(by Julie Stahl, CNSNews.com) Jerusalem – The White House denied a report published in Israel on Tuesday that said President Bush is planning to attack Iran before the end of his term in January. An expert here said that while anxiety about Iran is high, a full range of options exists for dealing with the Islamic regime that is so hostile to Israel.
A story in the Jerusalem Post quoted an unnamed “senior official in Jerusalem” as saying that Bush plans to attack Iran in the coming months. The report said a senior member of Bush’s entourage told a closed meeting in Jerusalem last week that Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney believed that “military action against Iran was called for.”
Bush, the official said, considered Hezbollah’s recent “show of strength” in Lebanon to be evidence that the influence of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is growing. Bush believes that “the disease must be treated — not its symptoms,” the official was quoted as saying.
But White House Press Secretary Dana Perino on Monday dismissed the report, saying it’s “not worth the paper it’s written on.”
“Let me respond by reaffirming the policy of the administration: We, along with our international allies who want peace in the Middle East, remain opposed to Iran’s ambitions to obtain a nuclear weapon,” Perino said in a statement.
“To that end, we are working to bring tough diplomatic and economic pressure on the Iranians to get them to change their behavior and to halt their uranium enrichment program,” she said.
Perino said the president should never take options off the table, but our preference and our actions for dealing with this matter remain through peaceful diplomatic means. Nothing has changed in that regard.”
The U.S., Israel and much of the West believe that Iran is using its civilian nuclear power program to secretly develop atomic bombs. Iran denies the charges and has refused to give up its uranium enrichment program as demanded by the United Nations Security Council.
Dr. Eran Lerman, director of the Israel/Middle East office of the American Jewish Committee, told Cybercast News Service there is “no mistaking the level of anxiety, which the Iranian posture and nuclear efforts” are generating here among the Israeli defense establishment as well as among Israeli civilians.
It is also at the forefront of discussions with visiting dignitaries, he said.
Still Lerman said one had to be “very careful” in the way the options for dealing with Iran are framed. Lerman, a former Israeli army Col. [who served] in Military Intelligence Research and Production Division, cautioned against listening to the “rumor mill” and suggested sticking to what President Bush himself said when he addressed the Israeli parliament last week.
Bush said that America stands firmly with Israel in breaking up terror networks, denying sanctuary to extremists and in opposing Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions.
“Permitting the world’s leading sponsor of terror to possess the world’s deadliest weapons would be an unforgivable betrayal for future generations. For the sake of peace, the world must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon,” Bush said.
He also said that when it comes to confronting “terror and evil” Israel’s population, which is just over 7 million, is augmented with the backing of the U.S. to 307 million.
Lerman said that if military means are used against Israel there would be a price to pay and Israel would be the first to pay it. On the other hand, doing nothing is the “worst option,” he said.
Lerman admitted that United Nations sanctions have had a very limited effect on the current regime in Tehran.
There is a “growing realization” that Iran is in the “bomb business,” Lerman said. They will not desist in their pursuits unless something much more “robust” happens. There is a “full range” of options between doing nothing and taking military action, he said, without elaborating.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who led a congressional delegation to Israel over the weekend, said while she was here that no option should be taken off the table.
There was no immediate reaction from Iran, but the report on Bush’s alleged military intentions as well as Pelosi’s comments were carried on the Iranian Web site Press TV.
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1. a) What did an anonymous Israeli official tell the Jerusalem Post President Bush is planning to do before the end of his term in January?
b) Where does the official say he obtained this information?
2. How did White House Press Secretary Dana Perino respond to this report?
3. How does the Bush administration want to deal with Iran’s nuclear weapons program, according to Ms. Perino?
4. a) Who is Eran Lerman?
b) What does Dr. Lerman say about the validity of the report in the Jerusalem Post?
5. What did President Bush tell the Israeli parliament in a speech last week?
6. Iran has threatened to destroy Israel. How do you think the U.S. should deal with the Iranian government’s refusal to end its nuclear program?