next day Chirac summoned the same journalists back to the Elysee Palace to retract many of his remarks, but it did not help.

At the first interview with The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune and Le Nouvel Observateur, he said: "Iran would not pose a big danger if it had one or two nuclear weapons."

That statement visibly shook all intermediaries at the "nuclear dossier" talks with Iran and the United Nations. The French president later compounded the problem when he tried to retract his words.

"I would say that what is dangerous about this situation is not the fact of having a nuclear bomb," he said. "Having one or perhaps a second bomb a little later, well, that's not very dangerous." But, "where will it [Iran] drop it, this bomb? On Israel?" Chirac asked. "It would not have gone 200 meters into the atmosphere before Tehran would be razed."

The statement shocked both Israel and Iran.

Chirac later retracted his words about Tehran, adding that any number of third countries would stop an Iranian bomb from ever reaching its target. That came as another shock for Israel, and the United States and Russia did not feel comfortable either. The latter two have the most advanced nuclear missile intercept technologies, but even they cannot be sure they can stop all incoming missiles. Or did the French president reveal a super-secret?

That would be funny if it were not so alarming. Firstly, the interview showed that one of the negotiating countries (France) does not see any danger in a violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which contradicts the opinion of the other five countries.

Secondly, anyone will tell you that having one or two bombs will eventually lead to accumulating a much larger arsenal.

Thirdly, it appears that Israel's security is not guaranteed, and Tehran's potential attempt to launch one or two nuclear bombs at the Jewish State may remain unpunished. Chirac said he retracted his words about Tehran, but he did not say anything about Israel. Maybe Paris will punish the tee-totaling Tehran by banning the export of French wines to it?

And lastly, it transpired from the French president's interview that "any number of third countries" can use the opportunity to train to intercept Iranian missiles, and that if they failed and Israel were razed, nobody, including Jacques Chirac, would be overly worried.

This is only a conjecture, but I firmly believe that politicians should think before talking.

Pyotr Romanov is a military commentator for the RIA Novosti news agency. This article is reprinted by permission of RIA Novosti. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and may not necessarily represent the opinions of the editorial board.

United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.

Source: United Press International

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Iran And Barbara Ann Could Get A Replay
Washington (UPI) Feb 13, 2007
The prestigious magazine The Economist, not MAD magazine, has a $2.2 billion B2B stealth bomber on its cover this week headlined "Next stop Iran?" In response to my question about how he rated the odds of a bombing campaign against Iran, R. James Woolsey, the former CIA director, hummed an answer for me on the sidewalk as we exited the Metropolitan Club.

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