Let Slip The Ducks Of War
(Cartoon by Steve Bell and published in The Guardian. Click on the image to enlarge.)
On January 7, 2008, just one day before President Bush was to set off for his "Peace Tour" to the Middle East, what the Pentagon is reporting as a dangerous incident occurred in the Strait of Hormuz. Iranian military speedboats buzzed and harrassed a US contingent of warships. The Pentagon released a heavily edited tape with a voice threatening the contingent with explosions. The White House made it a point to proclaim that the incident was good evidence of just how dangerous Iran is. Iran responded with its own heavily-edited tape, without the threatening voice, which purported to show just how tame and how routine the contact was.
Neither version struck me as a particularly reliable description of what happened, but the fact of the incident occuring just one day before Mr. Bush's heavily promoted trip is certainly rather suspicious. Why this kind of kerfuffle if the whole purpose of the trip was to push Israel and Palestine along on a peace agreement?
Unless, of course, the eight-day trip is about more than the Israeli-Palestine peace agreement, which also occurred to an op-ed writer for Egypt's Akhbar Elyom:
The concern is that all of the talk about moving the peace process is just a smokescreen for the visit’s main objective, which is to mobilize countries of the area in the Gulf region against the 'Iranian threat' in preparation for setting policies or taking escalatory steps against Iran. The intent is also to ensure that the region does not recognize that the real danger, in fact, is Israel, which is [the] only country in the region that possesses a nuclear arsenal and continues policies of occupation and aggression with absolute support from the American ally. [Emphasis added]
I guess Karl Jung was right: there are no coincidences. Regardless of whose version of that incident is more accurate (and there really is no way to tell at this point, given the current leadership of both countries), the fact that the incident was propelled onto the front pages of most American newspapers and led off most television newscasts is a clear indication that the Bush administration has no intention of resolving the Iran problem diplomatically and that it wanted that incident as a backdrop for the visit.
Mark Brzezinski and Ray Takeyh wrote an extremely thoughtful op-ed piece that appeared in yesterday's Boston Globe on the subject of what to do about Iran and how to do it.
THE RECENT tension in the Persian Gulf between Iranian vessels and the US Navy, coming on the heels of the disclosures of the National Intelligence Estimate, highlights the failure of the Bush administration to craft a coherent Iran policy. While the intelligence estimate contradicted persistent White House claims of imminent Iranian nuclear danger and undermined the case for war, the aggressive behavior of the Revolutionary Guard underscores the continued challenge of Iran. Both developments reinforce caution and firmness as the right way to proceed. ...
While some have depicted Iran as a rash, militant state imbued with messianic fervor, the clerical state today is an unexceptional opportunistic power seeking to exert preponderance in its immediate neighborhood. Gone are the heady revolutionary days when Iran viewed projection of influence as necessitating the subversion of the incumbent Arab regimes. In the past year, Iran's representatives, particularly the peripatetic Ali Larijani, have made overtures to both Saudi Arabia and Egypt, calling for collective mediation of the region's conflicts. From Iraq's raging sectarian strife to Lebanon's internal convulsions, Iran may well recognize that the best means of stabilizing the Middle East and safeguarding its own interests is through better relations with its longstanding rivals. ...
Now that a nuclear threat is not imminent, the US long-range goal for negotiations with Iran ought to be to create a context in which Iran sees it as in its own self-interest to become more closely associated with the West and the international order. The US approach should reflect the mixed nature of shared as well as conflicting interests with Iran. The stabilization of Iraq, Persian Gulf security, nuclear counterproliferation, among others, should be cast as shared interests. The possibility of growing interaction economically should also be welcomed. At the same time, the United States should be clear that support of terrorism in the region directly threatens the security interests of Iran. [Emphasis added]
Mr. Brzezinski and Mr. Ray Takeyh have done a pretty good job in setting out a clear and rational course for improving the situation with Iran at a time when it is absolutely essential. While that kind of diplomacy is never easy, it certainly is necessary. Unfortunately for us and for that part of the world, this administration is incapable of such delicate and time consuming work. All Mr. Bush has in his tool box is a hammer.
We're going to have to hope that the ultimate winner in November has more tools in his tool box and the people who know how to use.