Thursday, March 20, 2008

Iran is back in Bush's gunsight - William R. Polk sees Iran through lenses of danger and opportunity

As I started to gather up the articles I planned to link to in my post about the likelihood of an attack on Iran before Bush is out of office, I came across a Washington Post March 21st article, "Iran a Nuclear Threat, Bush Insists - Experts Say President is Wrong and Is Escalating Tensions." From the article: “Experts on Iran and nuclear proliferation said the president's statement was wrong. 'That's as uninformed as Senator John McCain’s statement that Iran is training al-Qaeda. Iran has never said it wanted a nuclear weapon for any reason. It's just not true. It's a little troubling that the president and the leading Republican candidate are both so wrong about Iran,' said Joseph Cirincione, president of Ploughshares Fund, a global security foundation."

I’ve posted numerous times about the likelihood of an attack on Iran. When the National Intelligence Estimate came out last December stating with high confidence that Iran had stopped its nuclear weaponization process in 2003, I thought, “That’s it. Bush can’t possibly attack Iran now.”

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Even Juan Cole, who blogs at Informed Comment, appears to be getting concerned. On March 12th, he posted: “Secretary of Defense Robert Gates denied Tuesday that the abrupt resignation of Admiral William Fallon as CENTCOM commander indicates an imminent war against Iran. I think Gates's denial is credible. There is no sign of an American war on Iran, which would involve key positioning of warships, materiel and troops…. My guess is that the real reason for moving Fallon out is not Iran but Iraq, and that he is being made to step down for the same reason that Donald Rumsfeld was. He does not agree with the long-term troop escalation or 'surge' in Iraq….”

Today, Cole handed over his blog to William R. Polk,* whose guest op ed, "Iran: Danger and Opportunity." Polk starts with the March 12th US News & World Report article, 6 Signs the U.S. May Be Headed for War in Iran." He elaborates on the six signs, including Cheney’s most recent visit to the Middle East, and asks if it’s “…deja vu all over again? U.S. News and World Report notes, ‘Back in March 2002, Cheney made a high-profile Mideast trip to Saudi Arabia and other nations that officials said at the time was about diplomacy toward Iraq and not war…’ It was, as we now know, one of the concerted moves in the build-up to the already-decided-upon plan to attack Iraq.”

Is Juan Cole a little more concerned about an attack on Iran than he was a week ago? I don’t know, but I describe him as “my Middle East expert” and continue to rely on his blog to keep me informed. Regardless of Cole’s opinion, Polk’s guest op-ed is well worth reading.

* William R. Polk was the member of the Policy Planning Council responsible for North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia from 1961 to 1965 and then professor of history at the University of Chicago where he founded the Middle Eastern Studies Center. He was also president of the Adlai Stevenson Institute of International Affairs. His most recent book is Violent Politics: A History of Insurgency, Terrorism & Guerrilla Warfare from the American Revolution to Iraq (New York: HarperCollins, 2007).

(photo of William R. Polk:


Dan Gurney, Mr. Kindergarten said...

I read Polk's op-ed. It's the most depressing and alarming thing I've read in a long time. But thanks for sharing. It's definitely worth reading.

Gail Jonas said...

Given the propensity of the current leadership to make the wrong decision in every instance, it's easy to become discouraged.

However, Polk mentions "opportunity" as well as risk and the more informed we become, the more effective we can be in helping steer the future president, whoever it will be, in a different direction.

Omamba's recent speech about racism has inspired so many, even my friends in the conservative camp. Hopefully, Obama's effort to heal rifts in our society will be seen as an effort to heal global rifts. Deep down inside, people appear to be yearning for peace.