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Iran: The Next Target?
Mr. David C. Unger
The New York Times
229 West 43rd Street
New York, NY 10036-3959
Dear Mr. Unger:
The Times's Editorial Page has been more circumspect than most of the press
about Iran. I hope you will now go further and actively caution against the
drift towards confrontation.
Yesterday's Sunday Herald has a piece you may have seen entitled "Iran: the
next target?" http://www.sundayherald.com/43574
It discusses the charges that Iran was complicit in the September 11th
attack. As we learned from the mistaken estimates before the attack on
Iraq, it is hard to assess information until after we have made a mistake on
its basis. While Iran has clearly harbored and supported terrorists
attacking Israel, it is far less clear that its government wishes to support
attacks on the United States. The hijackers who passed through Iran may
have exploited its long border - just as many people enter the United States
by crossing the Rio Grande. Even if local Iranian officials or some faction
of the government consciously allowed them to pass, that would not prove
that the Iranian government as a whole did so. Part of the problem, of
course, is the deep political division in Iran; and blanket accusations only
force moderates to back hard-liners.
Likewise, it is hard to gauge Iran's nuclear program. But it is surely
unrealistic to expect Iran to give up any nuclear weapons program without
any mention of the Israeli nuclear arsenal or the US Nuclear Posture
Review's placement of Iran on our nuclear target list.
It is only natural that Iran should be uneasy about the US occupation of
Iraq. Of course a conventional ground invasion seems unlikely given our
difficulties controlling Iraq itself. But there are other possibilities.
One is bombing, by either the United States or Israel. Writing in Haaretz
before the March 2003 US attack on Iraq, Amir Oren raised the question: "You
in Iraq, Us in Iran?" He suggested that once the United States controlled
Iraqi airspace, Israel might overfly it to strike suspected Iranian nuclear
facilities. Such an attack would have obvious and incalculable political
costs to the United States. But that does not mean it is impossible - only
that it would be unwise and damaging.
It is likely that the United States and Israel are using Iraqi territory to
send agents into Iran (as Seymour Hersh suggests). Covert programs aimed at
destablilization and regime change will only legitimize paranoia in Tehran
and make it harder to stop the nuclear program. It is far more likely that
terrorists would acquire nuclear weapons or materials in political chaos
than through official transfer.
How sad it is to see normally astute critics of the Bush administration
(such as Maureen Dowd) criticize the Iraq war only to feed the flames of war
With best wishes,
July 29, 2004 - page created by Charlie Jenks