Bushâ€™s Mideast Visit and N. Korea Declaration Deadline
Courtesy William H. White
13/01/08 â€œ ICHâ€ — — Why would Bush go to the Mideast now? It is likely he went to nail down commitments from the Israelis and acquiescence from the Saudis prior to a planned attack on Iran. Bush, who neither reads nor writes well, has a low comfort level with diplomatic go-betweens, so this is a lookâ€™em in the eye trip to talk about what happens when he pulls the trigger.
If not, what is the alternative explanation for the trip? He is going to talk about peace talks likely to drift into the fall; change diplomatic tact, such as a demand Israel end the blockade of Gaza; schedule another Annapolis photo-op? Not likely. In addition, by White House standards this is a stealth trip with the US press attention focused elsewhere.
One possibly related diplomatic element: the White House is demanding North Korea â€œcome cleanâ€ about its nuclear program, with the objective of getting some statement from them about working with the Iranians. Why an urgent deadline, especially one not in the agreement, unless it is linked to concomitant events? Any statements by North Korea affirming their assistance to Iran, no matter whether the nuclear assistance was weapons related or prior to the reported shut down of the Iranian program, would be presented as â€œnewâ€ intelligence and sold much like the â€œSadam/9-11â€ connection, trumping, or at least blunting, the recent National Intelligence Estimate on Iranâ€™s nuclear program.
Another indication of the White Houseâ€™s intentions is promotion of an ordinary encounter in the Strait of Hormuz between US Navy Ships and Iranian Patrol Boats into an â€œincident,â€ including the imposition of addition sanctions on Iranian officials.
Assuming a decision to attack Iran, given weather and other logistical concerns, combined with attention to the domestic political schedule, the timing would likely be within two to three months or early fall.
Should this occur, the potential for destabilizing domestic and foreign consequences increase substantially, approaching near certainty. This nominally unattractive and reckless gamble would fit Bushâ€™s character as well as the pattern of his governance. Also, this is his last shot, with a chance to create conditions in the Mideast that lock in future policy options, as he has in domestic policy with a massive deficit. Given the consequences, he would attack not only his foreign enemies, but at the same time strike at his domestic foes under the cover of the resulting emergency.
Finally, to further assess its likelihood, ask the question: who is to stop him? Not Congress; not the courts; not pubic opinion nor the press. The only chance, however slight, of stopping Bush would rest almost entirely with the British government, if Parliament became aware of the plan prior to the commencement of hostilities.