WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid rejected on Monday another prominent senator’s call for a military strike against Iran, saying a U.S. attack would destabilize the Middle East.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut and chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said over the weekend the United States should be prepared to use military force to stop Iran from training and equipping Iraqi militants blamed for the deaths of U.S. troops in Iraq.
Iran has denied supplying Iraqis with armor-piercing munitions and U.S. officials say they cannot prove complicity on the part of the Tehran government.
But Lieberman, appearing on CBS’ Sunday program “Face the Nation,” said the United States had “good evidence” that Iraqis were being trained to use the weapons at a camp inside Iran. He advocated a military strike in retaliation, saying much of the job could be done with air strikes.
“The invasion of (Iran) is only going to destabilize that part of the world more,” Reid said on Monday after speaking at a forum hosted by the Center for American Progress think tank.
“I know Joe means well, but I don’t agree with him,” the Nevada Democrat added. He advocated continued diplomatic efforts with Iran instead.
Reid’s comments appeared on thinkprogress.org, a Center for American Progress blog, and were confirmed by his Senate staff.
Analysts described Lieberman’s comments as an escalation of official U.S. rhetoric. Up to now, officials including President George W. Bush have vowed to confront any Iranian networks found inside Iraq.
“This takes it across the border,” said Ray Takeyh, an Iran expert at the Council on Foreign Relations.
“But it would not be a surgical limited strike. It could potentially escalate into a much more serious confrontation between the two countries, and if that’s the direction Lieberman wants to go, he has to be very honest about the potential pitfalls.”
The White House said the Bush administration delivered a strong message to Iran during meetings last month in Iraq.
“We urge the Iranians to live up to their commitment to play a positive role inside Iraq,” said White House National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe, who was traveling with Bush in Bulgaria.
State Department spokesman Tom Casey responded to Lieberman’s comments by saying the United States is pursuing “a diplomatic policy with respect to Iran.”