Retired officers: Iran attack would be a disaster

Former high-ranking U.S. military officials plead for a diplomatic solution

LONDON - Three former high-ranking U.S. military officers have called for
Britain to help defuse the crisis over Iran's nuclear program, saying
military action against Tehran would be a disaster for the region.

In a letter to the Sunday Times newspaper, the three former officers urged
President Bush to open talks, "without preconditions," with the Iranian
government in a bid to find a diplomatic solution.

The signatories were retired Lt. Gen. Robert G. Gard, a senior military
fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation in Washington,
D.C.; retired Marine Gen. Joseph P. Hoar, former head of U.S. Central
Command; and Vice Adm. Jack Shanahan, former director of the Center for
Defense Information.

They said Britain "has a vital role to play in securing a renewed diplomatic
push" and urged Prime Minister Tony Blair to make it clear he would oppose
any military attack on Iran.

The officers said an attack "would have disastrous consequences for security
in the region, coalition forces in Iraq and would further exacerbate
regional and global tensions."

"The current crisis must be resolved through diplomacy," they said.

The United States and several Western allies believe that Iran is using its
nuclear program as a cover to produce a nuclear weapon - charges Iran
denies, saying its aim is to generate electricity. Last week a respected
think tank, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said Iran was
likely two to three years from having the capacity to build a nuclear

The U.N. Security Council has imposed sanctions on Tehran, and threatened to
impose more if it continues to refuse to roll back its nuclear program.

The U.S. government has refused to rule out military action if Iran does not
halt its nuclear activities, and has beefed up the U.S. military presence in
the Gulf. Bush also has vowed more aggressive moves against Iranian
operatives in Iraq, where the United States accuses Iran of training and
arming insurgents who attack U.S. troops.

In a separate letter, Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders called for a
peaceful resolution to the crisis.

Writing to The Independent on Sunday newspaper, Rabbi Tony Bayfield, head of
reform Judaism in Britain; Lord Harries, the former Anglican Bishop of
Oxford; and Imam Abduljalil Sajid of the Brighton Islamic Mission said there
was "no justification in international law for attacking Iran militarily and
the use of force is not an option at this juncture."

"There is still time to talk and we urge everyone to use it and pray for
success," they said.

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