WASHINGTON – A magazine news story suggesting the Bush administration will go to war to stop Iran from developing a nuclear bomb is long on hype and short on facts, a senior administration official said Sunday.
The New Yorker's Seymour Hersh claims in his report that the Bush administration is increasing clandestine activities inside Iran to create regime change and to plan a major air attack.
According to the report, members of the Air Force are "drawing up lists of targets, and teams of American combat troops have been ordered into Iran, under cover, to collect targeting data and to establish contact with anti-government ethnic-minority groups." The report also said President Bush likens Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to a present-day Adolf Hitler with nuclear ambitions.
In Sunday editions, The Washington Post also reported the United States is studying military strike options in Iran to be used as a tool of "coercive diplomacy." The report said an attack is not likely in the shortterm and many inside the administration doubt its efficacy.
But a senior Bush administration official downplayed the reports, saying the "Pentagon is always making plans for countless contingencies. It would not be prudent not to do so. But the U.S. government has made clear it is a diplomatic approach that is being taken regarding Iran."
Another official said to "consider the source" when it comes to The New Yorker's reporting. "This story is breathlessly over-reported and hyped without knowledge of facts or the president's thinking. The president himself has refused to rule any options out and said that diplomacy is our strategy, that Iran must never have a nuclear weapon."
"Sy Hersh probably got some information that was looking at a deterrent strategy against nuclear terrorism, and in that deterrent strategy against nuclear terrorism they had to show how, if nuclear weapons went off in the United States, how we, in fact, would respond, and we would immediately target Iran," FOX News military analyst Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney suggested.
Military analysts have in the past told FOX News that all options, including a military strike, are on the table. The United States has been flying surveillance drones over Iran periodically for the past two years to try to gather more information, and Iran has been the main topic in recent meetings between U.S. and Israeli defense officials.
Israeli officials are said to be "much further along" in the planning stage for possible airstrikes. Their intelligence reportedly shows Iran to be much closer to developing a nuclear weapon than U.S. analyses; and Ahmadinejad has made no disguise of his desire to "wipe Israel off the map."
But British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw says the idea of a nuclear strike on Iran is "completely nuts."
Beyond diplomacy and military strikes, Alireza Jafarzadeh, an Iranian foreign policy analyst and FOX News contributor, said the United States has another option on the table.
"There is a third option — (it) is to empower the Iranian people to change the regime from within. Iranians are opposed to the regime. The younger generation are very much opposed to this and this is the population that revealed the military sites in Iran," he said.
Some U.S. military analysts say launching an attack on Iran would be counterproductive. Iran's Islamic regime said it will retaliate against any U.S. military action by launching terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.
A Pentagon spokesman said Sunday the U.S. government has been very clear about its approach to dealing with Iran. The Pentagon and State Department are working diligently with international agencies such as the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United Nations to address the troublesome activities.