Cheney Pushing Military Action Against Iran?

Dick Cheney is pushing hard for escalation of military threats against Iran, Ewen MacAskill and Julian Borger report in today’s Guardian.

The balance in the internal White House debate over Iran has shifted back in favour of military action before President George Bush leaves office in 18 months, the Guardian has learned. The shift follows an internal review involving the White House, the Pentagon and the state department over the last month. Although the Bush administration is in deep trouble over Iraq, it remains focused on Iran. A well-placed source in Washington said: “Bush is not going to leave office with Iran still in limbo.”

The White House claims that Iran, whose influence in the Middle East has increased significantly over the last six years, is intent on building a nuclear weapon and is arming insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The vice-president, Dick Cheney, has long favoured upping the threat of military action against Iran. He is being resisted by the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, and the defence secretary, Robert Gates. Last year Mr Bush came down in favour of Ms Rice, who along with Britain, France and Germany has been putting a diplomatic squeeze on Iran. But at a meeting of the White House, Pentagon and state department last month, Mr Cheney expressed frustration at the lack of progress and Mr Bush sided with him. “The balance has tilted. There is cause for concern,” the source said this week.

Nick Burns, the undersecretary of state responsible for Iran and a career diplomat who is one of the main advocates of negotiation, told the meeting it was likely that diplomatic manoeuvring would still be continuing in January 2009. That assessment went down badly with Mr Cheney and Mr Bush.

“Cheney has limited capital left, but if he wanted to use all his capital on this one issue, he could still have an impact,” said Patrick Cronin, the director of studies at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

The Washington source said Mr Bush and Mr Cheney did not trust any potential successors in the White House, Republican or Democratic, to deal with Iran decisively. They are also reluctant for Israel to carry out any strikes because the US would get the blame in the region anyway.

“The red line is not in Iran. The red line is in Israel. If Israel is adamant it will attack, the US will have to take decisive action,” Mr Cronin said. “The choices are: tell Israel no, let Israel do the job, or do the job yourself.”

While I’m sure people in the White House are frustrated with progress in Iran and are reluctant to trust a successor — who could well be a Democrat — to deal with the situation aggressively, there’s not much substance to this report, despite the widespread attention it’s getting. We have, essentially, speculation from “A well-placed source in Washington” — how “well placed” we haven’t a clue — buttressed by speculation from poorly placed sources in Washington.

UPDATE: Leaving aside whether there’s any substance to this report, Dan Drezner and Andrew Sullivan sincerely hope we don’t launch war with Iran. We’re in agreement there.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor 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. Cernig says:

    Ewen MacAskill and Julian Borger are two of the most respected journalists in the UK. Both have extensive experience in Washington. Ewen MacAskill is currently DC bureau chief and was chief political correspondent for the Guardain and the Scotsman. Julian Borger was DC correspondent for the Guardian and is now its Diplomatic Editor.

    Both are known for writing critical articles on the Iraqi war and occupation, but neither has ever been accused of making things up or going to print on flimsy sources.

    Regards, C

  2. James Joyner says:

    Both are known for writing critical articles on the Iraqi war and occupation, but neither has ever been accused of making things up or going to print on flimsy sources.

    That’s good to know. I’m not accusing them of making things up, precisely, just to a rather unsubstantive report. There’s simply nothing concrete here. No quotes from anyone who is privy to the discussions within the Oval Office. No paraphrased second hand quotes from Cheney. No anything, really.

  3. Andy says:

    There’s simply nothing concrete here.

    A bit like the case for war. Unfortunately, there’s more skepticism of various news articles than there was for invading Iraq. Ooooooh look, a vial of powder that will KILL US ALL!!!!

  4. Wayne says:

    Iran has been fighting us in Iraq and supporting the insurgence there for quite awhile now. We should have done something about it a long time ago when we had more political will to do so. It will be much more difficult now politically but should be done anyway. The Dems and the MSM are going to do all that they can to undermine the war in Iraq regardless of what Bush does.

  5. Bill says:

    The Dems and the MSM are going to do all that they can to undermine the war in Iraq regardless of what Bush does.

