Walter Pincus
Washington Post
July 23, 2008

The Bush administration should stop talking about a military attack as an option if negotiations do not immediately halt Iran’s uranium reprocessing program, two former national security advisers said yesterday.

“Don’t talk about ‘do we bomb them now or later?’ ” said Brent Scowcroft, adviser to presidents Gerald R. Ford and George H.W. Bush, during a discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on the negotiations between the United States and Iran.

Scowcroft added that by mentioning that threat, “we legitimize the use of force . . . and may tempt the Israelis” to carry out such a mission. He said he thinks that negotiations must continue and that sanctions have had an effect on Tehran, noting that even with elevated oil prices, Iran, alone among oil producers, is having a difficult time economically.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, adviser to President Jimmy Carter, described the Bush administration’s policy of maintaining the option of military action as “counterproductive.”

“I don’t want the public to believe a preemptive attack can be justified,” he said. Repeating the possibility “convinces Iran it is being threatened . . . and maybe it ought to have a [nuclear] weapon.”

He added that a U.S. attack on Iran would be a “disaster,” suggesting it could result in the U.S. fighting “for at least two decades” on four fronts — Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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