To those who say the Bush administration is too weakened to strike Iran, think again:
The balance in the internal White House debate over Iran has shifted back in favour 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 favoured 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 favour 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.
It is, of course, impossible to determine the accuracy of such stories. Black propaganda? Deliberately placed to scare Iran into complying with US demands? Deadly accurate information?
Whatever the reality, many mullahs in Tehran would love the US to strike their country. They’ve been planning for such an eventuality for years. Moreover, they realise that support for their fundamentalist outlook would only be strengthened by such a move. The US doesn’t care about the Iranian people in all this. Their only desire is to challenge a regional power that doesn’t bend to Washington’s will. If Iraq wasn’t enough of a failure, any attack on Iran would inevitably fail in even more profound ways.