Cheney pushes Bush to act on Iran
· Military solution back in favour as Rice loses out
· President 'not prepared to leave conflict unresolved'
The balance in the internal White House debate over Iran has shifted back in favour of military action before President George Bush leaves office in 18 months, the Guardian has learned.After this can we seriously anticipate that congress can or will do anything to stop it? I'm afraid the answer is no. Hang on - it's going to be one hell of a rough ride.
The shift follows an internal review involving the White House, the Pentagon and the state department over the last month. Although the Bush administration is in deep trouble over Iraq, it remains focused on Iran. A well-placed source in Washington said: "Bush is not going to leave office with Iran still in limbo."
The White House claims that Iran, whose influence in the Middle East has increased significantly over the last six years, is intent on building a nuclear weapon and is arming insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The vice-president, Dick Cheney, has long favoured upping the threat of military action against Iran. He is being resisted by the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, and the defence secretary, Robert Gates.
Last year Mr Bush came down in favour of Ms Rice, who along with Britain, France and Germany has been putting a diplomatic squeeze on Iran. But at a meeting of the White House, Pentagon and state department last month, Mr Cheney expressed frustration at the lack of progress and Mr Bush sided with him. "The balance has tilted. There is cause for concern," the source said this week.
Nick Burns, the undersecretary of state responsible for Iran and a career diplomat who is one of the main advocates of negotiation, told the meeting it was likely that diplomatic manoeuvring would still be continuing in January 2009. That assessment went down badly with Mr Cheney and Mr Bush.
"Cheney has limited capital left, but if he wanted to use all his capital on this one issue, he could still have an impact," said Patrick Cronin, the director of studies at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
The Washington source said Mr Bush and Mr Cheney did not trust any potential successors in the White House, Republican or Democratic, to deal with Iran decisively. They are also reluctant for Israel to carry out any strikes because the US would get the blame in the region anyway.
Not even right winger neocon Jules Crittenden is enthusiastic about the incompotent Bush/Cheney cabal starting another military mis-adventure.
Unfortunately, the Bush administration’s sense of timing and proportion has not been good. Failed to build an army in 2001 and 2002 when it became apparent we were going to be using it. Went to war in Iraq with half an army, and expected a politically and psychologically traumatized people to solve their own security and economic problems, while putting hundreds of thousands of them out of work. Kept the secretary of defense who pushed these bad ideas too long, leaving off a serious reassessment and a serious counterinsurgency too long.
A last-minute attack on Iran? They’re going to need to do a much better job of selling this than they have selling their foreign policy projects lately, and they had better think long and hard about what happens in November of 2008, January of 2009, and after.