    The MSM was the biggest cheerleaders for the invasion of Iraq (love those ratings), and the “Dems” certainly haven’t done much to stop it. Wayne, would you like to see the US invade yet another country? What do you think is going to happen when we bomb Iran? I think that a good segment of the Iranian army will come pouring across the border, and then you’ll see some staggering casualties. And for what? Another war that we can’t “win.” Do you think that our military wants to open a third front? While you are at it, can you tell me exactly what conditions must be present before we can say “we’ve won in Iraq?” No one else has.

  6. Andy says:

    Wayne, how does it feel to be losing to a bunch of America-hating pantywaist leftists?

    Who have thunk that the tough freedom warriors of the Right could get rolled so easily.

    On the other hand, reality is a bitch.

  7. G.A.Phillips says:

    I can see at least 3 fronts already. Iraq, Afghanistan, and what ever area is in-between the backs of our troops and pretty much any one who seeks a majority of liberal support for political office.

  8. Bill says:

    I can see at least 3 fronts already. Iraq, Afghanistan, and what ever area is in-between the backs of our troops and pretty much any one who seeks a majority of liberal support for political office.

    G.A., it never ceases to amaze me (OK, that’s a bit of hyperbole, because I am no longer amazed) that when push comes to shove, conservatives just resort to name calling. Not reason, not facts, but just call someone a “liberal” or a “pacifist” or say “we are going to stay on offense” and that is your big trump card. You obviously support this administration and its militaristic policy. Quick, name just one army throughout history that has successfully prosecuted a three front military campaign? Use some facts for once. No empire has ever held Afghanistan, nor Iraq, nor stayed very long in Iran. What makes you think that the US is any different?

  9. Wayne says:

    Bill
    Go back and look at the coverage before the Iraq invasion. The MSM was asking to give the U.N. yet more time. They called it a quagmire when the Army stops to resupply and get some rest. They claim we would take massive casualties. That type of cheerleading I can do without.

    First we are already fighting Iran. Unfortunately we are fighting them in our and our allies’ territories instead on theirs. Therefore that front is already open. We would kick the living daylights out of Iran’s military.

    What conditions that constitutes a victory in Iraq has been pointed out many times in previous post. Here is a short run down. We win when the U.S. is better of then it would have been. That is accomplished by meeting several goals. We can lose in one area and still win overall. Some of those objectives are as fallow.
    We won in one aspect when we dispose of Saddam and his regime. We will win in another aspect when we finalize a democratically base government in the ME. We will win again if we can show that we can stick by our allies and show the world we don’t have a glass jaw. The list goes on and on and it won’t be easy. However not accomplishing any of them is a sure defeat.

    Andy
    America-hating pantywaist leftists generally do win the screaming “the sky is falling” match but usually lose in the end given enough time in what get accomplished. Look at the American Revolution, Civil war and WWII for examples. Liberals complain while conservatives go out and do something about it.

  10. Wayne says:

    Bill
    The Roman Empire, Han Empire, U.S. Military, and many more.

  11. Bill says:

    Wayne,
    I guess we were watching two different medias. I am sure you were listening to Rush and Sean and the rest of the intelligentia. But it was the MSM lack of questioning of any of the rationale of the war that was cheerleading. They weren’t doing their job as the ‘fourth estate’ and questioning the massively flawed statements that were spewing from the White House. No one was asking for proof prior to going on this financially crippling escapade. Colin Powell who made that infamous speech to the UN knew he was not on solid ground (lying) yet no one questioned it. There were reports in other non-MSM outlets that the “intelligence” reports being used to sell the war were de-bunked by other intelligence services. MI-5, Bundesnachrichtendienst(Germany), SISMI (Italian) and even Mossad. The aluminum tubes, the biological weapons, the ‘yellowcake’ uranium. The MSM was awash in this and they pushed it on the air unfiltered. Just as there are ‘lies of ommission’ they were cheerleading by ommision, only presenting the facts that they wanted the public to hear. After the State of the Union in 2003 it was obvious to the whole world what was going to happen. The media made its plans, confered with the Pentagon on coverage (choice of commentators), and the rest is history. The embedded journalist concept gives the military control over what is released, and provides some damn spectacular footage. Footage that drives ratings. Ratings equal profits. Yeah, they were rooting for this.

