Thursday, January 25, 2007

When will the US bomb Iran?

Editor's note: The Middle East is again in the grip of war anxiety. Guys are scanning the sky for clues to when will the United States shock and awe Iran. May be this AP story from Dubai may help you to hedge your bets.
DUBAI, UAE, (AP)A U.S. State Department official ruled out talks with Iran and said Tuesday that a second U.S. aircraft carrier strike group now steaming toward the Middle East is Washington's way of warning Tehran not to challenge America.
Nicholas Burns, the U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, said Iran must halt enrichment of uranium before the Bush administration will agree to direct negotiations.
Several prominent American leaders have urged Bush to seek Iran's help quelling sectarian conflict in neighboring Iraq. "The Middle East isn't a region to be dominated by Iran. The Gulf isn't a body of water to be controlled by Iran. That's why we've seen the United States station two carrier battle groups inthe region," Burns said in an address to the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center, an influential think-tank.
Iran is going to have to understand that the United States will protect its interests if Iran seeks to confront us," Burns continued. "We will defend our interests if we are challenged. That might be a message Iran must understand.U.S. officials said Burns was in the Middle East to outline specifics of new U.S. strategies for Iraq and Iran following a visit to the region last week by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
But the audience of Dubai-based diplomats and analysts appeared dismayed by Burns' tough talk on Iran.
Some complained that U.S. actions were already threatening regional stability and asked the American diplomat to sort out Iraq and the Israel-Palestinian conflict before turning attention to Iran.
"What we are not interested in is another war in the region," Mohammedal-Naqbi, who heads the Gulf Negotiations Center, told Burns.
"Iraq is your problem, not the problem of the Arabs. You destroyed a country that had institutions. You handed that country to Iran. Now you are crying to Europe and the Arabs to help you out of this mess.
"The U.S. and Iran are locked in a standoff over Tehran's defiance of U.N. demands to halt uranium enrichment, which can produce fuel for both nuclear energy and nuclear weapons.
Iran says it intends only to generate energy, but Washington some of its allies suspect Iran wants to develop nuclear weapons.
The U.N. imposed limited sanctions on Iran last month. Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said last week that the country is 'ready for anything.'
Iran conducted missile tests on Monday, the first of five days of military maneuvers southeast of Tehran.
The U.S. aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis and several accompanying ships are heading toward the Gulf to join an aircraft carrier group already in the region, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.
The Stennis is expected to arrive in late February.
The Stennis's arrival in the Middle East will mark the first time since theU.S.-led Iraq invasion in 2003 that the United States has had two carrier battlegroups in the region.The U.S. Navy said Tuesday that the minesweeper USS Gladiator arrived in the Persian Gulf, one of six such ships - four American, two British - now plying the Gulf for anti-ship mines.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said the U.S. buildup in the Gulf aimed to impress on Iran that America's four-year war in Iraq has not diluted U.S. military power in the Mideast.
U.S. officials have long said Iran would be expected to block busy Gulf shipping lanes if there is a conflict.
Two-fifths of the world's oil exports pass through the Gulf.
Burns' speech appeared as a rebuttal to similar comments by Iranian officialsin Dubai and Bahrain last month.
In December, Iran's top national security adviser, Ali Larijani, appealed to Gulf Arabs to shut down American bases ontheir soil and instead join Iran in a regional security alliance.
The Emirates and other Gulf states enjoy close trade ties with Iran. U.N.sanctions are expected to boost Emirates' exports to Iran this year to $10billion, the Dubai-based Iranian Business Council said.
While targeting Iran's nuclear development, Burns said Washington would be a 'willing partner' in support of civilian nuclear power programs in its six Gulf Arab allies, saying the Bush administration supports nuclear energy as a means to combat global warming.
But he insisted Iran halt uranium enrichment as a precondition for any directdiscussions with Washington.
"It doesn't make any sense to negotiate with Iran while their nuclear programis ongoing," Burns said."There is an entry fee to the game and everybody has to pay it. You too, Iran, have to pay it."

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