Is Iran Protecting bin Laden?

The captured chef of Osama bin Laden has told the Monitor that the Al Qaeda leader has slipped into Iran. (See story, page 1.)

If true, the possibility that Iran is sheltering the world's most wanted man - or at least not actively trying to arrest him - could force the Bush administration to take action against a state it already has tagged as "evil."

Iran's most conservative Islamic leaders have had many reasons to oppose Mr. bin Laden in the past, mainly on religious grounds. But there's a chance they could now find common ground in plotting against the US.

President Bush must avoid overreacting and threatening Iran with military action, if bin Laden is there. While Iran appears to be developing weapons of mass destruction and supporting terrorists hitting Israel, it's a society in political ferment. Its people favor a full democracy, one that can be true to Iran's post-1979 Constitution rather than the dictates of unelected clerics.

To cope with its exploding population of young people, Iran needs the US for economic reasons, such as entry into the World Trade Organization. Luring rather than lashing Iran into changing its ways would for now be a wiser course.

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