Iran’s Nuclear Program

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(Host) Condoleezza Rice was in the news again last weekend, and commentator Bill Seamans thinks that her comments had a certain “deja vu” quality.

(Seamans) Condi Rice sounded like she was launching a new Bush campaign to turn our attention away from Iraq and prepare us for direct involvement in a new crisis with Iran – and her words were not the subtle diplomatic kind. Last Sunday on Tim Russert’s Meet the Press program Rice said that the United States – in her words – “cannot allow the Iranians to develop a nuclear weapon.” She said that President Bush would “look at all the tools that are available to him” to shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program…Rice mentioned imposing sanctions on Iran but left us hanging with the question – what if diplomacy doesn’t work – is the ultimate Bush tool another war?

For me, Rice’s words sounded very familiar. Back in 1981, when I was the ABC News Bureau chief in Israel, I heard Prime Minister Menahem Begin issue a similar warning to Iraq. The tools that were available to Begin were the planes of the Israeli Air Force which destroyed the Iraqi reactor and Saddam Hussein’s nuclear program. Israel was severely criticised for the action.

So Russert asked Rice whether the United States would support a similar Israeli attack on Iran’s reactor – Rice replied that she didn’t want to get into “hypotheticals” – another way of saying “no comment!” Having been a close observer of Menahem Begin’s 1981 preemptive strike against Iraq’s nuclear program and pondering Rice’s warning to Iran this week, I cannot help repeating that well-worn comment: What goes around comes around.

Meanwhile, buried deep in a recent Washington Post story about the extreme security clampdown in Washington was the first public acknowledgment I’ve seen that Israeli counter-terrorism experts are directly helping Washington’s security situation. The head of Israel’s bomb squad has traveled to Washington several times to advise Capitol police chief Terrance Gainer and his top officers. Some members of the Capitol force have gone to Israel for training in counter-terrorism techniques developed by the Israelis in over fifty years of on the job experience.

I was surprised that it has been revealed that Israeli counter-terrorism experts have been working directly with Washington. Up to now, the Bush administration has been reluctant to mention any strategic cooperation with Israel because of what has been called Arab sensitivities. One interesting result, Capitol Police have been ordered, if they are approached by a suspect who appears to be carrying explosives or refuses to stop to be searched, to shoot the suspect in the head. A gunshot to the body, Police Chief Gainer said, “wouldn’t be prudent…” I guess we could call that ” Israeli Counter-Terrorism 101″.

This is Bill Seamans.

Award-winning journalist Bill Seamans is a former correspondent and burean chief for ABC News in the Middle East. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.

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