Bush’s New Iraq Plan: Bomb Tehran

Critics are right to label President Bush’s new Iraq plan an “escalation,” but what was most clear from his speech announcing it is that the object of this escalation is not Iraq, but Iran.

For all the smarmy talk about the Iraq Study Group, Bush bluntly rejected its central premise that the only way the U.S. can salvage anything in Iraq is through a new political agreement both among Iraqis and their neighbors — a process that takes into account the reality that Iran has legitimate interests in Iraq (far more so, quite frankly, than the U.S. does), and envisages a process in which all stakeholders are accommodated. Instead, Bush offered familiar distortions in his description of the reason for failure thus far — al-Qaeda and Iran, were the culprits, the former stoking sectarian violence through terror attacks and the latter ostensibly supporting death squads. Anyone familiar with the current dynamics in the Middle East would have taken President Bush’s outline of the consequences of failure — “radical Islamic extremists would grow in strength and gain new recruits” and “would be in a better position to topple moderate governments,” Iran would be emboldened and al-Qaeda would have a new safe haven — as an admission of failure, since all of those consequences are already in play.

But it was the characterization of Iran’s role that was most disturbing. Bush suggested that the Iraqi people had voted for united country at the polls, and seen their dreams dashed by the maneuvering of Iran and Syria and others. That’s a crock. Iran enthusiastically supported those elections, and why wouldn’t they? The Shiite majority voted overwhelmingly in favor of parties far closer to Tehran than they are to Washington. Moreover, while Bush implies that sectarianism was somehow a deviation from what the electorate had chosen, in fact the electorate had voted almost entirely on sectarian and ethnic lines. The sectarian principle is at the heart of the democratically elected government; it’s not some imposition by al-Qaeda or Iran.

Iran and Syria must be addressed, Bush said, but only as a threat — he accused them of offering support to insurgent forces attacking U.S. troops, and vowed to stop them. Almost in the same breath, he added: “We are also taking other steps to bolster the security of Iraq and protect American interests in the Middle East. I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region. We will expand intelligence sharing ­ and deploy Patriot air defense systems to reassure our friends and allies. We will work with the governments of Turkey and Iraq to help them resolve problems along their border. And we will work with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating the region.”

Carrier strike groups and Patriot missile defenses are of no use in the counterinsurgency war in Iraq: They are an attempt to turn up the heat on Iran by preparing for an air strike, and putting in place the means to contain Iran’s response via its missile capability. Bush called for regional support, but only on the basis of his anti-Iran alliance — for the Sunni regimes, support for the U.S. in Iraq was cited as a duty in light of their common purpose in containing Iran.

So, essentially we’re now being asked to believe that the Iraqi government, dominated by Iran-friendly Shiite religious parties, is going to act in concert with Bush’s plan — and even Bush admitted that their support is the critical factor — giving U.S. forces the green light to take control of Sadr City from the Sadrists and so on, even as Washington moves its assets into position for a military strike on Iran. It may be, of course, that Washington is posturing in order to sweat Tehran into believing that a military strike is coming in order to intimidate the Islamic Republic into backing down, but frankly I wouldn’t bet on the collective strategic wisdom of Cheney-Rice and Khamenei-Larijani-Ahmedinajad combining to avoid a confrontation. And if the U.S. is raising the stakes, you can reliably expect Iran to do the same, probably starting in Iraq.

Even within the narrow Iraqi context, no matter what Maliki has told Bush, I wouldn’t bet on him coming through for the U.S. when the battle for Sadr City starts in earnest, and Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, appalled by the violence, begins demanding that the U.S. go home.

Equally important, though, the new Bush moves give Iran no incentive to cooperate, and plenty of incentive to tie the U.S. up in an increasingly messy situation in Iraq. And my suspicion is that Tehran has hardly begun to exercise its ability to cause chaos in Iraq.

