Mullen Affirms U.S. Blueprint for Iran Strike

The United States has a blueprint in place for military action aimed at preventing Iran from building nuclear weapons, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff said yesterday (see GSN, July 30).

“Military options have been on the table and remain on the table. It’s one of the options that [U.S. President Barack Obama] has,” the Jerusalem Postquoted Adm. Michael Mullen as saying. “I hope we don’t get to that, but it’s an important option, and it’s one that’s well understood” (Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post, Aug. 2).

Pressed on NBC’s “Meet the Press” to say whether the Defense Department possessed a plan for use of force against Iran, Mullen said “we do.”

Mullen’s direct reference to military action was unusual for the Obama administration, which has more typically warned that “all options are on the table,” the London Guardian reported (Ed Pilkington, LondonGuardian, Aug. 1).

Still, Mullen said he was “extremely concerned” that a strike on Iran might produce “unintended consequences that are difficult to predict in what is an incredibly unstable part of the world,” Agence France-Presse reported.

He added, though, that Washington must not allow the emergence of a nuclear-armed Iran.

“Quite frankly, I am extremely concerned about both of those outcomes,” he said (Agence France-Presse I/Spacewar.com, Aug. 1). He did not specify which result was less desirable, the Post reported (Katz,Jerusalem Post).

A multilateral bid to boost economic pressure on Iran while simultaneously offering dialogue might still prompt Tehran to halt its uranium enrichment program, Mullen suggested. “I am hopeful (it) works,” the official said.

The uranium enrichment process can generate fuel for civilian applications as well as nuclear-weapon material. Tehran has insisted its atomic ambitions are strictly peaceful (Agence France-Presse I).

Ahead of Mullen’s remarks, the deputy commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard hinted at a tough response to any attack, AFP reported.

“If the Americans make the slightest mistake, the security of the region will be endangered. Security in the Persian Gulf should be for all or none,” Yadollah Javani told Iranian state media. “The Persian Gulf is a strategic region and if it is endangered they (Americans) will suffer losses and our response will be firm,” he added.

“We will defend ourselves if America or Israel resort to any hostile measures against our vital values,” Javani said (Agence France-Presse II/Google News, Aug. 1).

Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations Mohammad Khazai took his nation’s threat of retaliation a step further. “If the Zionist regime commits the slightest aggression against the Iranian soil, we will set the entire war front and Tel Aviv on fire,” he said, referring to Israel (Agence France-Presse III/Google News, Aug. 1).

Meanwhile, Iran yesterday indicated it saw “readiness” among world powers to discuss a plan brokered in May for exchanging Iranian uranium, AFP reported.

The plan — negotiated by Iran, Brazil and Turkey — calls for Iran to store 1,200 kilograms of its low-enriched uranium in Turkey for one year; other countries would be expected within that period to provide nuclear material refined for use at a Tehran medical research reactor in exchange for the Iranian material.

The arrangement appeared similar to another proposal, formulated in October by the International Atomic Energy Agency, that was intended to defer the Middle Eastern state’s enrichment activities long enough to more fully address U.S. and European concerns about its potential nuclear bomb-making capability. Tehran ultimately rejected the IAEA proposal worked out with France, Russia and the United States. Those nations, known as the “Vienna group,” subsequently expressed concerns about the later agreement.

Iran’s response last week to the concerns prompted signs that the group’s members were prepared to pursue the arrangement, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said.

“We can say this process is a positive signal reflecting the political determination of the Vienna group,” Mottaki said, adding that International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano is seeking to organize a meeting with the group on the basis of Tehran’s letter for the exchange of fuel for the Tehran reactor” (Agence France-Presse IV/Google News, Aug. 2).

Tehran wants the talks to take place in Turkey, Iranian Atomic Energy Organization head Ali Akbar Salehi said last week (Agence France-Presse V/Google News, July 30).

Elsewhere, Iran is seeking to overcome economic sanctions by bolstering trade links with other countries in the region, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported today. It effort to establish a new “Silk Road” consists of direct agreements with neighboring nations as well as new road, rail and tunnel links to the countries (Robert Tait, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Aug. 2).

The Obama administration suggested Saturday that the unilateral economic penalties recently adopted against Iran by the European Union “are having an effect on the thinking in Tehran,” RIA Novosti reported.

“We’ve heard again today that Iran appears to be a bit willing to engage in a direct conversation. We hope that if we are able to set up such a meeting, they will engage constructively. Time will tell,” U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said (RIA Novosti, July 31).

In Tehran, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad offered to debate Obama during a planned trip to New York next month for the U.N. General Assembly, the Associated Press reported.

“We are ready to sit with his excellency Obama, face to face, free and before media, to put the world’s issues on the table to find out whose solution is better,” Ahmadinejad said in a televised speech. He has made such offers before but never received an affirmative response from Washington (Associated Press/Google News, Aug. 2).

In Japan, officials are preparing independent punitive measures against Iran expected to enter effect early this month, Kyodo News reported yesterday.

One official, though, cautioned his country against damaging its relationship with Iran, one of Tokyo’s key providers of crude petroleum. “We should avoid a situation where we would have trouble obtaining crude oil” from Iran, the official said.

“If Japan leans toward the United States, it could adversely affect its strategy in energy procurement. If Japan leans toward Iran, it could cause a chasm in ties between Tokyo and Washington,” a Japanese-Iranian diplomatic source added.

An official dealing with financial issues took a comparable position. “Iran is an important trading partner (for Japan). We cannot take a tough stance like the United States, which has severed diplomatic ties,” the source said.

“This is a problem that could have repercussions on corporations and individuals in Japan,” Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said Friday. “We will unveil (the punitive measures after) examining the matter comprehensively” (Kyodo News/Japan Times, Aug. 1).