President Bush yesterday pointed to his diplomatic response to Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons as proof of the sophistication of his foreign policy, which Democrats criticize as stubborn and too focused on fighting wars.
Asked about Iran at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, Mr. Bush alluded to his designation of the terrorist-supporting Islamic state as part of an “axis of evil,” but noted that “every situation requires a different response when it comes to foreign policy.”
“We tailor our responses based upon the reality of the moment,” Mr. Bush said. “And, first, just make it clear to the world that Iran must abandon her nuclear ambitions. That’s part of the role of the United States. And [second] to work with others to send that message.”
The president said his administration is working closely with the International Atomic Energy Agency, pointing out that the United States and its allies persuaded Iran to agree to more stringent IAEA inspections.
“Iran must comply with the demands of the free world and that’s where we sit right now,” Mr. Bush said. “My attitude is that we’ve got to keep pressure on the government, and help others keep pressure on the government, so there’s going to be universal condemnation of illegal weapons activities.”
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said Sunday that for 3 years the United States thought Tehran was trying to develop nuclear weapons, but that much of the world, including Iran, discounted the notion.
Today, the world is “worried and suspicious” of Iran, Miss Rice said, because the United States has succeeded in revealing the truth.
“The United States was the first to say that Iran was a threat in this way, to try to convince the international community that Iran was trying, under cover of a civilian nuclear program, to actually bring about a nuclear weapons program,” Miss Rice said Sunday on CNN’s “Late Edition.”
“I think we’ve finally now got the world community to a place, and the [IAEA] to a place, that it is worried and suspicious of the Iranian activities,” she said. “Iran is facing for the first time real resistance to trying to take these steps.”
Mr. Bush said yesterday that early in his administration he “talked about Iran in vivid terms,” an allusion to his often-cited designation of Iraq, Iran and North Korea as an “axis of evil.”
The United States hasn’t had normal diplomatic relations with Iran since the Islamic theocracy held 52 American hostages in its 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Thus, Mr. Bush said, the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Britain have helped express the president’s seriousness on this topic.
The Iranian government said yesterday that no reason exists for suspicion of its nuclear ambitions, despite sitting on more than enough oil to meet its energy needs.
“Iran has not violated any of its commitments to international treaties in its nuclear program,” Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi told his country’s official state news agency.
Mr. Kharrazi announced a week ago that Iran had resumed building nuclear centrifuges in response to the West’s persistence in pressuring the IAEA to continue inspections.
Mr. Bush said part of the solution is to encourage democratic reform from within Iran — the linchpin of his foreign policy doctrine that the spread of freedom in the Middle East “will make this country safer.”
“The United States does have an opportunity to speak clearly to those who love freedom inside of Iran, and we are,” Mr. Bush said of the student movement that is agitating to end Iran’s theocracy.
“There is a significant diaspora here in the United States of Iranian-Americans who long for their homeland to be liberated and free. We’re working with them to send messages to their loved ones and their relatives, through different methodology.
“We’ve got a new radio broadcast system going into Iran [that says], ‘Listen, we hear your voice, we know you want to be free, and we stand with you in your desire to be free,’” he said.
Iraq’s move from dictatorship under Saddam Hussein to free elections next year also is “going to send a clear message to people in Iran as well that free societies are possible,” Mr. Bush said.
“That’s why I say this is an historic moment in our history, and it really is,” he said. “When you think about it, a free country in the midst of the Middle East will send a very clear signal that freedom is possible.”