Washington, Asharq Al-Awsat- The White House confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat yesterday that there has not been any change in US policy towards Iran, and that the option of a military strike remains open in the event of all other options being exhausted. The official stressed that the US reserves the rights to examine all options, including the military option, to engage with the threat of Iran developing nuclear weapons.
During a visit to Singapore yesterday, US Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michelle Flournoy created uproar in Washington when she reported said that the military option with regards to dealing with Iran is not on the table in the near future. Flournoy was reported as saying that “military force is an option of last resort” and that “it’s off the table in the near term.” However US sources contend that this statement “was taken out of context.”
Flournoy’s statement is different than previous statements issued by the US with regards to the Iranian nuclear file, as it sets a time-frame for US plans, which is something that the US has previously refrained from doing. President Obama has stressed that he is considering all options and possibilities, and using rhetoric such as “all options” and “military option” is part of the strategy being used by Washington to deal with Iran. This strategy focuses upon using “pressure” should “diplomacy” fail. Washington has not ruled out the “military option” however it views this as a “last resort” and is continuing its diplomatic efforts and its coordination with the UN Security Council to impose sanctions upon Iran.
Pentagon spokesman Major Shawn Turner told Asharq Al-Awsat that the statement made by Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, Michelle Flournoy, does not represent the US announcing a new position. He said “we have not undertaken an announcement about our policy with regards to timing; all options are on the table.” Turner also said that “Iran’s actions are determining the circumstances now.”
A White House official also told Asharq Al-Awsat that “there is no dispute between the White House and the Pentagon” on this issue, and that “there has been no change in our policies, all options are available in planning for the unexpected.”
The US is currently focusing on working within the UN Security Council to secure support from China and Russia with regards to issuing a resolution to impose new sanctions on Iran. This resolution already has British, French, and German support. At the beginning of this year President Obama announced that the US was working towards issuing economic sanctions against Tehran that would fore the Iranian regime to change its behavior and abandon its nuclear development program. Washington is anxious that the UN Security Council issue a resolution against Iran “this spring” which means within the next few weeks. However a number of UN Security Council permanent members, in addition to UN Security Council non-permanent member Turkey, oppose this resolution. Turkey is continuing its efforts to mediate and find a solution to the crisis surrounding Iran’s nuclear program, however Washington considers Turkey’s chances of success to depend upon Iran’s willingness to provide proof that it does not desire to obtain the ability to produce nuclear weaponry.
Answering a question about Turkish mediation, US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said that “In order to play a mediation role, you have to have a country like Iran that is actually willing to engage seriously, and that’s what’s been lacking over the past several months.”
Whilst during a press conference in Tehran on Tuesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that his country is “ready to act as an intermediary” to help to resolve the Iranian nuclear file.
Crowley also confirmed that the US recognizes that Turkey can “of course play a constructive role” in the mediation process. However he also stressed that Iran has “in no way, shape or form, whether it be with the United States, with the P5+1 [countries], or with Turkey…been willing to come forward and realistically and constructively seek a resolution.”