Rumsfeld, Bush Support Diplomatic Policy Toward Iran
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 11, 2006 The United States and its allies are pursing a diplomatic course with Iran, and news reports suggesting that a U.S. attack on Iran is in the works "get into fantasy land," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told Pentagon reporters today.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld gestures as he makes his point to reporters during an April 11 Pentagon news conference as Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Marine Gen. Peter Pace looks on. Photo by R.D. Ward
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"Let me be clear," Rumsfeld said. "The department's policy is the president's policy."
And that policy, as Bush described it yesterday at Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies here, is to use a multinational, diplomatic approach to get Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions.
"We do not want the Iranians to have a nuclear weapon, the capacity to make a nuclear weapon, or the knowledge as to how to make a nuclear weapon," Bush told the audience. "That's our stated goal. It's also the goal, fortunately, of other ... friends and allies, starting with Great Britain, Germany and France." Russia is also part of the dialogue.
The U.N. Security Council adopted a statement on March 29 for Iran to re-establish "full, sustained suspension of uranium-enrichment activities." Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called that action "an important diplomatic step" that "sends an unmistakable message to Iran that its efforts to conceal its nuclear program and evade its international obligations are unacceptable."
The international community is "making pretty good progress" in getting Iran to understand that it can't pursue its nuclear weapons programs if it wants to be accepted among world nations, the president said yesterday.
"The doctrine of prevention is to work together to prevent the Iranians from having a nuclear weapon," Bush said. He noted that many people in Washington equate prevention with force. "It doesn't mean force necessarily," he said. "In this case it means diplomacy."
Bush dismissed news report of possible military action against Tehran as "wild speculation."
Today, Rumsfeld echoed that sentiment, saying such reports venture into "fantasy land."
Rumsfeld told reporters today he believes Bush is handling the matter properly, but he shared his concerns about Iran. "It's a country that ... supports terrorists," the secretary said. "It's a country that has indicated an interest in having weapons of mass destruction."
Rumsfeld declined to say if DoD is revising any of its contingency plans for a potential military mission against Iran. He said he meets regularly with combat commanders to discuss contingencies for their specific geographic areas of responsibility. "That goes on all the time," he said, but emphasized that offering the media or the world insights into that process "isn't useful."
Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, affirmed that the United States would be able take on a second major contingency, if required. He noted that just over 200,000 of the country's total 2.4 million active, Guard and Reserve troops are currently serving in the Persian Gulf region.
"So you've got about 2 million U.S. servicemembers who are not currently involved directly in the Gulf region," he said. "We have sufficient personnel, weapons, equipment -- you name it -- to handle any adversary that might come along."
Just before today's Pentagon briefing, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced on TV that Iran now possesses nuclear technology and is determined to achieve industrial-scale uranium enrichment. Rumsfeld told reporters he had not yet seen the report and would wait to confer with the experts before responding to it.