By Scott Horton
No Comment (Harper's web site)
July 16, 2007
Following on No Comment’s “Setting the Stage for the Next War” (June 21, 2007), we hear further murmurings about possible conflict with Iran from across the Atlantic. The international community remains without meaningful progress on the Iranian nuclear issue, and accusations of Iranian interference in Iraq mount with the increasing urgency of the U.S. mission there. Now, the *Guardian* reports that it has learned from anonymous U.S. sources of an increasing tilt within the Bush Administration towards military action against Iran: "The balance in the internal White House debate over Iran has shifted back in favor of military action before President George Bush leaves office in 18 months, the Guardian has learned. -- The shift follows an internal review involving the White House, the Pentagon, and the State Department over the last month. Although the Bush Administration is in deep trouble over Iraq, it remains focused on Iran. A well-placed source in Washington said: “Bush is not going to leave office with Iran still in limbo.”
The article suggests that once again Vice President Cheney has prevailed over Condoleeza Rice and Robert Gates. Cheney wants war at all costs, before Bush leaves office. The two senior cabinet officers consider this foolish and self-destructive.
In the meantime, a heavy U.S. Navy presence in the Persian Gulf, which the Pentagon insists is solely the result of routine rotations of carrier groups in and out of the region in support of operations in Iraq, leaves doubt as to peaceable intentions on the part of the United States. Add on top of this news from back in late May that the Bush Administration has authorized non-lethal covert CIA action within Iran, and it seems clear that the Pentagon has been instructed to prepare for a dramatic and sustained aerial strike against Iran -- if Bush gives the go ahead.
How exactly does Cheney keep the president in his thrall? Supposedly fueling Cheney’s justification for encouraging war is the belief that Bush’s successor, Democrat or Republican, won’t have the appetite to deal with Iran. The White House remains in a Neocon-induced trance, the *Guardian* reports with some convincing detail. And in the Neocon Neverneverland, a wide consensus against a given policy provides precisely the justification for pursuing that policy. There are seventeen more months to wait until adults arrive in the White House, and until that time, anything could happen.
CHENEY PUSHES BUSH TO ACT ON IRAN
By Ewen MacAskill (Washington) and Julian Borger
** Military solution back in favour as Rice loses out -- President 'not prepared to leave conflict unresolved' **
July 16, 2007
The balance in the internal White House debate over Iran has shifted back in favor of military action before President George Bush leaves office in 18 months, the *Guardian* has learned.
The shift follows an internal review involving the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department over the last month. Although the Bush administration is in deep trouble over Iraq, it remains focused on Iran. A well-placed source in Washington said: "Bush is not going to leave office with Iran still in limbo."
The White House claims that Iran, whose influence in the Middle East has increased significantly over the last six years, is intent on building a nuclear weapon and is arming insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The vice-president, Dick Cheney, has long favored upping the threat of military action against Iran. He is being resisted by the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, and the defence secretary, Robert Gates.
Last year Mr. Bush came down in favor of Ms. Rice, who along with Britain, France, and Germany has been putting a diplomatic squeeze on Iran. But at a meeting of the White House, Pentagon, and State Department last month, Mr. Cheney expressed frustration at the lack of progress and Mr. Bush sided with him. "The balance has tilted. There is cause for concern," the source said this week.
Nick Burns, the undersecretary of state responsible for Iran and a career diplomat who is one of the main advocates of negotiation, told the meeting it was likely that diplomatic manoeuvring would still be continuing in January 2009. That assessment went down badly with Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush.
"Cheney has limited capital left, but if he wanted to use all his capital on this one issue, he could still have an impact," said Patrick Cronin, the director of studies at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
The Washington source said Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney did not trust any potential successors in the White House, Republican or Democratic, to deal with Iran decisively. They are also reluctant for Israel to carry out any strikes because the U.S. would get the blame in the region anyway.
"The red line is not in Iran. The red line is in Israel. If Israel is adamant it will attack, the U.S. will have to take decisive action," Mr. Cronin said. "The choices are: tell Israel no, let Israel do the job, or do the job yourself."
Almost half of the U.S.'s 277 warships are stationed close to Iran, including two aircraft carrier groups. The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise left Virginia last week for the Gulf. A Pentagon spokesman said it was to replace the USS Nimitz and there would be no overlap that would mean three carriers in Gulf at the same time.
No decision on military action is expected until next year. In the meantime, the state department will continue to pursue the diplomatic route.
Sporadic talks are under way between the EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, and Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, on the possibility of a freeze in Iran's uranium enrichment program. Tehran has so far refused to contemplate a freeze, but has provisionally agreed to another round of talks at the end of the month.
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, has said that there are signs of Iran slowing down work on the enrichment plant it is building in Natanz. Negotiations took place in Tehran last week between Iranian officials and the IAEA, which is seeking a full accounting of Iran's nuclear activities before Tehran disclosed its enrichment programme in 2003. The agency's deputy director general, Olli Heinonen, said two days of talks had produced "good results" and would continue.
At the U.N., the U.S., Britain, and France are trying to secure agreement from other Security Council members for a new round of sanctions against Iran. The U.S. is pushing for economic sanctions that would include a freeze on the international dealings of another Iranian bank and a mega-engineering firm owned by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Russia and China are resisting tougher measures.