Bush to Attack Iran Before Leaving Office?

A thinly-sourced report by the Jerusalem Post claiming that President Bush had told the Israeli government that he plans to attack Iran before leaving office has been flatly denied by the White House.

The White House on Tuesday flatly denied an Army Radio report that claimed US President George W. Bush intends to attack Iran before the end of his term. It said that while the military option had not been taken off the table, the Administration preferred to resolve concerns about Iran’s push for a nuclear weapon “through peaceful diplomatic means.”

Army Radio had quoted a top official in Jerusalem claiming that a senior member in the entourage of President Bush, who concluded a trip to Israel last week, had said in a closed meeting here that Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were of the opinion that military action against Iran was called for.

The official reportedly went on to say that “the hesitancy of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice” was preventing the administration from deciding to launch such an attack on the Islamic Republic for the time being.

So, we have an anonymous top Israeli official passing on third hand information from an anonymous member of Bush’s entourage about what may or may not have been said in a meeting. And a White House denial.

Hmm. Of course, if the president was planning on attacking Iran but wanted to keep it secret until after the election, he’d have to deny that. And, if he wasn’t planning anything of the sort, he’d deny it, too.

My sense remains that, whatever Bush’s views on what is “called for” in the case of Iran, we’re incredibly unlikely to actually do anything.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    Yeah, I saw this one, too, thought about posting on the absurdity of it, and finally up on the idea. How often can you say “it aint’ gonna happen”.

    Whose wishful thinking is it? The candidates are practically limitless. GWB? The Israelis? I’m sure they’d like us to take the problem of Iran off their hands. “Progressives”? I read more on this subject in progressive blogs than anywhere else.

  2. Michael says:

    Hmm. Of course, if the president was planning on attacking Iran but wanted to keep it secret until after the election, he’d have to deny that. And, if he wasn’t planning anything of the sort, he’d deny it, too.

    Let’s see if he floats.

  3. Anderson says:

    We’ve seen reports like this from Seymour Hersh and others.

    My takeaway is that there is indeed a faction in the administration pushing for this — whence the leaks — but that Bush isn’t signing on, tho he’s not ruling it out either.

    I doubt that even Bush knows what he’ll do. Much may depend on who wins in November.

    At my most conspiratorial, I think he might force an incoming Democrat’s hand by ordering such attacks. But I think the constitutional issues could be severe — there might be pressure to further shorten the lame-duck period.

  4. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Why Anderson do you think there would be constitutional issues. Read the part about the President being commander in chief. Then read the part about who controls foreign policy. It might not be popular, and is probably not a real good idea. (unless B. Hussein is somehow elected) It would, however be quite legal. Actually, an argument could be made a state of war exists between Iran and the United States right now. Except in the limited capacity minds of those who blame America first.

  5. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Anderson, in case you could of discern what I was referring to when I suggested reading, it was the Constitution of the United States of American.

  6. legion says:

    Let’s see if he floats.

    Are you calling the President a very small rock?

    But seriously, folks, the idea that Bush will launch a unilateral strike on Iran (to either keep fighting terror or keep us involved in Middle-East quasi-colonial adventure, depending on your POV) has been floating around for years now.

    It’s painfully obvious that Bush would love to do this – the question is whether he’ll have the opportunity and/or be allowed to. Militarily, politically, and economically, it would be near suicide – Iran is in considerably better shape than Iraq was when we invaded there, and we’d have to pretty much abandon whatever “peacekeeping” duties we’ve put together in Iraq to actually invade Iran. There have been grapevine rumblings that the military would put its collective foot down over what could be defined as an illegal order (assuming there’s no legitimate casus belli), and someone in Congress (I forget who just now) has threatened full impeachment if Bush were to do this without explicit consent.

    This is only becoming an issue again because Bush is running out of time – outside of a few missiles or airstrikes, there’s a huge (and hard-to-disguise) amount of prep work that would have to happen before any sustainable attack could go off; the question is, can Bush find enough people to do his dirty work? Does he have enough political juice left for what he no doubt considers his last shot at a “legacy”?

  7. Michael says:

    Actually, an argument could be made a state of war exists between Iran and the United States right now. Except in the limited capacity minds of those who blame America first.

    And those who believe that the Constitution gives the congress sole authority to declare war.

    Are you calling the President a very small rock?

    More like a goose. Or a duck. A lame one anyway.

    Iran is in considerably better shape than Iraq was when we invaded there

    Not really, Saddam had a better military than Iran even back in the 80s. Iran’s military equipment is mostly pre-revolutionary American products, with a lot of it in disrepair or otherwise unusable. The problem we would have is the same Saddam faced, not the strength of their military but the determination of their people.

  8. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    I beg to differ. Bush is not seething to attack Iran, just as he was reluctant to resume hostilities with Iraq, which is what was done. After all, Saddam violated the cease fire agreement in so many ways the agreement was no longer in effect. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. No American President yearns for war. Only idiots on the left using scare tactics make those ridiculous claims. Bush would not need to invade Iran to do what is necessary to set back Iran’s quest for nukes. A saturation bombing of certain research sites would suffice. No occupation, nothing. Just ruins where unlawful nuclear research is taking place. Maybe just a few into Iran’s military leadership HQ and just maybe one smart bomb down the Iranian Presidents throat. See what he thinks of the great Satan then.

  9. rwb says:

    “So, we have an anonymous top Israeli official passing on third hand information from an anonymous member of Bush’s entourage about what may or may not have been said in a meeting. And a White House denial.”

    Well that certainly sounds every bit as reliable to me as the pre Iraqi war intel, so I guess it must be true.

  10. anjin-san says:

    Ever time I have thought that Bush could not possibly do anything more idiotic, more corrupt, more incompetent, more destructive to our country, he has proven me wrong.

    So I am still very worried that he will add one more colossal mistake to his tragic legacy and attack Iran.