The flip flop on Iran continues.
Over the weekend, Vice President Dick Cheney made boo noise about the possibility of military strikes on Iran by saying that "all options are still on the table."
But on Tuesday, Joint Chiefs chairman Peter Pace declared "categorically" before the U.S. Senate that the U.S. is not planning air strikes in Iran. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has repeatedly said much the same thing.
And yet, as Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker and Larisa Alexandrovna of Raw Story have been telling us for quite some time, Pentagon plans for an Iran strike are well into their advanced stages, and continue to be reevaluated and updated.
Certain outlets in the international press, quite plausibly influenced by propaganda cells within the Bush administration, continue to run headlines like "American Armada Prepares To Take On Iran."
So who's zooming whom here?
Despite the Bush administration's long-standing claims that Iran seeks the capability to develop nuclear weapons, it has failed to produce one stick of credible evidence to prove it. And the only "senior official" making claims that Iran is providing weapons to Iraqi militant groups who's willing to be identified in the press is some Army major who is a "weapons expert." Please note that being a weapons expert is not step on the fast track to becoming a U.S. Army general. But playing ball with the neocon agenda, well hell; that can land you a pretty cushy retirement job at a place like the American Enterprise Institute.
It's relatively clear that the rift between Dick Cheney's hapless hooligans and the competent professionals in the administration is about to come to an OK Corral-class showdown.
There's some indication that General Pace, the U.S. military's top officer, has undergone a second puberty. He slapped down claims by "senior defense officials" in Baghdad that the Iranian government was behind arming Shiite militants in Iraq. Some observers have suggested that Pace might be one of the generals who would resign if Mr. Bush launches an attack on Iran, but at present that's all "inside baseball" speculation.
Nonetheless, as I've said before, if Mr. Bush really wants to go big on Iran, Congress and the courts won't be able to stop him because they can't move as fast as the executive department can, especially when, as Sy Hersh warns, elements within the Pentagon (which I guess to be an Air Force planning cell) are putting together an Iran air strike package that can be popped off within 24 hours of Bush's say so.
So it just might be that the only thing staying Mr. Bush's hand is the possibility that if he decides to get froggy with Iran, his top military officer will pull a Pontius Pilate on him.
And it's a profoundly sad commentary on the state of our cherished constitutional process that the only person who can exercise checks on the powers of our commander in chief may turn out to be our top general.
The New York Times tells us that the diplomatic impasse between the U.S. and Iran and Syria may be at an end. Here's the good news:
American officials said Tuesday that they had agreed to hold the highest-level contact with the Iranian authorities in more than two years as part of an international meeting on Iraq.
Here's the bad news:
The discussions, scheduled for the next two months, are expected to include Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Iranian and Syrian counterparts.
Throwing Dubya's office wife Condi at negotiations with Iran and Syrian is the equivalent of putting a pedophile priest in charge of Boys' Town. If young Mr. Bush is the Alfred E. Neuman of U.S. presidencies (and he is), Condi Rice is the Britney Spears of American diplomacy.
Ms. Rice hasn't announced any plans to hold separate one-on-one talks with her Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki--which is probably good news. I'd hate to see what little good this "diplomatic" effort might produce get side railed by direct participation on Condi's part.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.