    We win when the U.S. is better of then it would have been.

    So, a $443Billion pricetag and growing, and we are better off? An exponential growth in ‘terrorist’ (must use correct langauge of fear.) groups and activities and we are better off?

    We won in one aspect when we dispose of Saddam and his regime.

    Better off how? He was no threat, and I think that has been proved. Tinpot dictators like that through history are a dime a dozen. They seem to be pretty content being the big (billionaire) fish in the little pond. Besides, Reagan called him ally.

    We will win in another aspect when we finalize a democratically base(d) government in the ME.

    Maybe. To bad we can’t count Isreal as a democracy. Of the 9 million that are of age there, only about 5.5 million have the right to vote. You would think that our estimated $108 Billion in taxpayer funded aide to Isreal over the years (the single largest recipent) would have bought something more than a few US politicians looking for campaign contributions.

    We will win again if we can show that we can stick by our allies and show the world we don’t have a glass jaw.

    School yard tough talk. After all this war has accomplished so much.

    list goes on and on

    Well………. we’re waiting, go on. When I used ‘etc.’ on school papers, my instructors would invariably downgrade the work.

    “Sure defeat”, you can thank BushCo for that. But they will get that oil law passed if it kills half the country.

  12. Bill says:

    Wayne,
    These empires did not grow all at once. The Roman Empire lasted a 1,000 years (give or take), the Han dynasty lasted for about 400 years, and required years of conquest and several smaller campaigns. Maybe I should have been more specific, waged a three front campaign SIMULTANEOUSLY, as you are proposing.
    When did the US Military successfully prosecute a three front war?

  13. Wayne says:

    Bill
    Maybe you should define your definition of what constitutes a “front”.

    http://www.athenapub.com/gaulcamp.htm

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gallic_Wars

    The Romans fought Germanic tribes, Celtics,Britons, and others. Of course I’m sure the Romans southern enemies were kept at bay with good intentions.

    The U.S. in WWII was fighting the German,Japanese, Italians and there allies including at time the French. The U.S. was fighting in the Pacific,Atlantic, Mediterranean, Africa, Europe, and South America at the same time. The also had several Armies conducting operations at several places at the same time. Maybe I forgot another definition of front but I’m sure that the U.S. would satisfy that definitionton also.

  14. Wayne says:

    Bill
    Setting silent is considered cheerleading? Please.

    By the way Iraq had been seeking yellowcake. Even Democrat on the Iraq study group confirmed that but I guess you ignore anything that doesn’t fit you ideology. Iraq had chemical weapons at one time and the ability to create more. I suspect but can’t prove that the ones he had stockpile was ship to Syria.

    “So, a $443Billion price tag and growing, and we are better off? An exponential growth in ‘terrorist’ (must use correct language of fear.) groups and activities and we are better off?”

    Yes we are. What sources are you using for the exponential growth? Surely not the any of the faulty Intel agency findings that libs like to distort to their own liking. Not that it would surprise me if there were a temporary increase since that is a nature of war. Germany, Japan and IRA all increase their militant numbers after becoming fully engaged in war.

    I personally think the terrorist abilities have been greatly hamper.

    Do you serious believe we would be better off with Saddam in power?

    “School yard tough talk. After all this war has accomplished so much”
    Yes and it work on the outset of saddam defeat. We were getting some cooperation from even the likes of Syria and Iran after we went in. Only after the Democrats and MSM constant undermining Bush that these countries turn to their old tricks.

    Thank you Bill, Democrats and MSM for unnecessarily getting our boys kill just for political power? Oh! I forgot Bush is the most evil person in the world.

  15. G.A.Phillips says:

    bill, I got two questions for you,

    NO1:how many wars have we lost?

    NO2:and of the wars we have lost, how many of them were undermined by liberals and their media?