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Outside View: NY Awaits Iranian President

Iran's new hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is seen on a big screen inside the parliament while addressing lawmakers 24 August 2005 in Tehran. Ahmadinejad told the 290-seat Majlis before the confirmation vote on each of his 21 proposed ministers began, that the Islamic republic wants negotiations over its nuclear programme to continue and is finalising 'innovations' to resolve the dispute. AFP photo by Atta Kenare.

Moscow (UPI) Aug 24, 2005
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the new Iranian president, is expected to make his diplomatic debut at the U.N. General Assembly in New York in September.

U.S. President George Bush has already ordered that Ahmadinejad's entrance be unimpeded, no matter whether or not he would be found guilty of hijacking the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979, and no matter whether Washington is bluffing or not when it talks about possible military action against Iran.

Bush made his recent statement about the possible use of armed force against Iran just as an emergency session of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Council of Governors in Vienna was once again discussing the problematic Iranian "nuclear dossier," that is, whether or not Tehran has the right to pursue its own nuclear program.

When asked recently about the Iranian nuclear program, Bush said, "All options are on the table. The use of force is the last option for any president."

He said something similar at the beginning of the year, and at that point there was a lot of speculation as to whether he meant precision strikes against suspected Iranian nuclear installations or a ground operation. It turned out that all the American president had in mind was diplomatic action.

However, this time Bush was much more specific. His words could even be interpreted as meaning that he, the commander-in-chief, is prepared to launch a ground attack against Iran, similar to that launched against Iraq.

But most (if not all) military analysts believe that a U.S. ground operation in Iran would be suicidal, given that the United States has not yet completed its military operation in Iraq to the west, and is faced with an unstable Afghanistan to the east. It could suffer unacceptable losses.

Iran is very different from Iraq. The population of Iran is over 70 million, whereas the population of Iraq is 25 million. Moreover, the Iranian population is fairly young (the average age is around 30). In addition, Iran has the strongest army in the region, and, as was shown by the presidential elections, the Iranian nation is fairly closely united around the Islamic faith.

As for the Afghanistan factor, if the U.S. intervenes against Iran, then the Taliban and al-Qaida will inevitably step up their anti-American efforts and Iran will avail itself of their assistance. Furthermore, the United States could have difficulty accessing its air bases.

The United States built air bases in Central Asia exclusively for its operation in Afghanistan, and the republics of the region - Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan - participated in the anti-terrorist coalition.

But there is absolutely no guarantee that these countries will let the United States use these bases or fly over their territories if it embarks on a military campaign in Iran. Whereas Taliban-ruled Afghanistan posed a threat to the region, Iran is seen to offer economic opportunities.

Without forward-deployment bases in Central Asia, the value of the American facilities in Afghanistan (in Kandagar, Bagram, and particularly in Shindand) could be seriously undermined.

The Pentagon is well aware of all these factors, and will have to take them into account. It also knows that even in the best-case scenario an operation in Iran would not be over any quicker than the one in Iraq.

Therefore, it is highly unlikely that the operation would be over before the end of Bush's term in office. It is also doubtful that Bush would be prepared to leave not only Afghanistan and Iraq, but also Iran, as his legacy to his Republican successor. He would be better just handing over the presidency to his democratic rivals.

Bush recently urged America's European friends - Germany, France, and Britain - to take the diplomatic lead in the talks with Iran. However, they do not share his position on the use of force. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder immediately denounced the military option as completely unsuitable and urged Bush to take it off the table.

Washington is of course taking all of this into account. Most probably, Bush, who is currently vacationing at his ranch near Crawford, addressed his statement exclusively to Tehran, and very specifically, to the new Iranian president.

In response, Tehran demonstrated once again that the Iranian nation wants it to continue to assert its right to develop its own peaceful nuclear program: Following Bush's statement, the Iranian public demanded that Tehran withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Tehran is fully aware of all the thorny issues in the talks with the European Union. The NPT is one of the stumbling blocks. If Iran decides to withdraw from the treaty, it will cause the whole of Europe a real problem.

In other words, Tehran has made it clear that it has accepted Bush's challenge, and has a means to respond. The two countries are now set to embark on another round of "power diplomacy," possibly this September at the United Nations.

(Pyotr Goncharov is a political commentator for RIA Novosti. This article is reprinted by permission of the RIA Novosti news agency)

(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.)

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Analysis: Is A Solution Still Viable?
Tehran (UPI) Aug 24, 2005
The U.N-set deadline for Iran to refreeze its activities related to nuclear fuel production runs out soon. On Sept. 3, Mohammed ElBaradei, head of the IAEA, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, is to report on the country's atomic program.







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