Australian Broadcasting Corporation April 10, 2006
US planning attack against Iran: Hersh
Reporter: Stephen McDonell
TONY JONES: Well, the United States is secretly planning to attack Iran in an effort to bring about another Middle East regime change: that's according to a report from prominent investigative journalist. In an article for the 'New Yorker' magazine, Seymour Hersh claims the Bush administration is even considering the use of tactical nuclear weapons to destroy deep Iranian bunkers. While the White House is yet to respond to the allegations, the Iranian Government says it's an act of desperation by the US. Stephen McDonell reports.
STEPHEN McDONELL: According to the 'New Yorker' magazine, the Bush Administration is planning a possible nuclear strike on Iran. Tactical nuclear bombs or missiles would be used to penetrate deep Iranian bunkers. Senior generals are said to be trying to take this option off the table, but the government reportedly won't rule it out.
SEYMOUR HERSH, THE 'NEW YORKER' MAGAZINE: People in the White House, in the Oval Office, the Vice President's office, said, "No, let's keep it in the plan." That doesn't mean it's gonna happen. They refused to take it out.
JOHN PIKE, DIRECTOR GlobalSecurity.org: I think it's, basically, a form of coercive diplomacy: to communicate that the United States does have military options if the diplomatic track does not succeed.
STEPHEN McDONELL: But investigative journalist Seymour Hersh writes that the limited nuclear attack is not only designed to destroy Iran's nuclear capacity, but is seen as a way of triggering regime change.
GENERAL ANTHONY ZINNI, FORMER COMMANDER, US CENTRAL COMMAND: We're gonna have to be prepared to, in effect, go all the way, whatever that means, and I don't think we should kid ourselves that this could be simply ended by one strike.
STEPHEN McDONELL: US special forces are reportedly already inside Iran identifying potential targets. The 'New Yorker' article quotes an unnamed Pentagon adviser as saying the Bush Administration's new interest in tactical nuclear weapons is "a juggernaut that has to be stopped". It also describes the United States Government as going it alone on the plan.
SEYMOUR HERSH: I can't tell you - nobody can say what's going to happen in the future - but I can just tell you there are people in the Pentagon and people - our allies, the allies involved with us diplomatically, the French, the Germans and the Brits - who don't really know what the President is thinking.
STEPHEN McDONELL: One US-allied foreign minister has already given his analysis of the strategy.
JACK STRAW, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: The idea of a nuclear strike on Iran is completely nuts.
STEPHEN McDONELL: Iranian nuclear facilities, which the government claims are for electricity, were inspected today by United Nations officials. The UN has given Iran 'til the end of this month to suspend its uranium enrichment program. Iran says it won't be coerced into anything.
HAMID REZA ASEFI, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN (Translation): If they think they can make Iran compromise on its rights by referring it to the Security Council, they're making a big mistake.
STEPHEN McDONELL: Last week, Iran conducted high-profile war games, including missile tests - some underwater. Today, it's accused the US of waging a psychological war out of desperation and says it's not afraid of nuclear attacks. Stephen McDonell, Lateline.
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