In the last episode of the Bush administration's Iran opera, U.S. intelligence revealed that Iran does not, as previously believed, have a nuclear weapons program. Our spies couched this information in terms that strongly infer Iran had a nuclear weapons program at one time, but one has to wonder how much that was influenced by the gang in Dick Cheney's Iranian Directorate.
Some skeptics, including this one, noted that if Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in fall of 2003, and the Russians only began building Iran's first nuclear reactor in fall of 2002, Iran's nuclear weapons program, if they had one at all, must have been the sort of thing Spanky and Alfalfa could have slapped together in Darla's back yard one afternoon and torn down the next morning.
Other doubters observed that Bush, Condoleezza Rice and other administration luminaries are attempting to cover up the fact that they continued to scare the world with boo noise about Iran's nuclear weapons program long after they knew it did not exist.
It is, no doubt, with these criticisms in mind that administration echo chamberlains have shifted the Iran narrative back to its alternate plot line.
Meanwhile, Back at the Other Fabrication…
On Sunday, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker said that Iran's government has decided "at the most senior levels" to pull in the reins on Shiite militias operating in Iraq. Crocker further stated that it would be "a good beginning" for a fourth round of talks between him and his Iranian counterpart in Baghdad if Tehran should "choose to corroborate it in a direct fashion."
That was typical of the "when did you stop beating your wife?" kinds of accusations the Bush leaguers have leveled since it began making Iran the top scapegoat for all things wrong with Iraq around January 2007, about the time it unveiled the surge strategy.
Since February 2007, when they first began providing "evidence" of Iran's culpability in attacks on American G.I.s in Iraq, the administration's front row pieces in the Departments of State and Defense have yet to provide any proof more definitive than the testimony of a U.S. Army weapons expert who says some components of explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) that have killed and maimed U.S. troops either came from Iran or RadioShack.
I, for one, don't call that proof of anything.
Fear and Loathing in November
One of Mr. Bush's primary goals is to be able to say "We were winning in Iraq when I turned the watch over." That terms like "win" and "lose" long ago lost any cogent application to the Iraq conflict makes little difference to a presidency noteworthy for framing all matters great and small in terms of binary banalities. In that context, it doesn't really matter whether America "wins" anything; it matters that Mr. Bush wins, and to a lesser extent that the GOP and the neoconservative movement win as well. They don't need genuine success. An illusory victory will suffice, and as hapless as the administration and its corrupt allies have proven themselves to be at all other aspects of wielding great power, they are unsurpassed in human history at violating the borders between perception and reality.
So it is that the "reduced levels of violence" in Iraq have diminished the war as an election issue—for now, anyway. Never mind that tactical and operational victories mean nothing without corresponding strategic and political results. Never mind that even Fred Kagan, chief architect of the surge, once admitted that that military operations which do not lead to accomplishment of a conflict's political objectives are indistinguishable from "organized but senseless violence." The "things in Iraq have improved" mantra has been established, and the popular media have given it giraffe legs.
But this improvement, as engineered by Bush's "main man" David Petraeus, has been purchased at horrifying levels of risk. Iraq's internal conflict still has more sides than the Pentagon, and through a series of flying trapeze maneuvers like the "Awakening" program that has empowered Sunni groups formerly hostile to U.S. forces and still unallied with the central government, Petraeus has ensured that every one of those sides is armed to the armpits.
What we're seeing now is not so much a downturn or lull as an operational pause. Factions rearm and regroup as millions of refugees return to smoldering hotspots like Baghdad. The once peaceful Kurdish area is becoming the next front in what threatens to become a wider regional conflict. And oh yeah: the surge is out of poop. The Pentagon has to start redeploying units without sending replacements because there's no grain left in the silo, and we can't bump up troop levels again without tapping into the seed corn.
Iraq is a replenished powder keg waiting for another Archduke Ferdinand style catalyst like last year's golden dome shrine incident to set it off again, and the country is rife with such potential triggers.
The trick for the administration, then, is to stiff-arm that eventuality until at least November. But if things go bang while Bush still occupies the bunker, it will be wonderfully convenient to have Iran to blame things on, as well as al Qaeda, the Democrats, the liberal media, activist judges, Hollywood, the ACLU, Catholics who voted for John Kerry, MTV, YouTube, stem cells, steroids, hurricanes, fluoridation, Beatles music, etc., etc., etc.
Speaking of Archduke Ferdinand: the breaking news of the assassination of Pakistan's Benazir Bhutto this morning further illustrates how ludicrous the Bush administration's Iran policy is. We don't need to worry that Iran may become the unstable Muslim nation whose nuclear weapons can fall into the hands of terrorists. One of our supposed allies already fills that prescription.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books) will be available April 1, 2008.