Saturday, October 6, 2007

Iraq official says "big fat no" to attack on Iran

By Andrew Gray

Iraq's national security adviser said on Friday he strongly opposed any military attack on Iran and, in contrast to the Bush administration's policy, said the option should not even be considered.

"Attacking Iran? I say a big fat no. It's a fatal mistake," Mowaffak al-Rubaie said. "It should never be an option at all."

The United States accuses Iran of using its nuclear program to develop atomic weapons and of funding, training and equipping militia groups that attack U.S. troops in Iraq. Tehran denies both charges.

President George W. Bush has said repeatedly that he is committed to diplomacy to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear program but all options remain on the table.

The United States has also said it will aggressively target Iranian agents fomenting violence inside Iraq, but so far U.S. officials have said they see no need for military action inside Iran to disrupt support networks.

Rubaie said any attack on Iran would set the whole Middle East ablaze and Iraq would suffer most.

"It is not a strategy. It's a mistake of Chernobyl magnitude," he said, referring to the 1986 nuclear disaster in the former Soviet Union.

"The whole area will be in flames, and Iraq will be the battlefield for all this, and we will pay heavily," Rubaie said at an event in Washington hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.

"What we need from the United States government is to engage seriously with Iran," he said.

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker has held several meetings with his Iranian counterpart over Tehran's role in Iraq, but Crocker said last month that the talks had yielded little.

Rubaie suggested the United States should engage in a broader dialogue with Iran to see what Tehran would be prepared to accept in return for acceding to U.S. demands.

"We need to discuss these issues seriously and we need to unify our position and coordinate our position -- we, the government of Iraq, with the United States government," he said.