Tuesday, August 23, 2005


After Iraq, the next step must be Iran. A commenter (Aristides) at Belmont Club sums it up well; this is what I'm hoping is really going on behind the scenes:
Patterns are emerging in the statements and actions of the administration, and we may be close to predicting the next step in the GWOT.

Rumsfeld on August 11:
"It's a problem for the Iraqi government. It's a problem for the coalition forces. It's a problem for the international community. And ultimately, it's a problem for Iran," he said.

Asked if that amounted to an implied threat, Mr Rumsfeld said: "I don't imply threats. You know that."

Pressed on what he meant, Rumsfeld said, "Well, they live in the neighbourhood. The people in that region want this situation stabilised, with the exception of Iran and Syria."

Rumsfeld this week:
"They're making a mistake, in my view. I think they're going to have to live with their neighbors like any country does over time."

Bush on August 11:
U.S. President George W. Bush said yesterday he was "deeply suspicious" of Iran, but was not ready to seek United Nations sanctions against Tehran for its suspected nuclear weapons program.

Why is he not ready? There are many possible answers to this, and Wretchard hit on the most probable:

One possible reason for turning a public blind eye to Iranian belligerence is that any administration which very strongly emphasized it would logically be compelled to do something about it, a step which the Bush administration may be unprepared to take or believes cannot be sustained by domestic political consensus.

If Bush is waiting for something, the most obvious answer is that he is waiting for the true government of Iraq to stand up following the ratification of an Iraqi-created Constitution. If we are to assume that this is indeed what Bush is waiting for, then our inquiry moves forward into why.

The most obvious answer to "why" is that a stable Iraq will free US assets to better deal with Iran.

But look to Rumsfeld's statements. He consistently refers to Iran's problem as being regional, that Iran's "neighbors" will create an unattractive situation for her because of her intransigence.

I believe that Bush is waiting to gain a principal ally and a primary actor in this drama, which is what he will get when Iraq's government stands up on its own. With Iran's misbehavior in Afghanistan and Iraq added to the rap sheet of NPT violations, the case against Iran will certainly be improved from a media standpoint. Talk will shift from "Is Iran a danger?" to "What should we do about it."

From a purely political standpoint, Hawks (Republicans) will win the "What should we do about it" argument. Any Democrat that argues against punishing Iran will have to explain why a government can kill American troops with impunity. Dems will have to explain why they won't stand with our Iraqi friends when they plead for international help in dealing with Tehran. Perhaps most devastating for the doves, they will have to explain to the American people why they would allow the number one terrorist-supporting regime in the world to acquire nuclear weapons.

Michael Barone compared the Bush presidency to a pulsar: a star that goes dark for long periods and then bursts forth in a sudden spurt of activity. I think in the near future, say right before the 2006 elections, we will see another such burst.

Foreign policy is the weakness of the Democrats, and Iraq is the weakness of the Republicans. One of these weaknesses will eventually disappear, and one of them is terminal. I bet you can figure out which is terminal.

2006 will be all about foreign policy; Bush will make it so.
We should not underestimate the enormous coup it will be to suddenly have Iraq as a strong ally in the Middle East.

It would change everything.


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