It’s hard to know who’s in charge at the White House and whether that person has a responsible thought in his head. But we have clearly gotten back to the daily anti-Iran charges, rants and tirades. Yesterday Bush was at it again, though he had to answer some embarrassing questions about the embraces extended to Iran by the elected leaders of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Today we have McClatchy reporting a planted story from the Bush/Cheney administration, stating that the designated attack dog/crazy man Dick Cheney is again chomping at the bit to attack Iran, using air attacks on supposed insurgent training bases.
It isn’t clear whether the media campaign is intended to build support for limited military action against Iran, to pressure the Iranians to curb their support for Shiite groups in Iraq or both.
Nor is it clear from the evidence the administration has presented whether Iran, which has long-standing ties to several Iraqi Shiite groups, including the Mahdi Army of radical cleric Muqtada al Sadr and the Badr Organization, which is allied with the U.S.-backed government of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, is a major cause of the anti-American and sectarian violence in Iraq or merely one of many. At other times, administration officials have blamed the Sunni Muslim group al Qaida in Iraq for much of the violence.
For now, however, the president appears to have settled on a policy of stepped-up military operations in Iraq aimed at the suspected Iranian networks there, combined with direct American-Iranian talks in Baghdad to try to persuade Tehran to halt its alleged meddling.
I suspect that Cheney has been enervated and emboldened by Joe Lieberman/Carl Levin’s amendment passed a couple weeks back. Bush’s decision on this question will undoubtedly rest on
a) what Karl Rove tells him about its political impact, and
b) whether it will help him deter the Congress from cutting off funds for the Iraq war.
Here is my nightmare. The Cheneyites succeed in creating a situation in which Bush does decide to bomb Iran. Iran retaliates, as they openly threaten to do, with terrorist attacks against us on U.S. soil. That tilts the election. I can imagine a Karl Rove political calculation that would buttress a Cheney-Addington national security calculation, probably with Eliot Abrams’ support.
The Washington Post’s Robin Wright takes it all pretty seriously.
A possible timetable has emerged as well. “The consensus I’m hearing is to give the [U.N.] Security Council process more time but not unlimited time, and, at some point in the spring of 2008, there has to be a good hard look at whether that process should continue and whether other options should then be considered,” said Kenneth Katzman, a Middle East expert for the Congressional Research Service.
Yes, people, that is how the President of the United States will decide whether to light the fuse on a whole new conflict, the price of which will be paid by you and my and our kids.
I don’t see much other indication that Bush is ready to pull the trigger. The American Enterprise Institute isn’t saying a lot, other than a scolding piece by Michael Rubin, who accuses Bush of breaking his promises. Iran rated only two mentions, and neither was very bellicose. Bill Kristol, of course, never met a war he didn’t like (and of course has never once been right).
“It’s been a year since Rice agreed to talk to the Iranians if they accepted U.N. terms, and it’s only bought them more time for their nuclear program.”