AFP's Peter Mackler observed Monday that by posing the question of Iran as a test of the United Nations, "U.S. officials appear in much the same position as they were in 2002" as they argued their way to war with Iraq. -- "Faced with stubborn resistance from veto-wielding Security Council members Russia and China to punitive measures against Iran, Washington is working on an alternative to U.N. action as it did for Iraq. -- Back then it was a 'coalition of the willing' rising up against Saddam; now it's a group of 'like-minded nations' determined to keep Iran's nuclear ambitions in check." ...
AMERICAN RHETORIC AGAINST IRAN REMINISCENT OF RUN-UP TO IRAQ WAR
By Peter Mackler
May 1, 2006
WASHINGTON -- As Washington presses its drive to thwart Iran's suspected efforts to build a nuclear bomb, it is turning increasingly to the same diplomatic rhetoric used in the run-up to the Iraq war. However, nobody here is talking seriously about a full-scale invasion of Iran like the 2003 move to oust Saddam Hussein for allegedly developing weapons of mass destruction that were never found.
When asked about the possibility, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has a stock answer: "Iran is not Iraq. I know that's what's on people's minds. The circumstances are different."
Nevertheless, U.S. officials appear in much the same position as they were in 2002.
With the latest nuclear crisis coming to a head after Iran blew off a U.N. Security Council injunction to halt uranium enrichment, the U.S is again showing signs of frustration with the world body.
Nearly four years after President George W. Bush warned the U.N. it risked becoming "irrelevant" unless it dealt with Saddam, his administration is billing the showdown with Iran as a new test of U.N. mettle.
"Iran is openly challenging the United Nations," deputy State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said Friday. "That challenge should have consequences in order to sustain and to reinforce the credibility of the U.N. as an institution."
Faced with stubborn resistance from veto-wielding Security Council members Russia and China to punitive measures against Iran, Washington is working on an alternative to U.N. action as it did for Iraq.
Back then it was a "coalition of the willing" rising up against Saddam; now it's a group of "like-minded nations" determined to keep Iran's nuclear ambitions in check.
The U.S. is encouraging countries to consider their own sanctions against Tehran, such as a cutoff of trade, an embargo on sales of sensitive material, or asset freezes and travel restrictions on Iranian leaders.
"It's not beyond the realm of the possible that at some point in the future a group of countries could get together if the Security Council is not able to act," Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said.
While publicly committed to a diplomatic track, the United States has consistently refused to take the military option off the table and has sharpened its tone in recent weeks.
In a speech in Chicago on April 19, Rice raised echoes of the Bush administration's readiness to go-it-alone if necessary that put it at odds with many U.S. allies at the outset of the war in Iraq.
"The right to self-defense does not necessarily require a U.N. Security Council resolution," she said. "We are prepared to use measures at our disposal -- political, economic or others -- to persuade Iran."
Washington has sought to broaden its bill of indictment against Iran to also include its alleged support for terrorism, Palestinian militants, and violent Iraqi groups as well as its repressive policies at home.
But if the United States was running into headwinds in its drive for a tough response on the nuclear front, it has drummed up even less support for regime change in Tehran to rid the Middle East of a troublemaker.
A case point highlighted last week was Pakistan, which strongly backed the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 attacks but begged off participation in the Iraq military venture.
Pakistani Foreign Secretary Riaz Khan, who was in town for strategic talks with Burns, stated bluntly when Iran came up that Islamabad was not in the business of replacing governments.
"As a neighbor and a country which has very long-standing good relations with Iran, we wish them well," Khan told reporters.