Again, the Bush Administration has failed to grasp the most basic lesson of his failures in Iraq and elsewhere — that military force has its limits, and that power is a more complex thing. Instead of recognizing what the likes of Baker and Scowcroft have emphasized all along — that the basic crisis in the region is political — Bush is going the Cheney lock-and-load route. Perhaps that’s why Bush warned Americans to expect another year of bloodletting. And stupendously reckless adventurism though it may be, I wouldn’t bet against him launching air strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities. And then he’ll have to learn the same lesson all over again, because the region will be no safer or any more stable. On the contrary, I’d say it’s a safe bet that by the time he leaves the White House, the U.S. position everywhere from Lebanon, Egypt and the Palestinian territories to Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan, will be considerably worse than it is now.

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89 Responses to Bush’s New Iraq Plan: Bomb Tehran

  1. Pingback: More Shameless Theft–Bush Speech Edition « I’m Not Going to Do This Every Day

  2. Pat S. says:

    Gotta agree with you on the worsening deal by the time Bush leaves. I know it’s a big fear, but I still believe that an attack on Iran right now is out of bounds even for these guys in office. That doesn’t really matter, though, because he’s already been enough of a disaster.

    As a history nerd, I stand by the “Worst President in history” statement.

  3. Carol R. Campbell says:

    I don’t have any doubt that Bush will attack Iran at the earliest opportunity. I hate the trite comparisons with this Dictator and that one, but Bush’s foreign policy certainly mimics that of the 3rd Reich with it’s unending invasions of yet another ‘enemy’.

    They should have stopped Hitler in ’37 or ’38 – But it was politically unpopular with Big Money and the propagandized masses – Sound familiar?

    In the meantime, the deaths in Iraq continue daily.

    As a pedant, I cannot call this the Iraq War – a war requires an opponent, and supposedly, the Iraqi government is now our ally. Call it what it is: OCCUPATION. Baghdad increasingly resembles Warsaw in 1942.

    Vietnam may be the preferred reference, but in Vietnam we did have an easily defined enemy: North Vietnam was in no respect a puppet of the US Government, no matter how apt the comparisons with the South Vietnamese Government and al-Maliki’s regime.

    Carol R.

  4. Pingback: The war guarantee at Antony Loewenstein

  5. Jorge says:

    “… I wouldn’t bet on (Maliki) coming through for the U.S. when the battle for Sadr City starts in earnest, and Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, appalled by the violence, begins demanding that the U.S. go home.

    … Bush is going the Cheney lock-and-load route.”

    One of Charlie Rose’s guest told him on Wednesday night that Ali Sistani was calling for the militias to stop fighting.

    Condi Rice was asked during a Senate hearing on Thursday whether the president had the constitutional authority to attack Iran. She said she didn’t want to get into whether or not the president had the constitutional authority to attack Iran.

    I concluded earlier today that we are not in the middle of a civil war. We are in the middle of a continuation of the war between Iran and Iraq. Oddly enough, we’ve gotten ourselves on the side of the Iranians and in oppostion to Bush’s friends in Saudi Arabia.

    Now, I guess, Bush wants to attack Iran from within. But as Tony points out, Maliki is not likely to turn on his sponsors.

    So, I have decided that success or failure in Iraq hinges on the arrest, capture or execution of al Sadr – even if by a stray bullet from a CIA operative not named Wilson – and possibly Ali Sistani – unless he keeps up his impersonation of Khadafi.

    If we don’t hear that within the next 10 months, then no matter how well our forces hold down the insurgency, the moment we leave or back off, the violence will reach new heights.

  6. Peter Principle says:

    “Bush implies that sectarianism was somehow a deviation from what the electorate had chosen, in fact the electorate had voted almost entirely on sectarian and ethnic lines. ”

    Bush is lost in the fun house of his own ideological fantasies. He CAN’T accept that Iraqi voters, almost unanimously, have chosen sectarianism, because it would mean that “democracy” in the Iraq is simply a means for the majority to dominate the minority — and that majority is generally a.) fundamentalist, b.) friendly to Iran and c.) hostile to the United States.

