continues to receive the overwhelming bulk of attention in the media
and among political analysts. But the fate of Iraq, tragically,
is all but sealed – the President will send more troops and
order them to be increasingly brutal and indiscriminate, and they
will stay through at least the end of his presidency. That is just
a fact. The far more attention-demanding issue now is what the President’s
intentions are with regard to Iran.
the White House took multiple steps yesterday to elevate dramatically
the threat rhetoric against Iran. Bush included what The
New York Times described
as u201Csome of his sharpest words of warning to Iranu201D yet. But those
words could really be described more accurately not as u201Cthreatsu201D
but as a declaration of war.
the Iranian government of u201Cproviding material support for attacks
on American troopsu201D and vowed to u201Cseek out and destroy the networks
providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies.u201D But
those networks are located in Iran, which means
that search and destroy missions on such networks would necessarily
include some incursion into Iranian territory, whether by air
the speech, the White House released a Powerpoint
presentation with details about the president's new policy.
u201CIncrease operations against Iranian actorsu201D was listed in the
u201CKey Tactical Shiftsu201D section. As The New York Times
reported: u201COne senior administration official said this evening
that the omission of the usual wording about seeking a diplomatic
solution [to the Iranian nuclear stand-off] u2018was not accidental.'u201D
were merely the latest in a series of plainly significant events
over the last several weeks that, taken alone, are each noteworthy
themselves, but when viewed as a whole unmistakably signal a deliberate
escalation of tensions with Iran by both the U.S. and Israel:
Prime Minister “accidentally”
ending decades of nuclear ambiguity by unambiguously acknowledging
Israel’s nuclear arsenal;
- New Defense
Secretary Robert Gates’s extraordinary
departure – the very same week – from long-standing
protocol by explicitly describing Israel as a nuclear power;
- The arrest
by the U.S. military of senior Iranian military officials
- The announced
build-up of forces in the Persian Gulf back in December,
the purpose of which – according to Bush officials –
“is to make clear that the focus on ground troops in Iraq has
not made it impossible for the United States and its allies
to maintain a military watch on Iran” (UPDATE: As well as this
incident revealing the placement of a nuclear-powered submarine
in the Straits of Hormuz);
- The leaking
by the Israeli military that Israel was developing plans for
an attack on Iran using small-grade, limited tactical nuclear
weapons. Though the leak was done in such a way as to create
plausible deniability as to its significance – the leak
was to a discredited newspaper and leaks that a country has
“planned” for a certain type of attack are commonplace and do
not mean they are actually going to attack – the leak was
nonetheless deliberate and caused the phrases “Israeli nuclear
attack” and “Iran” to be placed into the public dialogue, at
exactly the time that tensions have been deliberately heightened
between the U.S./Israel and Iran – the purpose of which
is almost certainly not a planned nuclear attack by Israel on
Iran, but a ratcheting up of the war rhetoric;
advocacy by neoconservatives in the U.S. for a war with
Iran, as reflected by the recent Washington Post Op-Ed
by Joe Lieberman in which he really did declare that the U.S.
is already at war with Iran (“While we are naturally focused
on Iraq, a larger war is emerging. On one side are extremists
and terrorists led and sponsored by Iran”);
- In the
later stages of 2006, the President’s most prominent neoconservative
supporters becoming increasingly
explicit about their advocacy
of war with Iran;
- The transparent
and deliberate use by the President throughout the last
several months of 2006 of highly threatening and accusatory
language towards Iran that is identical in content and tone
to the language he used towards Iraq in the months immediately
preceding the U.S. invasion – often verbatim identical.
there is a tendency to dismiss the possibility of some type of
war with Iran because it is so transparently destructive and detached
from reality that it seems unfathomable. But if there is one lesson
that everyone should have learned over the last six years, it
is that there is no action too extreme or detached from reality
to be placed off limits to this administration. The President
is a True Believer and the moral imperative of his crusade trumps
the constraints of reality.
Standard/National Review/Fox News neoconservative warmongers
are mocked because of how extremist and deranged their endless
war desires are, but the President is, more or less, one of them.
He thinks the way they think. The war in Iraq has collapsed and
the last election made unmistakably clear that Americans have
turned against the war, and the President’s response, like their
response, was to escalate. How much more proof do we need of how
extremist and unconstrained by public opinion and basic reality
with ongoing doubts, here is how the President thinks, as expressed
in an October, 2006 interview
with his ideological soulmate, Fox’s Sean Hannity:
Hannity: Is this a struggle literally between good and evil?
I think it is.
This is what it is? Do you think most people understand that?
I mean, when you see the vacillating poll numbers, does it discourage
you in that sense?
Well, first of all, you can’t make decisions on polls, Sean.
You’ve got to do what you think is right. The reason I say it’s
good versus evil is that evil people kill innocent life to achieve
political objectives. And that’s what Al Qaeda and people like
Al Qaeda do.
Bush means all of that. That’s really what he believes. And he isn’t
constrained by the things that constrain rational people because
his mission, in his mind, transcends all of those mundane limitations.
Is there anyone who still doubts that?
a war with Iran can happen in many ways other than by some grand
announcement by the President that he wants to start a war, followed
by a debate in Congress as to whether such a war should be authorized.
That is the least likely way for such a confrontation to occur.
140,000 troops (soon to be 20,000 more) sitting in a country that
borders Iran and where Iran is operating, with an announced military
build-up in the Persian Gulf imminent, increased war rhetoric
from all sides, the beginning of actual skirmishes already, a
reduction (if not elimination) on the existing constraints with
which our military operates in Iraq, and a declaration by the
President that Iran is our enemy in the current war.
unplanned – or seemingly unplanned – confrontations
highly likely, whether through miscalculation, miscommunication,
misperception, or affirmative deceit. Whatever else is true, given
the stakes involved – the unimaginable, impossible-to-overstate
stakes – and the fact that we are unquestionably moving forward
on this confrontational path quite deliberately, this issue is
receiving nowhere near the attention in our political discussions
and media reports that it so urgently demands.
the pious talk about the need to be “seriously concerned” and
give “thoughtful consideration” to what will happen if we leave
Iraq, there is a very compelling – and neglected – need
to ponder what will happen if we stay and if we escalate. And
the need for “serious concern” and “thoughtful consideration”
extends to consequences not just in Iraq but beyond.
who think that the threat of military confrontation with Iran
isn’t a serious one, here is a BBC
report from this morning:
forces have stormed an Iranian consulate in the northern Iraqi
town of Irbil and seized six members of staff.
raided the building at about 0300 (0001GMT), taking away computers
and papers, according to Kurdish media and senior local officials.
military would only confirm the detention of six people around
comes amid high Iran-US tension. The US accuses Iran of helping
to fuel violence in Iraq and seeking nuclear arms. Iran denies
counters that US military involvement in the Middle East endangers
the whole region. . . .
news agency with a correspondent in Irbil says five US helicopters
were used to land troops on the roof of the Iranian consulate.
This is the
most serious action yet. Isn’t it a definitive act of war for
one country to storm the consulate of another, threaten to kill
them if they do not surrender, and then detain six consulate officers?