- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 3, 2002

A senior Bush administration official yesterday laid out a new policy toward Iran, abandoning hope that the reformists can halt support for terrorism or end moves to acquire weapons of mass destruction.
Instead, the Bush administration is reaching out directly to Iranian dissidents much as the United State supported Soviet-bloc dissidents during the Cold War, National Security Council official Zalmay Khalilzad said.
"U.S. policy is not to impose change on Iran, but to support the Iranian people in their quest to decide their own destiny," said Mr. Khalilzad in an address to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy yesterday.
Although Iranians voted overwhelmingly for reform candidates in the past two elections, he said, "President [Mohammed] Khatami has been ineffective in challenging the regime and, therefore, made only marginal gains."
He accused Iran of seeking to acquire nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, as well as long-range missiles, using Russian, Chinese and North Korean technology and materials.
Responding to sharp U.S. criticism, Russia's nuclear ministry yesterday said it might not carry out a plan to build five nuclear reactors in Iran, in addition to one under construction for many years at Bushehr.
The government program "merely talks about the existing technical possibilities" of constructing additional reactors, the ministry said in a statement. "Their implementation will depend on many factors, including political."
Mr. Khalilzad said Iran continues to support terrorists, including the anti-Israel Lebanese group Hezbollah, and it allowed members of al Qaeda fleeing Afghanistan to find refuge inside Iran.
The combination of support for terrorism and search for weapons of mass destruction is a "dangerous mix," he said.
Analyst Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute said Mr. Khalilzad's speech yesterday served to give the first detailed explanation of a new Bush policy toward Iran that was "hinted at" during a July 12 speech.
"What [Mr. Khalilzad] was saying was, we are calling for regime change, but we trust the Iranian people to do it for themselves," Mr. Rubin said. "The Islamic Republic is incapable of reforming itself, and the United States will stand with the people," he said.
In 1953 and 1979, the United States sided with the Iranian governments at the time against the people, but "we are not going to make the same mistake three times," he said.
The new policy on Iran parallels the Bush administration's call for leadership change in the Palestinian Authority and in Iraq.
The speech marks an end to any expectation of limited moves toward reviving frozen diplomatic contacts with Iran. The United States has previously offered to hold official and unconditional discussions with the Tehran regime, but Mr. Khatami only offered informal, cultural contacts.
As part of the new campaign, Mr. Khalilzad highlighted recent actions of the Islamic regime, including the banning of the reformist newspaper Nowruz and arrests of several pro-reform individuals.

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