Iran Clock is Ticking (

Excerpts: While congressional Democrats test how far they should go in challenging George W. Bush’s war powers, the time may be running out to stop Bush from ordering a major escalation of the Middle East conflict by attacking Iran. Military and intelligence sources continue to tell me that preparations are advancing for a war with Iran starting possibly as early as mid-to-late February. The sources offer some differences of opinion over whether Bush might cite a provocation from Iran or whether Israel will take the lead in launching air strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

But there is growing alarm among military and intelligence experts that Bush already has decided to attack and simply is waiting for a second aircraft carrier strike force to arrive in the region – and for a propaganda blitz to stir up some pro-war sentiment at home.

One well-informed U.S. military source called me in a fury after consulting with Pentagon associates and discovering how far along the war preparations are. He said the plans call for extensive aerial attacks on Iran, including use of powerful bunker-busting ordnance. Another source with a pipeline into Israeli thinking said the Iran war plan has expanded over the past several weeks. Earlier thinking had been that Israeli warplanes would hit Iranian nuclear targets with U.S. forces in reserve in case of Iranian retaliation, but now the strategy anticipates a major U.S. military follow-up to an Israeli attack, the source said. Both sources used the same word “crazy” in describing the plan to expand the war to Iran…

So, facing slim odds in Iraq, Bush is tempted by the allure of escalation, a chance to blame the Iranians for his Iraq failure and to punish them with air strikes. He might see that as a way to buy time, a chance to rally his pro-war supporters and a strategy for enhancing his presidential legacy. But the consequences both internationally and domestically – from possible disruption of oil supplies to potential retaliation from Islamic terrorists – could be devastating.

Yet, there is a sense of futility among many in Washington who doubt they can do anything to stop Bush. So far, the Democratic-controlled Congress has lagged behind the curve, debating how to phrase a non-binding resolution of disapproval about Bush’s “surge” of 21,500 troops in Iraq, while Bush may be opening an entirely new front in Iran.

According to intelligence sources, Bush’s Iran strategy is expected to let the Israelis take a lead role in attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities in order to defuse Democratic opposition and let the U.S. intervention be sold as defensive, a case of a vulnerable ally protecting itself from a future nuclear threat.

Once American air and naval forces are committed to a new conflict, the Democrats will find it politically difficult to interfere at least in the near future, the thinking goes. A violent reaction from the Islamic world would further polarize the American population and let Bush paint war critics as cowardly, disloyal or pro-terrorist…

On Jan. 10, the night of Bush’s national address on the Iraq War, NBC Washington bureau chief Tim Russert made a striking observation about a pre-speech briefing that Bush and other senior administration officials gave to news executives.

“There’s a strong sense in the upper echelons of the White House that Iran is going to surface relatively quickly as a major issue in the country and the world in a very acute way – and a prediction that in 2008 candidates of both parties will have as a fundamental campaign promise or premise a policy to deal with Iran and not let it go nuclear,” Russert said. “That’s how significant Iran was today.”

So, Bush and his top advisers not only signaled their expectation of a “very acute” development with Iran but that the Iranian issue would come to dominate Campaign 2008 with candidates forced to spell out plans for containing this enemy state.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *