Report: Blair will not back Iran strike

Christian Science Monitor

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has reportedly told US President Bush that Britain will not offer any military support to any strike on Iran.

The Scotsman reported Sunday that sources in the British Foreign Office told the paper that even if the idea of an attack wins support in the international community, Britain will not take part.

Blair is expected to support the call [by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice] for a “Chapter 7” resolution, which could effectively isolate Iran from the international community.

But, in the midst of international opposition to a pre-emptive strike on Tehran, and Britain’s military commitments around the world, the government maintains it cannot contribute to a military assault. “We will support the diplomatic moves, at best,” a Foreign Office source told Scotland on Sunday [the Sunday edition of the Scotsman]. “But we cannot commit our own resources to a military strike.”

The Scotsman also says that in a report to be published Wednesday, the Foreign Policy Center (FPC) – which the paper says is known as “Blair’s favorite think tank” – describes neoconservatives in the Bush administration as on a collision course with Iran. The FPC, however, says that diplomacy is the best option. Last week, The Times of London reported, the organization said, “We are in danger of talking ourselves into a war” over the speculation in Seymour Hersh’s article in The New Yorker that the US was considering the use of tactical nuclear weapons. 

FPC director Stephen Twigg, formerly a Labour minister, explained to The Scotsman: “It is essential UK policy on Iran is well informed… We want to engage with the various reformist elements in Iran, both inside and outside the structures of power.”

While the sense of crisis over Iran has been escalated by the fiery rhetoric between Tehran and the West – particularly Washington – many within the British government are now convinced that the impasse can be resolved by repeating the same sort of painstaking diplomatic activity that returned Libya to the international fold …

“The only long-term solution to Iran’s problems is democracy,” said Alex Bigham, co-author of the FPC report. “But it cannot be dictated, Iraq-style, or it will backfire. Iran may seem superficially like Iraq but we need to treat Iran more like Libya. Diplomatic engagement must be allowed to run its course. There need to be bigger carrots as well as bigger sticks.”

The Associated Press reports that even as Ms. Rice presses for the international community to take a tougher stance against Iran (saying, just as the US did before the Iraq war, that the Security Council’s handling of the Iranian nuclear issue would be a test of the international community’s credibility), Russia’s UN envoy Andrey Denisov has insisted that the confrontation be resolved diplomatically.

[Ambassador] Denisov suggested that the international community should not necessarily be discouraged by Iran’s insistence that it will not give up enrichment. “We all know that for centuries Iranians had a reputation of very tough bargainers,” Denisov said. “I hope that the final outcome will be positive. We prefer to be optimists.”

The Associated Press also reported over the weekend that not everyone in Iran is happy with hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s tough talk about nuclear weapons. While most Iranians support the government’s position that Iran has a right to develop its own nuclear program, Mr. Ahmadinejad’s attempts to claim the development of the program as his own is annoying his predecessors. And some Iranians are now openly saying that he is ignoring other important issues in Iran by focusing too much on the nuclear confrontation with the West.

Reformist Mohammad Khatami, who preceded Ahmadinejad as president, publicly reminded Iranians that the nuclear achievement was “the outcome of efforts by competent Iranian scientists, a process that had begun by previous governments.”

“Ahmadinejad has forgotten why he won the presidential vote. The needy voted for him because he promised to bring bread to people’s homes but nothing good has been done to improve living standards,” said Reza Lotfi, a student at Tehran University.

Mansour Ramezanpour, a construction worker, questioned why the government hasn‘t done more for the weak economy. “Previously, I went to work four days a week. Now, not more than two days. Recession is everywhere,” he said.

Political analyst Saeed Leilaz told AP that the biggest problem between the US and Iran is that the US treats Iran as a “non-grownup person. The Iranian leadership is very unhappy with this. Tehran wants America to treat Iran as a regional superpower.”

In an editorial Tuesday, the Toronto Star argues that while with each provocation the case grows for Security Council sanctions against Iran’s leaders, so does the case for direct US-Iran talks “before the Mideast is plunged into another war.”

Iran’s reckless course has been driven by decades of American-Iranian hostility since Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s 1979 revolution. US President George Bush’s war on Iraq has not helped. And US policy inconsistency in winking at the nuclear weapons that Israel, India and Pakistan now possess has emboldened Iran to seek such weapons. …

Many Iranians would welcome a US pledge not to press for regime change or to attack, if Iran agrees to shelve its military nuclear program, and to stop preaching Israel’s destruction and embracing terror. A deal would recognize that Iran has the right to civilian nuclear power, but only under UN safeguards and with fuel supplied from Russia and other partners. And it would reopen the door to Iran-US trade. A show of US goodwill, coupled with tough UN action, offers the best hope of heading off catastrophe.

Finally, The New York Times reports that oil futures hit a record level Monday on fears about a confrontation with Iran and production shortages in Nigeria. The Times says that prices are unlikely to fall soon, as “the diplomatic showdown over Iran’s nuclear ambitions is escalating….”

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