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Debate Stirs Over Possible U.S. Military Action Against Iran

New U.S. economic sanctions leveled against Iran last week over Tehran's nuclear program further fueled debate about the possibility of U.S. military action against the country. Two writers offer their perspectives on what the next steps should be for U.S. policy in Iran.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The tough talk from the Bush administration about Iran and its nuclear program has ratcheted up in recent weeks.

    GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: If you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And last week came unilateral economic sanctions against the Tehran regime, aimed at its military. But the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, said yesterday there is no evidence of an Iranian drive for the bomb at this time. His group is now in Tehran meeting with Iranian officials.

    He was interviewed on CNN yesterday.

  • MOHAMED ELBARADEI, Director General, IAEA:

    We are not talking about Iran having today a nuclear weapon. We are trying to make sure that the future intention of Iran is peaceful, and that's really what we are talking about. We have the time, because I don't see any other solution, Wolf, except through diplomacy and inspection.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Last week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad again insisted his country had a right to peaceful nuclear power and said it would not bow to bullying by Western leaders.

    MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, President of Iran (through translator): They are mistaken if they suppose that, by using a political psychological duress against the Iranian nation, they can deprive it of any right. That is impossible.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Political allies of the Bush administration took to the airwaves yesterday to make their case that the Iranians, in fact, are working toward a bomb.

    SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), South Carolina: They're trying to develop a nuclear weapon program, not peaceful nuclear power. So I'm taking the Iranian president at his word. Their actions speak louder than anything else. They're clearly going down the uranium enrichment road that would lead to weapons material and not peaceful nuclear power.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    But on several of the Sunday talk shows, congressional Democrats urged caution, both in words and deeds. Connecticut senator and presidential candidate Christopher Dodd appeared on NBC yesterday.

    TIM RUSSERT, Host, NBC's "Meet the Press": You think we're getting precariously close to military action against Iran?

    SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), Connecticut: I do. I think clearly the administration seems to be pointing in that direction, and I think that's a dangerous move at this juncture here.

    And, again, I don't — I'm not going to take a backseat to anyone in my concerns about the problems that Iran poses here, and I would not exclude the use of military force in dealing with that, but it seems to me that arrow ought not to be drawn out of our quiver until we examine and explore fully the opportunities to reduce those threats.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Fellow senator and Republican presidential contender John McCain of Arizona was asked about Iran on ABC.

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), Arizona: We cannot allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon, but I do believe that to start talking about specifics, a bombardment or something like that, I think would be a terrible mistake.

    But the Iranians would know, when I'm president, they're facing somebody who's not going to let them have it. But I'm not going to make a lot of empty threats that I can't carry out.

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