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 look’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 “come clean” 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 “new” intelligence and sold much like the “Sadam/9-11â€³ connection, trumping, or at least blunting, the recent National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear program.
Another indication of the White House’s intentions is promotion of an ordinary encounter in the Strait of Hormuz between US Navy Ships and Iranian Patrol Boats into an “incident,” 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 Bush’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.
The later the attack on Iran comes, or a significant response from Iran, the more likely it would be combined with or be followed by a formal declaration of a national emergency, possibly affecting US national elections. The result would be a de facto coup d’Ã©tat.
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.
Related News – Naval Encounter:
Video from Iranian Patrol Boat by Iran Press TV 01/10/08
Video from US Naval Vessel by US Department of Defense 01/09/08
Degrees of Confidence on U.S.-Iran Naval Incident by The New York Times (Blog) 01/10/08
Related News – North Korean Declaration:
U.S. Nuclear Envoy Puts Gentle Pressure on North Korea by The New York Times 01/10/08
North Korea Says Earlier Disclosure Was Enough by The New York Times 01/05/08
U.S. Will Hold North Korea to Nuclear Commitments by The New York Times 01/02/08
Related News – Bush Visit:
ANALYSIS-Gulf Arabs chart delicate course between Iran, U.S. by Reuters 01/10/08
Saudi defends Iran links ahead of Bush visit by Reuters 01/09/08
Iran High on Bush Mideast Trip by Associated Press 01/07/08
Bush to press allies on Iran during Mideast trip by Reuters 01/05/08