Talking Tough Without a Carrot or a Stick

"President Bush's tough new stance on Iran and his military buildup in the Persian Gulf recall some of the drumbeats that preceded the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003," the Associated Press reports

“President Bush’s tough new stance on Iran and his military buildup in the Persian Gulf recall some of the drumbeats that preceded the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003,” the Associated Press reports. “As then, the Bush administration is making allegations about Iran without providing proof. It is suggesting Iran is sending weapons to Iraq, yet offering no evidence the supplies can be traced to Tehran.” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who came to power with an agenda to eradicate poverty and tackle unemployment, “is now facing increasingly fierce criticism for his failure to meet those promises.” There has been talk of his impeachment in Iran. Rather than capitalize on these circumstances to pave the path for a new Iranian regime, the Bush administration’s bellicose rhetoric and repeated threats–which Ahmadinejad is more than happy to reciprocate–perpetuate the Iranian president’s grasp on power.

  • Rather than pursue a course that leads to diplomacy, the Bush administration is instead taunting Iran. In his Jan. 10 address to the nation on his new Iraq strategy, Bush included “some of his sharpest words of warning” to Iran. “I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier group to the region,” he said. Referring to the deployment of the carrier USS John C. Stennis, Cheney said, “That sends a very strong signal to everybody in the region that the United States is here to stay, that we clearly have significant capabilities, and that we are working with friends and allies as well as the international organizations to deal with the Iranian threat.” Shortly after Bush’s speech, American forces stormed Iranian government offices in northern Iraq, detaining six people including diplomats. Just weeks later, Bush confirmed he had authorized a Pentagon program to kill or capture Iranian operatives inside Iraq. Concern that the U.S. may be on a collision course with Iran is driven by knowledge that the administration has harbored designs on confronting that nation for years. In a recent interview in GQ Magazine, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) reveals that the Bush administration tried to get Congress to approve military action anywhere in the Middle East–not just in Iraq–in the fall of 2002.

  • The administration’s bellicose rhetoric on Iran is not backed up with any evidence. In recent months, administration officials have stridently claimed that Iran is stoking the violence in Iraq. “The Iranians need to know…that the United States is not finding it acceptable and is not going to simply tolerate their activities to try and harm our forces or to destabilize Iraq,” said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The administration’s talk, however, has not been backed up with any evidence. Bush’s national security advisers have twice “ordered a delay in publication of evidence intended to support Washington’s contention that Iran supplies lethal technology and other aid to militias in Iraq.” In a press briefing last Friday, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said the delay was due to the fact that the intelligence on Iran had been hyped. “The truth is, quite frankly, we thought the briefing overstated, and we sent it back to get it narrowed and focused on the facts,” he said. While the recently released National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq states that Iran is trying to cause trouble for the U.S., the country “is not likely to be a major driver of violence.” As the Los Angeles Times recently reported, “[E]vidence of Iranian involvement in Iraq’s troubles is limited…. [T]here has been little sign of more advanced weaponry crossing the border, and no Iranian agents have been found.”
  • The administration stands alone in its provocations towards Iran. Responding to the administration’s provocations towards Iran, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said, “The President does not have the authority to launch military action in Iran without first seeking congressional authorization.” Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), the ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee, agreed that “the president would need authority.” Encouraging more resistance to the administration’s current course, “three former high-ranking U.S. military officers have called for Britain to help defuse the crisis over Iran’s nuclear program, saying that military action against Tehran would be a disaster for the region.” A coalition of U.K. unions, faith groups, and think tanks warn in a new report that an attack on Iran could further destabilize neighboring Iraq, undermine hopes for Israeli-Palestinian peace, and embolden hard-liners in Ahmadinejad’s government. It said an attack on oil-rich Iran could also drive up fuel prices, harming economies around the world. “The possible consequences of military action could be so serious that governments have a responsibility to ensure that all diplomatic options have been exhausted,” the report said. “At present, this is not the case.”

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