'US plans sustained campaign against Iran'

The administration of Bush plans for a sustained campaign against the ayatollahs of Tehran, according to a newspaper report.

india Updated: Mar 13, 2006 20:45 IST

The administration of US President George W Bush plans for a sustained campaign against the ayatollahs of Tehran that could include regime change,

The Washington Post

reported on Monday.

The newspaper said Bush and his team have been huddling in closed-door meetings on Iran, summoning scholars for advice, creating an Iran office in Washington and opening listening posts abroad dedicated to the efforts against Tehran.

The internal debate that raged in the first term between those who advocated more engagement with Iran and those who preferred more confrontation appears in the second term to be largely settled in favour of the latter, the report said.

Although administration officials do not use the term "regime change" in public, that in effect is the goal they outline as they aim to build resistance to the theocracy, The Post pointed out

"We do not have a problem with the Iranian people. We want the Iranian people to be free," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in Senate testimony last week. "Our problem is with the Iranian regime."

In private meetings, Bush and his advisors have been more explicit, the paper said.

Members of the Hoover Institution's board of overseers who met with Bush, Vice President Richard Cheney and national security advisor Stephen Hadley two weeks ago emerged with the impression that the administration has shifted to a more robust policy aimed at the Iranian government, according to the Post.

"The message that we received is that they are in favour of separating the Iranian people from the regime," the paper quotes Esmail Amid-Hozour, an Iranian American businessman who serves on the Hoover board, as saying.

Richard Haass, who was State Department policy planning director in Bush's first term, is quoted as saying, "The upper hand is with those who are pushing regime change rather than those who are advocating more diplomacy."

First Published: Mar 13, 2006 20:45 IST