Friday, December 29, 2006

Bush's Obscure Iran Policy

It's bad enough that Bush's foreign policy as far as Iraq is concerned is in tatters. We should not forget that Bush's Iran policy is largely a muddled mess though there's the usual pretense coming from the White House that they know what they're doing. Here's a story from a week ago that I missed by Laura Rozen in American Prospect:
News reports based on military sources indicating that the United States plans to move a second aircraft carrier and its supporting ships to the Persian Gulf next month, where it will overlap for several months with the USS Eisenhower, have piqued attention (and anxiety) on the Potomac this week: is the Bush administration laying the groundwork for a spring air war against Tehran, even as it comes under growing domestic pressures to consider talking with Iran and Syria?


Are the amassing air power in the region and sanctions signs of looming war? Not yet.

Interviews with U.S. officials and knowledgeable Iran watchers indicate the stepped up measures are meant for now as a message to Iran to step back from an alleged up-tick in its recent efforts to destabilize Iraq, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories, and to prevent Iran from taking retaliatory actions against the anticipated sanctions like, for instance, closing off the Straits of Hormuz.


While U.S. officials and Iran watchers interviewed suggested the recently announced U.S. actions are intended mainly as intimidation to forestall Iranian retaliation, many interviewed acknowledged that U.S.-Iranian tensions have significantly ratcheted up in recent weeks. Examples include the U.S. intelligence revealing an alleged Iranian role in Shiite terrorism against coalition forces in Iraq, recent efforts by Iranian backed Hezbollah to bring down the Siniora government in Lebanon, and alleged Iranian support to Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The New York Times reported last month that Iranian security forces and Iranian-backed Hezbollah have been training and supplying explosives and other sophisticated munitions to Iraqi Shiite militants directly involved in killing coalition forces in Iraq. ...


A U.S. official indicated that one reason for the perceived need to demonstrate a show of force towards Iran now is to counter the perception in the region, generated in part from coverage of the Iraq Study Group report, that the Bush administration was coming under increased domestic pressure to offer concessions to Iran and Syria. “People in the region read the ISG report and thought the Americans are surrendering,” this official said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Laura Rozen also has a blog, War and Piece, and is an excellent journalist.

One of the proofs that we have a broken foreign policy is that we have a White House that insists on a ideological view of the world that leads to garbage in and garbage out. The new interpretation that we have to 'get tough' with Iran because of the Iraq Study Group is a complete sham. Bush continues to pretend that he knows what he's doing though the chaos in Iraq and the domestic disaster after Hurricane Katrina paint a different story.

One of the more bizarre events of the last few weeks is that we have been increasingly turning against Sadr and his militia (one of many militias in Iraq I should add) who supports Maliki and opposes Iran; Sadr is a difficult person and deeply involved in the sectarian fighting (despite a brief one-time alliance with the Sunnis when our troops destroyed his newspaper) but he's also the proof that we had no idea of what our invasion would unleash. Meanwhile, we are in the strange position of increasingly turning towards Shiites who have close Iranian ties. One should remember that the Bush Administration came close early on to turning the Iraqi government over to neoconservative darling Ahmed Chalabi who also happened to have close ties with Iran. The situation in Iraq is so confused that Bush and his neoconservative friends can concoct whatever story they want out of the chaos. On the contrary, the growing chaos itself is the proof that we need to get out of there. Bush's simplistic black and white vision of the world and his tendency to rationalize his blunders have not been assets in a place like Iraq with its three-dimensional chessboard of ethnic groups, religious factions, local tribes and multiple alliances.

There is also the Bush Administration pretense that the only outside country interfering with Iraq is Iran (though sometimes Syria is included); most countries in the region, however, are involved in one way or another (and one shouldn't forget the hundreds of thousands of refugees crossing borders) and some are physically helping the Sunnis. Finally, there is the pretense that we have been negotiating with Iran since May; but those negotiations have been closer to a public relations sham similar to Bush's mindless photo ops. Of course, the Iranians have not handled themselves well during this period but the lack of real dialogue usually can only lead to more distrust; and it is Americans who have repeatedly turned down opportunities for dialogue.

As for Lebanon, the greatest threat to the Lebanese government was the nearly random bombing by Israel during the summer fighting that often targeted Lebanese not in any way involved with Hezbollah. Israel blew the opportunity to isolate Hezbollah and instead used a clumsy strategy that resembles the kind of thing our own neoconservatives manage to contrive.

There have been signs for a year that Bush is itching for a war with Iran despite the fiasco in Iraq. He may still get one if he can manuever his way into it despite the strategic blunder it would involve. Like the lead up to Bush's war in Iraq in 2002, there have been lies, damn lies and, in the right wing media, a third category of lies that I can't think of a word for other than outright warmongering (go to Google Blog Search and type in World War Three).

I have no doubt the Bush Administration is trying to keep its options open, including the option of a much broader war that it half wants and is half likely to stumble into. We are potentially getting very deep into impeachment territory because we cannot rule out that some of Bush's actions and even some of his interpretations of events in the last year can be considered deliberate provocations in an effort to start a war with Iran without Congressional approval. It is time for some cooler heads on all sides.

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