Sunday, January 13, 2008

Bush in the ME: Iran, Iran, Iran

The question that needed to be asked about George Bush's first visit of his presidency to Israel last week was: why now? I suppose it was easy to write it off as Bush trying to salvage some sort of legacy when it comes to making any inroads in the Middle East peace process since his administration basically abandoned any effort towards real change via its' much ballyhooed 'road map' but the broader events in the region, most particularly the ongoing escalation of rhetoric and sanctions towards Iran, seemed to me to be the real reason for his sudden Middle East adventures and now the White House has confirmed that suspicion:

In a speech described by the White House as the centerpiece of his eight-day trip to the Middle East, Bush tried to speak directly to the people of Iran as he urged nations to help the United States "confront this danger before it is too late."

And it would be nice to think that the MSM wasn't playing along with neocon fantasies this time around like they did in the run up to the Iraq war, wouldn't it? It's obvious that when they write statements like this, their pandering to Bush administration policies and rhetoric has hardly diminished:

The comments Sunday were part of a Bush speech devoted to advancing the cause of freedom and democracy in the Middle East.
(my emphasis)

No they weren't. They were 'devoted' to Bush pursuing more warmongering against Iran.

When the administration released its' questionable video this past week of supposed Iranian Revolutionary Guard boats 'threatening' a US ship in the Straits of Hormuz, more warning bells went off for those with saner heads. The American version of the audio that accompanied the situation didn't match the Iranians. Add to that the 'Filipino Monkey' theory posted by the Navy Times and it seemed Bushco was crying wolf yet again. Since the administration's 'evidence' of Iranian provocation seemed to fall flat on its face, the Pentagon then revealed that during a December confrontation with Iranian Guard boats, the US had fired 'warning shots'. You'd think, if that was true, the Pentagon would have made that public immediately following the incident since the use of warning shots in that incident would seem to provide more ammo (pun intended) to Bushco's assertion that Iran is such a huge threat that action needs to be taken against it ASAP. That didn't happen. Why? Could it simply be that Bush needed to trot out more 'evidence' to convince those he met with in the ME to go along with his aggressiveness towards Iran? It seems like pretty handy timing to me.

Last week, The Asia Times published a piece about the possibility that Iran may be needed as a new ally in the GWOT as a result of the instability in Pakistan and the growing concern about the fate of the war in Afghanistan. As always, the Bush administration also has to tread very carefully when it comes to dealing with Iran because of its dealings with Russia and China - two very formidable forces which would not stand by idly if the US attacked on Iranian soil. So, the geopolitics of the broader situation trump the simplistic Bush-style rhetoric of justifying bombing Iran for its own good - this 'freedom and democracy' bullshit excuse that the neocons have used the past 8 years as a rationale for their illegal war in Iraq.

And, while Bush has been focusing on Iran, al Qaeda has been threatening the Saudis who would need US military help if attacked on such a scale that the Saudis could not deal with it themselves. Bush visits the kingdom on Monday and Tuesday of this week - when the public can expect an announcement by the administration about the status of US arms sales to the country - to the tune of $20 billion. As for the Saudis and the Iranians, witness this uncomfortable exchange between a member of the press and some unnamed 'Senior Administration Official' at the latest press briefing:

Q King Abdallah has also formed a relationship with the President of Iran, and has invited him personally to come to the Hajj.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's what we are told, interestingly enough. We are told that Ahmadinejad, as he has done from time to time, invited himself. And one of the things about the Hajj is that it is -- the Saudi Arabian government makes it very much open to all Muslims to come. So if someone asks to come, the Saudis' view is, it's very difficult for them as the custodian of the two holy mosques, which is the whole point of the Hajj, for them to say no. So I think the Saudis would tell you they did not invite him, he invited himself, and they let him come, as they do generally when Muslims come and want to participate in the Hajj.

Q They were photographed arm in arm at the GCC.


So, as much as Bush and the neocons are itching to go after Iran militarily while Israeli hawks like Benjamin Netanyahu are pushing him down that road, the political calculations are much more messy and complex than the administration would like the American public to believe. Such a move could have major consequences, even beyond the ramifications of the decision to invade Iraq, which could set back America's international relations to a point where the resulting political instability could well be far more devastating than what Bushco has already wrought in the world.

While the rest of us are waiting to find out what Bush's final act in the Middle East will be, only he knows how his term will end and what sort of legacy he'll choose to leave for the next president. And that is probably the scariest thing in all of this, given his track record of death and destruction.

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