White House dismisses Hersh article

Date: 11-19-06

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The White House dismissed an article about Washington's intentions toward Iran by US journalist Seymour Hersh.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino derided Hersh's article in the upcoming issue of The New Yorker as "riddled with inaccuracies" and charged that "once again he is creating a story to satisfy his own radical views."

In the article, Hersh reported that Vice President Dick Cheney attended a national-security discussion a month before November 7 congressional elections that touched on the impact of a possible Democratic victory on Iran policy.

"If the Democrats won on November 7th, the vice president said, that victory would not stop the administration from pursuing a military option with Iran," Hersh wrote, citing a source familiar with the discussion.

The Democrats wrested control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate from President George W. Bush's Republican Party in the November 7 vote.

Cheney said the White House would circumvent any restrictions imposed by a Democratic legislature "and thus stop Congress from getting in its way" on Iran, which denies accusations it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

In an interview Sunday with CNN, Hersh said the White House had been critical of his reporting for years, adding that the latest spat was "just part of the game."

Hersh defended his portrayal of US Iran policy, saying that "led by Mr. Cheney" the hardliners "are still going be very tough" on Iran.

"Being tough and taking a military step is still very much on the table in this government," he added.

Asked if he thought Cheney had lost some of his power now the Democrats were in control of Congress, Hersh said: "I would never underestimate Mr. Cheney."

In his New Yorker article, Hersh also reported that a classifed draft CIA assessment had found no firm evidence of a secret drive by Iran to develop nuclear weapons, as alleged by the White House.

In his interview, Hersh alluded to a spat between the White House and the Central Intelligence Agency over an alleged Israeli intelligence assessment that puts Iran close to developing a trigger for a nuclear bomb.

"The CIA isn't getting a good look at the Israeli intelligence," Hersh said.

The "internecine" struggle, he added, was "the same fight we had before Iraq," referring to CIA reports on Iraq's lack of weapons of mass destruction that were apparently dismissed by the White House before it launched the Iraq War in 2003.


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