Friday, February 18, 2005
First of all, we will not attack Iran:
President Bush said Friday the United States does not intend to attack Iran to crush its suspected nuclear weapons project but added that "you never want a president to say never." He expressed hopes that a European diplomatic initiative would persuade Tehran to abandon any such program.We have other fish to fry:
In interviews with European journalists at the White House, Bush was asked about an opinion poll showing that 70 percent of Germans believe the United States is planning military action against Iran.
"I hear all these rumors about military attacks, and it's just not the truth," said Bush, who leaves Sunday for Europe to mend fences with allies. "We want diplomacy to work."
"Listen, first of all, you never want a president to say 'never.' But military action is certainly not -- it's never the president's first choice. Diplomacy is always the president's first -- at least my first choice."
"I believe diplomacy can work so long as the Iranians don't divide Europe and the United States," Bush said. "There's a lot more diplomacy to be done."
The Bush administration took an aggressive stance against Syria Tuesday as it pulled its ambassador back from Damascus, called the Syrian military presence in Lebanon a "destabilizing force" and warned it would seek to put an end to "foreign occupation" of Lebanon.Resistance is futile:
This chain of diplomatic events, which marked a new low in already frayed relations, is intended to "put Syria on the defensive and makes them very, very nervous," said Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
The Bush administration has accused Syria of allowing -- even encouraging -- Iraqi insurgents to use its territory to smuggle weapons and fighters into Iraq. On Monday, Undersecretary Stuart Levey, who directs the Treasury Department's effort to cut the lines of financial support to international terrorists, said Iraqi guerrillas were funding the insurgency from Syria, making that country Washington's "primary money-laundering concern."
The United States also wants to dissuade Syria from supporting militant groups that threaten the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Makovsky said.
The Syrian government has reacted defiantly to accusations that it had a hand in the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, underscoring a strategic interest in Lebanon that makes it unlikely international pressure will force Syria to withdraw forces from its smaller neighbor . . . .We don't even have to get our hands dirty:
The U.S. and French governments have renewed calls that Syria comply with a U.N. Security Council resolution approved last year that calls on Syria to withdraw from Lebanon and disarm Hezbollah, the armed, radical Shiite Muslim movement on Lebanon's southern border with Israel. Syria announced this week that it would form a "common front" with Iran against mutual threats, an agreement Shaaban said did not include military cooperation.
President George W Bush added a new twist to the international tension over Iran's nuclear programme last night by pledging to support Israel if it tries to destroy the Islamic regime's capacity to make an atomic bomb.Oh -- by the way . . . .
Asked whether he would back Israel if it raided Teheran's nuclear facilities, Mr Bush first expressed cautious solidarity with European efforts, led by Britain, France and Germany, to negotiate with Iran.
But he quickly qualified himself, adding that all nations should be concerned about whether Iran could make nuclear weapons.
"Clearly, if I was the leader of Israel and I'd listened to some of the statements by the Iranian ayatollahs that regarded the security of my country, I'd be concerned about Iran having a nuclear weapon as well. And in that Israel is our ally, and in that we've made a very strong commitment to support Israel, we will support Israel if her security is threatened."
Only weeks before Halliburton made headlines by announcing it was pulling out of Iran—a nation George W. Bush has labeled part of the “axis of evil”—the Texas-based oil services firm quietly signed a major new business deal to help develop Tehran’s natural gas fields.
Halliburton’s new Iran contract, moreover, appears to suggest a far closer connection with the country’s hard-line government than the firm has ever acknowledged . . . .
There are few matters more sensitive for Halliburton than its dealings with Iran. The company, formerly headed by Vice President Dick Cheney, last year disclosed that it had received a subpoena from a federal grand jury in Texas in connection with a Justice Department investigation into allegations that the firm violated U.S. sanctions law prohibiting American companies from directly doing business in Iran . . . .
The new Halliburton project, congressional investigators say, raises substantial questions about the Jan. 28, 2005 public announcement by Halliburton CEO (and Cheney successor) David Lesar that the firm plans to cease doing business in Iran. Lesar made no reference to the South Pars project in his conference call with investment analysts that day, when he blamed “the political nature of the attacks on Halliburton” for the media attention given the company’s Iranian business.