The Plank

Iran Odds And Ends

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Lately, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been insisting that, despite all signs to the contrary, the Bush administration has no plans for a war with Iran:

With respect to Iran, first of all, the president has made clear; the secretary of State has made clear; I've made clear -- nobody is planning -- we are not planning for a war with Iran.

Right, and if everyone claps loud enough, we might almost forget this headline from May of 2002: "Rumsfeld: No Plans to Invade Iraq." Or this, from George W. Bush, a month later:

[T]here are no war plans on my desk. I haven't changed my opinion about Saddam Hussein, however. He is -- this is a person who gassed his own people, and possesses weapons of mass destruction. And so as I told the American people, and I told John, we'll use all tools at our disposal to deal with him. And, of course, before there is any action -- military action, I would closely consult with our close friend. There are no plans on my desk right now.

Now a few people, including commenter teplukhin on this site, have argued that Bush doesn't really intend to go to war this time around, and the administration is just acting belligerently in order to strengthen its hand for negotiations down the road. Strictly speaking, that's not outside the realm of possibility, although James Fallows--who also thinks congressional Democrats should focus on preventing war with Iran rather than piddling around with toothless Iraq resolutions--has a good response here:

If we could trust the Administration's ability to judge America's rational self-interest, there would be no need to constrain its threatening gestures toward Iran. Everyone would understand that this was part of the negotiation process; no one would worry that the Administration would finally take a step as self-destructive as beginning or inviting a war.

But no one can any longer trust the Administration to recognize and defend America's rational self-interest -- not when the President says he will carry out a policy even if opposed by everyone except his wife and dog, not when the Vice President refuses to concede any mistake or misjudgment in the handling of Iraq.

That pretty much covers it. Meanwhile, the New York Sun--hardly a hotbed of anti-Semitism--recently reported that leading Democratic presidential contenders have been reluctant to speak out against war with Iran for fear of angering "pro-Israel" lobbying groups in New York (even though the vast majority of Jewish-Americans don't appear to favor such a war). According to the New York Post, Hillary Clinton "drew grumbles" at an AIPAC dinner "when she encouraged 'engaging' with Iran before taking stronger action to keep it nuke-free." Of course, Wes Clark and Matt Yglesias were accused of anti-Semitism and compared to Charles Lindbergh when they pointed out this state of affairs. I wonder if the Sun will get the same treatment...

(I'm also curious to know why it's always and everywhere considered "pro-Israel" to support military strikes that won't, in all likelihood, destroy Iran's nuclear program, but will, in all likelihood, destroy international support for sanctions on the country, entrench the more radical factions in Tehran, and make future conflicts in the Middle East more, rather than less, likely. As if opponents of such a thing are "anti-Israel.")

--Bradford Plumer

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