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A Raid on Iran Faces Many Obstacles

LIANE HANSEN, Host:

Seymour Hersh joins us in the studio. It's good to have you back. Your latest story indicates that, you know, there are some conflicts and tensions between top military officers and the Bush Administration. And we're talking high level. We're talking Secretary of Defense and the Vice President. What's the crux of their most recent differences?

SEYMOUR HERSH: The assumption is that they have every intention to build a weapons program and learn how to create the nuclear fuel cycle, et cetera, et cetera. But the fact is, if you want to target them, you need targets. And the only targets we have are things - are places inside Iran that have already been disclosed through the International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitors all of the nuclear development inside Iran, and has and still does. So what's to bomb?

HANSEN: And they're talking about bombing? What's the nature of the discussion in terms of, you know, that option?

HERSH: Well, by the way, it's normal to have this option. The strategic command in Nebraska, working with the Air Force, has been developing a series of very large-scale - I've heard numbers as many as, you know, a thousand aim points, not only targets but aiming points - and there's a huge bombing package being prepared. And the Joint Chiefs have been saying to the White House, Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, we are military advisors, but we have to tell you, if we do this, there's going to be political and economic consequences.

HANSEN: Is nuclear, or the use of nuclear weapons, still being considered as an option against Iran, or in the - as a planning option?

HERSH: I was told, and this is something I know I talked about publicly in April, when I did the earlier story, the White House said, no, keep it in. Now the White House has since, in the last two months, given the JCS the authority to remove nuclear planning.

HANSEN: So there are differences within, you know, between the different branches of the military, as well as some tension between, you know, the civilian and the military.

HERSH: One option would be to find a facility where we think there's enriched uranium, more than they're claiming they make, let's go in and let's get it. Getting it to the place, coming up with, let's say, enriched uranium. Showing the world, look, these guys are cheating. That would be a very good, they call it the middle way. That would be a very good option, short of bombing.

HANSEN: Any action is bound to get a reaction from Iran. What are prominent worries about that reaction?

HERSH: Iran is doing a lot. Iran is certainly sending money, advice and arms and intelligence, guidance, but they're not - they're not doing any shoot-em-ups in the south. They stay out of the south in terms of shooting. We could change that, if we hit Iran.

HANSEN: Reporter Seymour Hersh's most recent story about military planning related to Iran appears in the forthcoming issue of The New Yorker Magazine. Sy, thanks for coming in.

HERSH: Glad to be here. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.