Pentagon Plays Down Report of New Iran War Planning

A0087080.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- Despite a loud rattling of sabers over Iran in Iraq, the US military has not embarked on new planning for war, its chief spokesman said.

“I just want to be abundantly clear that there are no new directives, there are no new plans in the works, there is no new effort to prepare for a possible war with Iran,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters traveling with US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Morrell acknowledged that the Pentagon has contingency plans and “we update them for every possibility.”

“But to characterize what is going on now as a new war planning effort against Iran would be wrong,” he said.

“There is nothing going on with regard to Iran beyond what we would normally do to update our plans for contingencies with almost any country that poses a threat,” he said.

His comments came in response to a CBS News report on Tuesday that said the Pentagon had ordered new options to be drawn up for attacking Iran.

The report also said the State Department had begun drafting an ultimatum that would tell Iran to stop meddling in Iraq or else, if an upcoming visit to Iran by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki did not succeed in ending it.

Gates, during a visit to Mexico Tuesday, flatly denied that the United States was preparing for military attacks on Iran.

And as recently as last week in speech at the US Military Academy at West Point he said a war with Iran would have disastrous consequences.

But Gates also claimed he believes Tehran is determined to acquire nuclear weapons, and top US military leaders have insistently accused Iran of funding, arming and training Shiite extremists to kill US and coalition troops.

The United States has never presented any corroborative evidence to substantiate its allegations against the Islamic Republic and Iran has always rejected the US claims over Iraq and its civilian nuclear program.

“The temperature in Washington has been rising with respect to Iran,” said Suzanne Moloney, a former State Department official now at the Brookings Institution.

“I see what’s happening now perhaps distinct from what we’ve seen so far,” she said.

The US is also at loggerheads with Iran over the independent and home-grown nature of Tehran’s nuclear technology, which gives the Islamic Republic the potential to turn into a world power and a role model for other third-world countries. Washington has laid much pressure on Iran to make it give up the most sensitive and advanced part of the technology, which is uranium enrichment, a process used for producing nuclear fuel for power plants.

The United States and its Western allies have accused Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear program, while they have never presented any corroborative document to substantiate their allegations. Iran has denied the charges and insisted that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

Tehran stresses that the country has always pursued a civilian path to provide power to the growing number of Iranian population, whose fossil fuel would eventually run dry.

Iran is under three rounds of UN Security Council sanctions for turning down West’s illegitimate calls to give up its right of uranium enrichment, saying the demand is politically tainted and illogical.

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany met on April 16 in Shanghai to discuss whether to sweeten incentives they had offered Iran in 2006 to persuade it to give up its nuclear rights. But the meeting attended by political directors of the six powers ended with no result.

Iran has so far ruled out halting or limiting its nuclear work in exchange for trade and other incentives, and says it will only negotiate with the UN nuclear watchdog.

Iran has repeatedly said that it considers its nuclear case closed after it answered the UN agency’s questions about the history of its nuclear program.

Washington’s push for additional UN penalties contradicted the recent report by 16 US intelligence bodies that endorsed the civilian nature of Iran’s programs. Following the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and similar reports by the IAEA head – one in November and the other one in February – which praised Iran’s truthfulness about key aspects of its past nuclear activities and announced settlement of outstanding issues with Tehran, any effort to impose further sanctions on Iran seemed to be completely irrational.

The February report by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, praised Iran’s cooperation in clearing up all of the past questions over its nuclear program, vindicating Iran’s nuclear program and leaving no justification for any new UN sanctions.

Tehran says it wants to enrich uranium merely for civilian purposes, including generation of electricity, a claim substantiated by the NIE and IAEA reports.

Iran has also insisted that it would continue enriching uranium because it needs to provide fuel to a 300-megawatt light-water reactor it is building in the southwestern town of Darkhoveyn as well as its first nuclear power plant in the southern port city of Bushehr.

Not only many Iranian officials, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but also many other world nations have called the UN Security Council pressure unjustified, especially in the wake of recent IAEA reports saying Iran had increased cooperation with the agency.

US President George W. Bush finished a tour of the Middle East in winter to gain the consensus of his Arab allies to unite against Iran.

But hosting officials of the regional nations dismissed Bush’s allegations, describing Tehran as a good friend of their countries.

Bush’s attempt to rally international pressure against Iran has lost steam due to the growing international vigilance, specially following the latest IAEA and US intelligence reports.

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