Iranian crisis analysis II: Will Bush go nuclear?

The New Yorker’s Sy Hersh thinks that the US is seriously considering a nuclear attack on Iran

Late this winter, the Joint Chiefs of Staff sought to remove the nuclear option from the evolving war plans for Iran—without success, the former intelligence official said. “The White House said, ‘Why are you challenging this? The option came from you.’ ”

The Pentagon adviser on the war on terror confirmed that some in the Administration were looking seriously at this option, which he linked to a resurgence of interest in tactical nuclear weapons among Pentagon civilians and in policy circles.(New Yorker)

Jack Straw has dismissed this report as ‘nuts’, while the Iranians themselves have described it as ‘psychological warfare.

It’s certainly true there’s been a remarkable rash of similar reports in recent days:

The Bush administration is studying options for military strikes against Iran as part of a broader strategy of coercive diplomacy to pressure Tehran to abandon its alleged nuclear development program, according to U.S. officials and independent analysts.

No attack appears likely in the short term, and many specialists inside and outside the U.S. government harbor serious doubts about whether an armed response would be effective. But administration officials are preparing for it as a possible option and using the threat "to convince them this is more and more serious," as a senior official put it. (Washington Post, 9 April)

White House insiders say that Bush and Dick Cheney, his hawkish vice-president, have made up their minds to resolve the Iranian crisis before they leave office in three years’ time.

They say that military intervention — in the form of a massive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities — is being planned and that Bush is prepared to order the raid unless Iran scraps its nuclear programme. (Sunday Times, 9 April)

The Government is to hold secret talks with defence chiefs tomorrow to discuss possible military strikes against Iran.

A high-level meeting will take place in the Ministry of Defence at which senior defence chiefs and government officials will consider the consequences of an attack on Iran. (Sunday Telegraph, 2 April)

There may well be an element of sabre-rattling here, but nevertheless, it all seems eerily familiar, as Paul Rogers notes.

Today’s equivalents of the more sober and far-sighted analysts of Iraq in 2002-03 are equally clear about the consequences of a war with Iran. Indeed, several studies suggest that Iran’s military capability to create problems for the United States and any coalition partners might make the outcome there even more violent (openDemocracy)

Rogers also argues that there’s a very broad anti-Iran constituency in the US, a point on which Jim Lobe agrees.

Indeed, the findings of two recent national surveys was that evangelical Christians, who make up roughly 40% of all Republicans and have long been Bush’s strongest source of political support, have become significantly more skeptical about his interventionist policies in the Middle East since late last year.

While all of these trends have weakened the hawks and are likely to moderate US policies in the region, they do not mean that the chances of military action against Iran have been significantly reduced.

Unlike the Iraq invasion, which was promoted almost exclusively by the three coalition constituents, Iran’s nuclear program is seen as a threat to vital US interests by a broader range of forces, including some realists and even liberal internationalists in the Democratic Party. (Asia Times)

No doubt the growing confrontation with Iran is one reason for the US’ increasing tilt against the Shi’ites in neighbouring Iraq.

Led by Khalilzad, the United States has definitively broken with Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the hopelessly incompetent religious fanatic that Washington helped bring back to Iraq in the first place, installing him as puppet prime minister of the interim government created (after months of back-stabbing and deal-making) in the aftermath of the January 2005 elections. Khalilzad seems to have discovered what just about everyone else in Iraq already knew: that Jaafari is closely allied to the Iranians. (Robert Dreyfuss,

[For earlier coverage, see my February post Iran Crisis Analysis]






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