By Ritt Goldstein
Speculation on potential US or Israeli military action has surrounded tense negotiations regarding Iran's nuclear program and ambitions. In light of the realities currently dominating US and Iranian politics, separate interviews with three leading American defense experts foresee the likelihood of either overt or covert US action against the Islamic Republic, questions of geopolitical power eclipsing those of nuclear and energy security.
When asked what he envisaged would be the Bush administration's eventual answer to Iran's nuclear facilities, John Pike, president of the noted Washington-area defense think-tank Global Security, told Asia Times Online, "I think we're going to blow them up." He added that he believed the effort would be some time before the 2006 US elections.
At the end of November, Britain, Germany and France - the "Big 3" - on behalf of the European Union succeeded in securing an agreement with Iran that it would voluntarily suspend uranium enrichment and other sensitive nuclear pursuits. Iran is seeking a package of incentives on security, trade and technology in return, and negotiations with the three are scheduled to resume some time this week.
This is the second agreement reached between Iran and Europe, the first widely said to have foundered through US efforts. At issue are Iran's efforts to expand its nuclear capabilities vastly through the pursuit of new reactors and the creation of a self-sufficient nuclear fuel cycle, to which it is entitled under international treaty. But substantive questions of weapons ambitions exist, and elements within the administration of President George W Bush have proved problematic in finding an accommodation.
"I think, in fact, the administration policy is designed to kill the agreement between Europe and Iran," a former US Energy Department official and current associate director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's non-proliferation program, Jon Wolfsthal, told this journalist. He pointedly added that "the deal will collapse and elements within the administration will get the confrontation with Iran that they desire".
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