    The logical conclusion is that the primary problem in Iraq (from a U.S imperial standpoint) isn’t the lack of democracy but the threat of it — and Bush absolutely refuses to accept that. It would destroy his deeply desired self-image as the Great Emancipator.

    I’m as cynical as they come, but I don’t know how else to explain why the United States is fighting so desperately to protect and empower a government that is fundamentally sympathetic to the country that Bush himself has identified as Enemy No. 1. From a realpolitik point of view (Israeli as well as American) it makes absolutely no sense. Even most of the neocons can see that now. Bush practically had to beat the bushes (no pun intended) to find the few remaining diehards who are willing to continue feeding his egomania.

    This war used to be about Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush. Then it was about Cheney and Bush. Now it’s all about Bush. It isn’t even remotely a question of policy any more — it’s pure psychodrama.

  7. Charlie says:

    Life is difficult enough, on a day to day basis for many of us.
    I personally am sick and tired of these idiots who claim to represent the average person in the street. Whether it be in the west or the East and so on and so forth, this endless killing and lying is not representative of millions of people . I guess there is a lot more to come sadly, i so long for the days of strife to end. I like many are suffering as our societies are being marginalised and torn apart by the very people that claim to represent us. Stop the killing!

  8. Pingback: SyriaComment » Archives » What is New about Bush’s New Strategy?

  9. Jafar alSadiq says:

    Yes Tony — you accurately pinpoint the contradictions in the current dilemma overwhelming the US administration. The Quicksand is tightening its sucking grip, and many more will have to die. You are correct in your pessimism that the Americans and Iran may well be caught up in the unfolding of events that neither can control. Recall the following:

    — Maliki’s “unity” government is ineffective & weak precisely due to its compromise nature; his removal shall most probably unloose intra-Shiah violent jockeying for power.
    — Sunni insurgents are increasingly adopting the ‘Zarqawi’ blind-hatred of Shiah, and could well concentrate on fighting them more than the Americans.
    — Attacking Iran and/or Sadrists in Iraq shall encourage Sunni-Shiah violence regionally, and increase the probability of an intra-Muslim series of conflicts. . .
    — Kurdish expectations for regional near-independance will seek to take advantage of any serious breakdown of governance, making the likelihood of Turkish intervention more probable.
    — Nothing the American military can do would actually help them, since the political will and wisdom needed to salvage something positive escapes them.
    — The only card left for the US to play is to negotiate a renewed ‘unity’ power inside Iraq based on their offering guarantees of the timing and conditions of Withdrawal. the longer they wait to begin this (which is the minimal common denominator upon which all Iraqi factions agree), they less leverage and advantage the Americans will ultimately have to consummate an exit with some benefits.

    Thus, we offer sincere prayers that the Iraqi, Iranian, Saudi, and Turkish actors in this tragedy will be able to reach some basic accomodations – – despite the obdurancy and foolishness of the Americans.

    With genuine appreciation and gratitude for your continuing insights, integrity, and balance :

  10. markus says:

    Mmm. Never thought I would see Tony Karon described as “Liberal Jew” (Antony Loewenstein).

    I thought of this article when I heard on the BBC about the Iranian diplomats who have been kidnapped in Iraq by US forces. I wonder what the US is trying to pull with that manouver.

  11. Steve says:

    The shamelessness of the photo is just too much. It’s like smiling for the security cameras and making sure they catch your good profile when you are in the middle of robbing a bank.

  12. lolaone says:

    the whole iraq-iran mess is a particularly “bushian” mess. i can’t think of any other man (or woman) stupid enough to let that bunch of neofascists put him (or her) in the w.h. as a front guy,to more or less lean on a podium, spout silly nonsense,giggle,and smirk, while people are tortured,starved, put to death in so many ways in his name ,leave there waving that silly ‘royal wave,as if everyone loved and admired him. i don’t think anything can stop him now, and so many more innocent people will die on his watch. thanks, lolaone

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