Sunday, August 08, 2004

Here it comes (?)

Is the Bush administration being sensible about an existing danger, or is it making the first steps toward an attack on Iran? Condi Rice's statements on Meet The Press cannot be taken lightly:

With Iran stepping up its nuclear program, a top White House aide said Sunday the world finally is "worried and suspicious'' over the Iranians' intentions and is determined not to let Tehran produce a nuclear weapon.

National security adviser Condoleezza Rice also said the Bush administration sees a new international willingness to act against Iran's nuclear program. She credited the changed attitude to the Americans' insistence that Iran's effort put the world in peril.
She would not say whether the United States would act alone to end the program if the administration could not win international support.

A few points I would make:

1. Forced to answer my own question, I would guess that Rice is beginning to lay the ground for some kind of attack on Iran. Yes, it's possible that Bush is coming to the sober realization that Iran's existing nuclear program is a far larger threat to Middle East security than was Iraq's fictitious WMDs. However, if this were a genuine epiphany, it wouldn't be publicized like this. Sending the NSA out on Meet The Press to start rattling the saber about Iran is NOT the prelude to a reasoned and rational response.

2. It will be an attack on Iran rather than an invasion. One year ago, I might have been predicting invasion, but with the occupation of Iraq going so badly I can't imagine Bush's advisors ever recommending what would end up as "Iraq: The Sequel." The attack might be big, extended, and splashy (and it certainly WILL be), but there will be no American troops on the ground. (With the possible exception of surgical special forces strikes on sensitive targets.)

3. However this ends up, the administration will try to engender as much debate as possible. Everytime John Kerry makes a major policy speech, some "unnamed administration official" will leak a juicy tidbit about how the president is considering using ground troops, or nukes, or whatever. They will draw this out, taking baby steps, escalating the rhetoric bit by bit. Why? This is all about distraction. As long as the headlines are about a possible attack on Iran, they won't be about the terrible American economy. They won't be about poor unemployment figures, American deaths in Iran, Bush's year AWOL from the National Guard, and -- especially -- John Kerry.

4. This should come as no suprise.

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