International Herald Tribune: As the Bush administration and its European allies pursue a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear standoff, some top legislators of both parties pressed Sunday for a more vigorous approach, including a possible military option. International Herald Tribune
By Brian Knowlton
WASHINGTON – As the Bush administration and its European allies pursue a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear standoff, some top legislators of both parties pressed Sunday for a more vigorous approach, including a possible military option.
“This is the most serious crisis we have faced, outside of the entire war on terror, since the end of the Cold War,” said one, Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona. “A nuclear capability in Iran is unacceptable.”
Meanwhile, lawmakers offered different interpretations of the latest audiotape from Osama bin Laden. Some said it should raise serious concern about a new attack on U.S. territory, while others saw it as a sign that the besieged Qaeda leader was struggling to remain relevant.
McCain was joined in his call for an accelerated approach on Iran by a senior Democrat, Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut.
“It’s good that we’re working with Britain, France and Germany,” Lieberman said, listing the Europeans that have led U.S.-backed negotiations with Iran, “but their pace is too slow.”
He called for the matter to be referred immediately to the United Nations Security Council, not first sent back to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN’s nuclear watchdog.
Lieberman, an intelligence committee member who is considered hawkish among Democrats, said not only that the United States should keep the military option on the table, but also that it had the military capability to continue fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq while launching a complex air attack on scores of Iranian nuclear targets.
“We’ve got to be prepared to take military action,” he said on CBS-TV.
Both parties are internally divided on Iran. After the controversy over what critics said was the Bush administration’s failure to secure adequate international backing to invade Iraq, some Republicans and Democrats now accuse it of relying too heavily on diplomacy.
Senator Hillary Clinton, Democrat of New York, contended last week that the administration was “downplaying” the Iranian threat. She and a fellow New York Democrat, Senator Charles Schumer, favor heavy pressure on China and Russia to end their reluctance to impose sanctions on Iran.
Reflecting the split among Republicans, Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, the intelligence committee chairman, said Sunday that talk of the military option was premature, saying on CBS-TV that “at this particular time, I just do not think that is any kind of an alternative.”
Of bin Laden, Roberts said, “I don’t think he’s quite as relevant as he used to be.” But bin Laden’s threats to strike the United States again, he said, should be taken seriously.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz of Pakistan, who is in the United States for meetings with administration officials, insisted Sunday that his government had not been warned of an air attack Jan. 13 that killed at least 18 people but missed Qaeda’s No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is believed to have been the target.