President Bush says the United States is still investigating whether Iran played any role in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Acting CIA chief John McLaughlin has said Tehran had no direct link to the attacks, but according to news reports, the commission investigating September 11 will report this week that some of the hijackers may have travelled through Iran.
President Bush said Monday the United States will investigate what role, if any, Iran played in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. "We will continue to look to see if the Iranians were involved," he said. "I have long expressed my concerns about Iran. After all it's a totalitarian society where free people are not allowed to exercise their rights."
The Bush administration has long been divided over whether to reach out to Iran after more than 25 years of hostility or to toughen its approach. Among the biggest concerns are allegations that Iran is using nuclear power generation as a cover for a secret weapons drive. Tehran insists its program is solely aimed at meeting the future energy needs of a burgeoning population.
At the State Department, spokesman Richard Boucher warned that a cautious approach in dealing with Iran is still needed.
"We have acknowledged that we have had discussions with Iran in the past about some of these issues, including terrorism in the region and other things affecting the region. Unfortunately, unless we see progress in some of these areas, if we see Iran stop supporting the terrorists who have tried to undermine the hopes and dreams of the Palestinians; if we see Iran starting to comply with its nuclear commitment with requirements of the international community; if we see Iran improve its appalling human rights record, that's the time for people to start think there is a prospect for something better in our relationship."
The non-governmental policy research organization, the Council on Foreign Relations, jumped into the debate on Iran Monday with a report that encourages a sustained dialogue with Iran. The Council suggests the lack of one is harming U.S. interests in the region.
Chaired by former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski and former CIA director Robert Gates, the report concludes that Iran's nuclear ambitions are "one of the most urgent issues" facing the United States. And direct dialogue with Tehran on this issue is key to stabilizing the region.
When asked about the possible link between Iran and the September 11 terrorist plot, Mr. Brzezinski said "all that has been indicated so far is that al-Qaida operatives passed through Iran," he said. "And there is no indication that this was connected specifically with Iranian complicity in the 9/11 events. We just don't know. We do know however that Iran has been hostile to the antecedent Iraqi government, Saddam Hussein's government, and to Saudi Arabia, as was al-Qaida. And, one has to take that into account also in terms of what might have been the Iranian calculations in permitting al-Qaida operatives to pass through Iranian territory."
The United States and Iran have not had diplomatic ties since the 1979 Islamic revolution when student fundamentalists held 52 American hostages for 444 days.