Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Monday, July 14, 2003

News Analysis: Is War on Iran Imminent?

Even with the smoke of gunfire not completely dissipated over Iraq, the United States has already begun its sabre-rattling against another Middle Eastern country, an article in the China Economic Times said.


Even with the smoke of gunfire not completely dissipated over Iraq, the United States has already begun its sabre-rattling against another Middle Eastern country, an article in the China Economic Times said.

In the wake of three terrorist bombings in Riyadh, capital of Saudi Arabia, the United States immediately ceased its covert contact with Iran in Geneva, accusing Teheran of harboring members of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network.

When Washington was exerting pressure on Teheran, two events further strained US-Iranian ties.

One was that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released the news that Iran had not committed to its promise to report its sites and utilization of nuclear materials to the world's nuclear watchdog.

The other was support by the United States for the anti-government demonstrations which broke out in Teheran.

According to reports in the Western media, the United States is now setting its sights on Iran following its war against Iraq.

Since the outbreak of the Iranian Islamic revolution in 1979, Washington and Teheran have been in discord.

The revolution pushed the US influence out of Iran, and Washington thus lost its control over the country's rich petroleum resources.

In 1980, the United States severed diplomatic relations with Iran, and imposed economic sanctions. During the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s, Washington threw its weight behind Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

Their former ally turned foe a decade later when Saddam invaded Kuwait, triggering the 1990 Gulf War. Since then the United States has adopted a policy of containment against both Iraq and Iran.

The September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001 pushed Washington's policy towards Teheran to a new platform.

In its new National Security Strategy Report released on September 20, 2002, the United States labeled Iraq, Iran, and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) countries belonging to "axis of evil."

The Afghan War in 2002 and the Iraq War in 2003 extended US strategic presence at the door of Iran, which places it literally on its doorstep.

For its part, Iran, seeking to take advantage of its traditional influence over its two neighbors, is also trying to prevent post-war Iraq and Afghanistan from becoming puppets of Washington.

How to deal with the Iranian Islamic regime, whose establishment is thought to be an obstacle for US reform of post-war Iraq and Afghanistan, is a decision for the White House and the Pentagon, said the article.

The article said there are two choices for the Bush administration on the Iran issue.

One is the use of force to bring down Iran's Islamic regime so Washington can gain a lasting solution to its conflicts with the country.

The other is to exert pressure upon Iran through the IAEA, the European Union (EU) and Russia, to force it into giving up its nuclear program. At the same time, Washington can also destabilize the Iranian regime through supporting and encouraging Iran's domestic opposition parties.

Among the Bush administration's decision-making circle, there do exist some who are in favor of the first option.

But it has not become the mainstream view, argued the article.

Opposition is based upon the following considerations.

With 200,000 US soldiers still bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, another war against Iran will inevitably lead to US forces being overstretched.

Given the lack of support by the UN, NATO and many nations for its war against Iraq, a war in Iran will surely lead to further isolation for the United States within the international community.

And with a presidential election looming, Bush is faced with the pressing tasks of rejuvenating the US economy and realizing the Middle East peace "roadmap," if he is to boost his image and win re-election.

The words coming out of the White House and the Pentagon of late tend to show that the United States will opt for the destabilizing option when it comes to Iran, said the article.

The Pentagon said on June 20 the United States has yet no plan for a military strike against Iran, but it also warned they would reserve the right to use military means to stop Teheran's nuclear weapons program.

The United States also urged the IAEA to adopt a tougher stance towards Iran, demanding Teheran unconditionally accept the nuclear watchdog's challenging inspection of its nuclear facilities.

Washington also openly supports Iran's anti-government demonstrations, requiring the Iranian Government to respect the wishes of the demonstrators.

The Bush administration seems to have accepted the Pentagon's hawkish position that the United States should aid Iranian opposition parties with the aim of overthrowing the existing regime, said the article.

However, Teheran also has its own bargaining chips in dealing with Washington.

While denying it has a nuclear weapons program, Iran insists that it possesses the right to develop a nuclear program for peaceful purposes. To the IAEA's demand, Iran adopts an ambiguous stance.

The pressure from the United States may possibly postpone Iran's nuclear program, but cannot make Teheran abandon the program unless by use of force, said the article.

As a key regional player in the Middle East, Iran lent its co-operation to the United States in its campaign to hunt down Osama bin Laden and Afghanistan's Taliban regime and the war in Iraq.

The United States also needs Iran's support in its counter-terrorism war.

While the United States is pouring rhetoric upon Iran, Teheran is possibly awaiting a good reward in return from Washington, the article concluded.

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