U.S. President George Bush has reiterated that all options are open regarding Iran's suspected nuclear program, but said the U.S. hopes to solve the issue diplomatically. Bush's comments come amid a growing controversy over a "New Yorker" magazine article. Award-winning reporter Seymour Hersh writes that Iran could be the next target in the war on terror and that U.S. Special Forces have been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran to help identify potential targets. The White House has criticized the report as being "riddled with inaccuracies Amid growing speculation about U.S. intentions, President George W. Bush on Monday restated his position on the issue of Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program:
"I hope we can solve it diplomatically, but I will never take any option off the table."
Bush spoke a few hours after defence minister Ali Shamkhani said no country should dare to attack Iran, given its military strength and the lack of available information about its military capabilities.
Bush has long emphasized diplomacy as the best way to approach suspicions that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. Last month, he repeated that position:
(INSERT AUDIO -- Bush in English -- NC0122051)
"Diplomacy must be the first choice and always the first choice of an administration trying to solve an issue of, in this case, nuclear armament, and we'll continue to press on diplomacy."
But America's intentions toward Iran are back the headlines this week following the publication of a "New Yorker" magazine article by the prominent investigative journalist Seymour Hersh.
Hersh, who played a key role in breaking the Abu Ghraib torture story earlier this year, now says the United States is getting ready to attack military sites in Iran.
According to his article, U.S. Special Forces have been conducting covert operations in Iran to identify nuclear, chemical and missile sites for possible targeting. The operations have been reportedly going on since last summer.
In the article, Hersh, in his typical fashion, quotes unidentified sources, including a former high-level intelligence official and a government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon. Hersh says his sources are serious and accurate -- qualities often associated with the editorial standards of "The New Yorker."
But both the White House and the Pentagon have dismissed Hersh's report as inaccurate.
Lawrence DiRita, a Pentagon spokesman, said Hersh's article is "so riddled with errors of fundamental facts that the credibility of his entire piece is destroyed."
Iran's Supreme National Security Council also dismissed the "New Yorker "report.
State radio quoted Ali Aghamohammadi, head of the council's Propaganda Office, as saying it would not be easy to get U.S. forces into Iran and that it would be "naïve" to believe Hersh's report.
Shahram Chubin is the director of research at Geneva Center for Security Policy (GCSP).
He believes it is possible that U.S. forces have been conducting reconnaissance operations inside Iran but that it is a very high risks strategy:
"The Americans are both located in Iraq and Afghanistan and presumably all the borders cannot be sealed one hundred percent, so infiltrating people into Iran isn't going to be difficult. But I would have thought it'd be very high risk to put in any groups of people for any sustained period of time in case they're discovered and the political repercussions will be quite severe."