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Experts Say Washington Has Few Good Options for Dealing with Iran's Nuclear Ambitions


A panel of American experts, none of whom is currently serving in government, said Friday that Washington has few good options for combating Iran's nuclear ambitions. VOA's Barry Wood reports.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology political science professor Barry Posen believes that Iran possessing nuclear weapons would touch off an arms race in the Middle East. "The essence of the problem is that absent outside intervention, a nuclear armed Iran is indeed the strongest state in the Gulf and will be perceived as a threat by its neighbors," he said.

Professor Posen has argued that a pre-emptive US military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities would be a huge mistake.

Another speaker at the Center for American Progress seminar was Joseph Cirincione, who directs national security policy at the center. Formerly a nuclear non-proliferation expert at the Carnegie Foundation, Cirincione says that prior to the opposition Democrats winning control of Congress last month, there was a 60 percent chance that the Bush administration would launch an attack on Iran during the course of 2007.

"The election has changed a lot (of things). The power shift in the Congress, the resignation of Mr. Rumsfeld (from Defense) and with him Mr. Bolton (at the United Nations) and then a good portion of the senior leadership at the Department of Defense, probably to follow, has changed that calculation dramatically. But it is not zero (the chances of a US attack)," he said.

The Bush administration has said it will not deal with Iran unless Tehran abandons its nuclear enrichment activities. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice repeated that position in a Washington Post interview this week. A study group co-chaired by former Secretary of State James Baker last week called for dialogue with both Iran and Syria.

Former diplomat and Central Intelligence Agency analyst Flynt Leverett says the Bush administration finds itself in the awkward position of needing Iran's help to bring stability to war-ravaged Iraq. "They (the Iranians) are very well positioned on the ground, right now, to defend their interests in Iraq without our help. We've put ourselves in a situation in Iraq where at this point we need them (the Iranians) more than they need us," he said.

The US backed Shi'ite-led government in Baghdad has good relations with neighboring Iran.

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