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Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Petraeus says strike on Iran could spark nationalism | Reuters
"A military strike on Iran could have the unintended consequence of stirring nationalist sentiment to the benefit of Tehran's hard-line government, U.S. General David Petraeus told Reuters. Iran's June election gave President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a second term but sparked the worst internal crisis in the Islamic Republic's history, putting internal pressure on a government already facing the threat of more sanctions over its nuclear program. "It's possible (a strike) could be used to play to nationalist tendencies," Petraeus, head of the U.S. Central Command region, which includes Iran, said in an interview this week. "There is certainly a history, in other countries, of fairly autocratic regimes almost creating incidents that inflame nationalist sentiment. So that could be among the many different, second, third, or even fourth order effects (of a strike)." Tensions over Iran's nuclear program have set off speculation that Israel could make good on veiled threats to hit its arch-foe pre-emptively. But Israel's envoy to Washington said in December the U.S.-Israeli dialogue on Iran has not reached the point of discussing the military option. U.S. officials, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, have warned that any strike on Iran would not stop the Islamic Republic from pursuing nuclear weapons. Instead, it would only delay Tehran, an opinion Petraeus said he shared. Dennis Blair, the U.S. director of national intelligence, told Congress on Tuesday that Iran was keeping open the option of developing nuclear weapons but that it remained unclear whether Tehran had the political will to do so. Petraeus, commenting on advances of Iran's nuclear program, said: "On the one hand, there is no question that there has been a continuation of various aspects of the nuclear program but I'm not sure it has always proceeded as rapidly as has been projected at various times." GRADUAL BOOST IN DEFENSES Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday Iran was ready to send its enriched uranium abroad in exchange for nuclear fuel under a pl