June 4, 2006


Bush's Gamble On Iran (Jim Hoagland, June 4, 2006, Washington Post)

President Bush handed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and German Chancellor Angela Merkel a significant foreign policy victory and put new distance between himself and Vice President Cheney with last week's decision to dangle the carrot of U.S. participation in talks with Iran. But it is a victory of process rather than of substance and could still come undone. [...]

The vice president has made no secret of his distrust of the Iranian regime and his desire to change it. The secretary of state and the Europeans, led by Chancellor Merkel, have convinced Bush that he must exhaust every peaceful avenue before asking for economic sanctions or other punitive measures against Tehran. British Prime Minister Tony Blair reportedly made the same points to Bush in their private talks here last month.

"The administration is going to great lengths to keep the international community on board as Bush tries to get on his feet again at home," a European ambassador said after hearing the State Department's top Middle Eastern expert, C. David Welch, insist that Bush had resisted endorsing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's unilateral "realignment" plan for the West Bank during Olmert's visit here last month. "Otherwise, why emphasize so much something that did not happen?"

By the summer of 2007, Bush will be looking at two converging timelines: the end of his presidency and the fate of the diplomatic effort to talk the Iranians into a verifiable peaceful nuclear program. If the diplomats have not made significant headway, Bush will confront the terrible choice of acting militarily on his own before the end of his term or of leaving behind this nightmarish problem for his successor to deal with at the outset of his or her presidency.

Strange that Mr. Hoagland sees the parallels to Iraq but thinks this a whole new show. Mr. Bush let Tony Blair and Colin Powell use the bogus WMD argument to try and win international support for removing Saddam because we weren't in position to launch the invasion yet. As soon as the military said they were ready he turned them loose. Similarly, he's got a couple years before he'd have to launch military strikes on Iranian nuclear sites, so he's letting Condo Rice and Angela Merkel try to convince the Euros to do the right thing. But when they fail nothing will have changed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 4, 2006 9:04 AM
Comments for this post are closed.