Last September, I wrote a Salon.com article explaining the many reasons why despite neoconservative obsession with bombing Iran, President Bush would not do so. He had tacked a different direction.
Part of my case, though not all of it, rested on the fact that one of Vice President Cheney’s staff members had allegedly told a private group in Washington that the VP himself was frustrated with the President’s tilt towards Condi Rice, Bob Gates and others who emphasized a mix of diplomatic options over hard power gestures.
More recently, however, in the last six to eight weeks, many of my sources in the State Department, the White House, and the intelligence community tell me that the losers last summer and fall are winning again.
David Addington, Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff, is winning on virtually every battle he is fighting — from not moving forward on new legal protocols that would be more internationally palatable on combat detainee rights to shelving the Law of the Seas Treaty ratification. But they say that the level of tension in the White House over Iran is also growing — and the diplomatic game plan that before was dominant seems to have deteriorated significantly — particularly since the departure of former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns and the firing of Admiral William Fallon.
I’m not saying that war or conflict with Iran is imminent. In fact, I don’t think America, even under Bush, will strike Iran first — but I do think that there is an increasing chance of a trigger event driving a fast escalation of higher and higher consequence military options. This trigger could be a mistaken signal, a ship collision, an event engineered by the Israelis, or by the IRGC Al Quds force, or by some other splinter terrorist operation wanting to exploit regional tensions and the current fragility of affairs.
We need to talk more about this. While I was not a great fan of Barack Obama’s AIPAC speech last week with regard to Israel/Palestine, I did think that he focused in a constructive and important way on getting Iran policy right. He pinned the blame for lack of progress on Iran clearly on the inattention and wrong-headed strategy of the Bush administration — and this kind of sensible analysis and willingness to make a strategic jump in a new direction is what we need now. We need to demystify this challenge and derail the intentions of some who they will try to force the next President of the United States into a no choice situation.
Whereas David Wurmser allegedly (though he does deny it) said that Vice President Cheney felt it important to “tie the President’s hands” when it came to Iran and to generate an event that would undermine the diplomatic track — the worry now is that the crowd in power is really talking about tying the next President’s hands. . .tying perhaps Barack Obama’s hands.
This really could be cooking — and I think it’s important for White House watchers to realize that the folks we thought had knocked back the neocons are themselves losing leverage again.
Obama and his team need to speak to this, to demystify it, and to make sure that America does not find itself tripping into an accidental war that really was no accident.
– Steve Clemons