Iran: Iraq Situation Makes US Attack Unlikely

Iran said on Sunday a “disastrous situation” facing the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan coupled with Washington’s domestic issues made any US attack on the Islamic Republic unlikely.

“We think it would be unlikely the Americans would take the decision to get themselves into a new fiasco, the consequences of which they themselves know would be painful for the region and the world,” Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Mohammad Ali Hosseini said during a weekly press conference here today.

“We hope those who think better in America view the realities more closely and manage to correct such approaches,” he added.

Relations between Washington and Tehran, which have not had diplomatic ties for nearly three decades, are tense over Iran’s nuclear program and over who is to blame for violence in Iraq.

Hostile rhetoric between the two foes and Pentagon’s allegations about close encounters by the two sides’ navies in the Persian Gulf have fuelled some speculation the United States may be planning some sort of military action against Tehran.

However, a US intelligence report in December that said Iran is pursuing a peaceful nuclear program made any US attack very unlikely, analysts say.

Last week, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said another Middle East war would be “disastrous on a number of levels”.

Hosseini also dismissed the likelihood of any US military strike “in view of the numerous problems the Americans are facing, along with the disastrous situation in Iraq and Afghanistan and (their) domestic problems.”

He did not specify what domestic US problems he was referring to but the Bush administration is facing low approval ratings and an economic downturn during its last year in office.

Hosseini’s comments came two days after the US Navy claimed a cargo ship hired by the US military fired warning shots at approaching boats in the Persian Gulf, underscoring tension in an area vital to world oil shipments, and driving up crude prices.

US defense officials first said they suspected the approaching vessels in Thursday’s incident were Iranian, but a navy spokeswoman later backed away from that charge.

Iran denied any kind of “confrontation” with a US navy ship in the Persian Gulf.

A top official in the navy of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) said on Friday , “Nothing happened between Iranian boats and US ship.”

CNN claimed that three small Iranian boats engaged in a “mild” and “taunting” confrontation with a USS Typhoon US warship in the Persian Gulf.

The Iranian official confirmed that the American ship was detected by Iranian navy forces “according to the routine” and, “since nothing was wrong they left the place with no confrontation.”

The IRGC and Navy operate speed boats in the northern Persian Gulf, and this is the second time in this year that US media make propaganda against Iranian navy guard, the official said on conditions of anonymity.

The Iranian navy official said, “This is another plot to draw attentions to Iran at a time when the US wants to find a scapegoat for its failures in Iraq.”

In January, tensions between the two countries escalated after Iranian speed boats made a radio contact with three US warships transiting the Strait of Hormuz, a critical crude oil shipping route. Iran described that incident as a routine event of identification while US officials alleged the Iranian vessels had behaved in a threatening manner.

Elsewhere during the same press conference, Hosseini played down the return visit of inspectors from the UN nuclear watchdog to Tehran and said that the talks would only be within the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Hosseini rejected remarks by IAEA diplomats in Vienna that the aim of the visit of the IAEA delegation headed by the deputy head of the UN nuclear watchdog, Olli Heinonen, would be to discuss intelligence alleging Iran pursued nuclear weapons studies.

“We have already clarified our stance on the allegations, and talks with the IAEA would therefore just be within the framework of the IAEA and NPT,” the spokesman said.

Heinonen was in Tehran earlier this week, but Tehran said that the visit was just routine and rejected Western press reports that the talks were solely focused on the new allegations.

Tehran has already dismissed the intelligence received from Western states as baseless, irrelevant and fabricated.

The United States and its Western allies have accused Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear program, while they have never presented any corroborative document to substantiate their allegations. Iran has denied the charges and insisted that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

Tehran stresses that the country has always pursued a civilian path to provide power to the growing number of Iranian population, whose fossil fuel would eventually run dry.

Iran is under three rounds of UN Security Council sanctions for turning down West’s illegitimate calls to give up its right of uranium enrichment, saying the demand is politically tainted and illogical.

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany met on April 16 in Shanghai to discuss whether to sweeten incentives they had offered Iran in 2006 to persuade it to give up its nuclear rights. But the meeting attended by political directors of the six powers ended with no result.

Iran has so far ruled out halting or limiting its nuclear work in exchange for trade and other incentives, and says it will only negotiate with the UN nuclear watchdog.

Iran has repeatedly said that it considers its nuclear case closed after it answered the UN agency’s questions about the history of its nuclear program.

The US is at loggerheads with Iran over the independent and home-grown nature of Tehran’s nuclear technology, which gives the Islamic Republic the potential to turn into a world power and a role model for other third-world countries. Washington has laid much pressure on Iran to make it give up the most sensitive and advanced part of the technology, which is uranium enrichment, a process used for producing nuclear fuel for power plants.

Washington’s push for additional UN penalties contradicted the recent report by 16 US intelligence bodies that endorsed the civilian nature of Iran’s programs. Following the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and similar reports by the IAEA head – one in November and the other one in February – which praised Iran’s truthfulness about key aspects of its past nuclear activities and announced settlement of outstanding issues with Tehran, any effort to impose further sanctions on Iran seemed to be completely irrational.

The February report by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, praised Iran’s cooperation in clearing up all of the past questions over its nuclear program, vindicating Iran’s nuclear program and leaving no justification for any new UN sanctions.

Tehran says it wants to enrich uranium merely for civilian purposes, including generation of electricity, a claim substantiated by the NIE and IAEA reports.

Iran has also insisted that it would continue enriching uranium because it needs to provide fuel to a 300-megawatt light-water reactor it is building in the southwestern town of Darkhoveyn as well as its first nuclear power plant in the southern port city of Bushehr.

Not only many Iranian officials, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but also many other world nations have called the UN Security Council pressure unjustified, especially in the wake of recent IAEA reports saying Iran had increased cooperation with the agency.

US President George W. Bush finished a tour of the Middle East in winter to gain the consensus of his Arab allies to unite against Iran.

But hosting officials of the regional nations dismissed Bush’s allegations, describing Tehran as a good friend of their countries.

Bush’s attempt to rally international pressure against Iran has lost steam due to the growing international vigilance, specially following the latest IAEA and US intelligence reports.