Thursday, July 27, 2006

Iraq . . . Oh, We Mean Iran

How is it that the Bush administration has yammered for years that Iran is part of the "axis of evil," but at the same time stood by helplessly as it has grown more powerful? And what does this have to do with the war in Lebanon?

The answer is that:
There has been no U.S. Iran policy, only screaming at the ayotollahs and more recently President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who have been embolded thanks in large part to the U.S.'s removal of their chief antagonist, Saddam Hussein, and subsequent failure to secure Iraq against insurgents, some backed by Iran.

Meanwhile, the inability or unwillingness -- or both -- of the White House to think regionally and engage in a dialogue with Teheran, let alone Syria, who are Hezbollah's main sponsors, has contributed significantly to the Lebanon debacle and failure to broker a cease-fire.
Let me quickly add that Ahmadinejad and his ilk are wackos, albeit clever wackos, so it's not like Condi Rice could ring them up and suggest that she stop by for a spot of tea. But taking the long view -- as in the four-plus years since Bush first used the "axis of evil" line in a State of the Union speech -- the efforts to engage Iran have been half hearted, at best.

Daniel Benjamin, who served on the National Security Council staff under President Clinton, has a go at this argument in a Slate analysis.

While the U.S. has dropped the ball diplomatically, Rolling Stone magazine writer James Bamford asserts that the White House has long had a plan to invade Iraq.

Money graph:
But the Bush administration's hostility toward Iran is not simply an outgrowth of the current crisis. War with Iran has been in the works for the past five years, shaped in almost complete secrecy by a small group of senior Pentagon officials attached to the Office of Special Plans. The man who created the OSP was Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense for policy. A former Middle East specialist on the National Security Council in the Reagan administration, Feith had long urged Israel to secure its borders in the Middle East by attacking Iraq and Iran. After Bush's election, Feith went to work to make that vision a reality, putting together a team of neoconservative hawks determined to drive the U.S. to attack Tehran. Before Bush had been in office a year, Feith's team had arranged a covert meeting in Rome with a group of Iranians to discuss their clandestine help.
You can read the whole bloody thing here.

(Illustration for Rolling Stone by Pat Mahurin)

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