US officials are mulling a military assault on Iran's Islamic regime after a recent decision by Germany to withhold support for new sanctions against Tehran over its refusal to heed international calls to halt nuclear work, Fox News reported Tuesday.
Germany is one of three EU nations, along with Britain and France, that are leading efforts to halt Iran's nuclear program through diplomacy and sanctions.
Fox News reported on its Web site that German officials said during a meeting with Iranian delegates in Berlin that Chancellor Angela Merkel will no longer support further sanctions against Iran by the United Nations Security Council, leading Bush administration officials to believe that sanctions are dead.
Germany would however would "privately welcome, while publicly protesting," a US bombing campaign against Iran's nuclear facilities.
The news channel also said that there was broad consensus across the relevant US agencies that Germany would withdraw from the diplomatic efforts led by the United States.
It was also reported that US officials believe that Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns has failed in finding a diplomatic solution to Iran's nuclear ambitions and have advised Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that a military intervention of some sorts was necessary.
A senior Bush administration official told Fox that "everyone in town" was discussing the costs and benefits of a military assault on Iran that was likely to unfold within the next eight to ten months, well before the November 2008 presidential elections.
US officials believe that an attack plan against Iran would last at least two weeks of sustained bombing and would at best set Iran's nuclear program a number of years, Fox reported.
The Bush administration "has just about had it with Iran," said one foreign diplomat. "They tried the diplomatic process. China is now obstructing them at the UN Security Council and the Russians are tucking themselves behind them.
"The Germans are wobbling …There are a number of people in the administration who do not want their legacy to be leaving behind an Iran that is nuclear armed, so they are looking at what are the alternatives? They are looking at other options," the diplomat told Fox.