Sunday, January 28, 2007

Where is the Bush administration headed on Iran?

  • Financial Times-Last week, Mr Bush ordered a second US aircraft carrier to the Gulf and the deployment of more Patriot missiles in US military bases there. Richard Haass, former head of policy planning at the State Department in the first Bush administration, said the US president was leaving both the diplomatic and military option open. “You could interpret Bush’s recent actions towards Iran in two ways – either he is increasing pressure on the regime in order to soften it up for talks over its uranium enrichment plans, or this is classic gunboat diplomacy in which the US is preparing for some kind of punitive action,” said Mr Haass. “My guess is that Mr Bush’s actions leave room for either scenario and the Bush administration remains divided over which to pursue.”

  • The Swoop-Hostility against Iran continues to build in Washington. The deliberately public build-up of naval assets in the region is gathering pace. More quietly, several General-rank Air Force officers with specific experience in planning strategic bombing campaigns have arrived at the Al Udeid air combat command in Qatar...Treasury officials report that US financial sanctions on Iran – with new restrictions expected against government-connected banks – are imposing real costs on Iran’s economy. In addition, recent behind-the-scenes Saudi and CIA backing for Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Sinoira together with the Saudi refusal to restrict its oil production has, in the US view, “raised the cost of doing business” to Iran.

  • NY Times-On Iran, Bush Faces Haunting Echoes of Iraq: The administration does not have definitive evidence that Iran is moving toward producing a nuclear bomb, but next week it will unveil what officials say is evidence of Iran’s meddling in Iraq.
    In interviews over the past several weeks, officials from the Pentagon to the State Department to the White House insist that Mr. Bush’s goal in Iran is not to depose a government, Iraq-style, but rather to throw a series of brushback pitches...For Mr. Bush, this is not only about options but about legacy. Already bloodied in Iraq, he will come under increasing pressure to show that he has not left the United States weakened in the Middle East. He does not want to be remembered for leaving Iran more powerful than he found it when he came to office.

  • Robert Kaplan, The Atlantic-what about the report's advice to open a dialogue with Iran and Syria? Hasn't the President repudiated that fundamental principle, and, therefore, the thrust of the report? No. Keep in mind that neoconservatives themselves have not repudiated such talks in the abstract: rather, they have stated that if the United States were to markedly improve its strategic position in the Middle East, and thus be able to talk to Syria and Iran from a position of strength, dialogue with Iraq's neighbors might at some juncture be justified. That is exactly what the Administration seems to be doing: the troop plus-up in Greater Baghdad, coupled with a more powerful naval and air presence in the Persian Gulf, is designed to prepare a more favorable context for eventual negotiations. Secretary of Defense Gates has indicated as much.