Friday, May 25, 2007

Cheney at the center of war talk targeting Iran

The past two days I've posted on the likelihood of an attack on Iran, here and here. Now that my antennae are fully engaged by whether or not an attack on Iran by the U.S. is likely, I can’t help but notice how often Vice President Cheney’s name shows up as the cheerleader-in-chief for war on Iran.

The most alarming news is found at Steve Clemons’ The Washington Note. Steve is a Senior Fellow & Director of the American Strategy Program, New America Foundation and serves as Director of the Japan Policy Research Institute.

Yesterday Clemons posted Cheney Attempting to Constrain Bush's Choices on Iran Conflict:Staff Engaged in Insubordination Against President Bush, which describes the conflict between Condi Rice and her supporters, including Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and Cheney and his “team and acolytes.” Rice is leading the diplomatic effort; Cheney supports “hot conflict” with Iran.

According to Clemons, “…[a] White House official has stated to several Washington insiders that Cheney is planning to deploy an 'end run strategy' around the President if he and his team lose the policy argument.

"The thinking on Cheney's team is to collude with Israel, nudging Israel at some key moment in the ongoing standoff between Iran's nuclear activities and international frustration over this to mount a small-scale conventional strike against Natanz using cruise missiles (i.e., not ballistic missiles).

"This strategy …could be expected to trigger a sufficient Iranian counter-strike against US forces in the Gulf -- which just became significantly larger -- as to compel Bush to forgo the diplomatic track that the administration realists are advocating and engage in another war.”

Clemons' post was picked up by Joe Klein of the Times, leading Clemons to update yesterday’s post with More on Bush-Cheney White House Intrigue on US-Iran Policy: “Joe Klein adds some important contextual material to the question of what Cheney may be cooking up on Iran on Time's Swampland blog, ‘Cheney's Iran Fantasy’:

[Klein]: ‘I can confirm, through military and intelligence sources, part of Steve Clemons' account of Cheney's crazed bellicosity regarding Iran….

'Last December, as Rumsfeld was leaving, President Bush met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff in "The Tank," the secure room in the Pentagon where the Joint Chiefs discuss classified matters of national security. Bush …asked about the possibility of a successful attack on Iran's nuclear capability.

'He was told that the U.S. could launch a devastating air attack on Iran's government and military, wiping out the Iranian air force, the command and control structure and some of the more obvious nuclear facilities. But the Chiefs were…unanimously opposed to taking that course of action.

'Why? Because our intelligence inside Iran is very sketchy. There was no way to be sure that we could take out all of Iran's nuclear facilities. Furthermore, the Chiefs warned, the Iranian response in Iraq and, quite possibly, in terrorist attacks on the U.S. could be devastating. Bush apparently took this advice to heart and went to Plan B - - a covert destabilization campaign reported earlier this week by ABC News.’ "[one of four news items I posted about here.]

Klein concludes, "If Clemons is right, and I'm pretty sure he is, Cheney is still pushing Plan A.”

Seymour Hersh, who was interviewed yesterday on Democracy Now! responded to Amy Goodman’s question about Cheney, “Well, you always -- any time you have violent anti-Iran policy and anti-Shia policy, you have to start looking there. Look, clearly this president is deeply involved in this, too, but what I hear from my people, of course, the players -- it’s always Cheney, Cheney. Cheney meets with Bush at least once a week. They have a lunch. They usually have a scheduled lunch. And out of that comes a lot of big decisions. We don’t know what’s ever said at that meeting….”

What do you make of all this? It looks like a tug-of-war over Bush by Rice and Cheney. I think Cheney has the upper hand.

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