There's That Sound Again

Editorial

Los Angeles Times

January 24, 2005

If, as it constantly asserts, the Bush administration is serious about improving relations with Europe, Vice President Dick Cheney's remarks on MSNBC Thursday were a funny way to go about it. Only hours before President Bush delivered his sunny vision of promoting freedom around the globe, Cheney was growling about the nation's enemies, declaring that Israel "might well decide to act" independently of the United States to take out Iran's nuclear capabilities.

European nerves are already jangled by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh's report in the New Yorker that neoconservatives inside the Pentagon have been drawing up plans to attack Iran, including training commandos to assault suspected nuclear sites.

Given the havoc in Iraq, it's hard to imagine that even this administration is spoiling for a fight with Tehran. The military option is lousy because the Iranians have probably buried their secret nuclear research sites, so such targets couldn't easily be hit by bombs even if U.S. intelligence services knew where they were — which, given an abysmal record on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, is itself a dubious proposition.

Even if European fears of a unilateral U.S. strike are exaggerated, Bush has steadfastly resisted joining the European Union to pursue diplomacy with Iran. While the Iranians woo the Europeans, the U.S. stands on the sidelines making empty gestures about going to the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions that have no chance of being approved.

If the U.S. cooperated with Europe, it might have a chance of derailing the Iranian program. Cheney's truculent statements, which purposely overlook the fact that Israel would be unlikely to attack Iran without U.S. approval, are counterproductive. He isn't scaring the living daylights out of Iranians, but Europeans.