Wednesday, January 31, 2007

European Allies Getting Edgy About U.S. Intentions Towards Iran

Today's anti-Iran program update:

The Bush administration will shortly publish a dossier of charges of alleged Iranian subversion in Iraq. "Iran has steadily ramped up its activity in Iraq in the last three to four months. This applies to the scope and pace of their operations. You could call these brazen activities," a senior US official said in London yesterday. ...

The Americans and Europeans have sought to maintain a common front on the nuclear issue for the past 30 months, with the European troika of Britain, France and Germany running failed negotiations with the Iranians and the Americans tacitly supporting them.

But diplomats in Brussels and those dealing with the dispute in Vienna say a fissure has opened up between the US and western Europe on three crucial aspects - the military option; how and how quickly to hit Iran with economic sanctions already decreed by the UN security council; and how to deal with Russian opposition to action against Iran through the security council.

"There's anxiety everywhere you turn," said a diplomat familiar with the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. "The Europeans are very concerned the shit could hit the fan."

We also have comments on the Iran issue from the man who may find himself Secretary of State should (as rumors have it) Ms. Rice get promoted to replace a suddenly indisposed Dick Cheney as vice president.

John D. Negroponte, nominated as deputy secretary of state, defended the Bush administration's more confrontational policy with Iran in a Senate confirmation hearing that was peppered with demands from both sides of the aisle that the United States show restraint in dealing with Tehran.

In a sign that the debate over Iraq is increasingly becoming a debate over Iran, Mr. Negroponte, appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, found himself answering the same questions, over and over again.

"Do you think we are drifting toward a military confrontation with Iran?" demanded Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska.

"I don't think that has to be, Senator," Mr. Negroponte replied. "I think we would strongly prefer that the issues between us and Iran be resolved peacefully."

Mr. Negroponte maintained that an emboldened Iran could harm American interests in the region.

"We don't believe that their behavior, such as supporting Shia extremists in Iraq, should go unchallenged," said Mr. Negroponte, who is now the director of national intelligence.


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