Is the Bush administration ramping up for an attack on Iran? The signs seem to point in that direction. On March 11, Navy Adm. William Fallon, commander of the U.S. forces in the Middle East, retired early because of differences with Washington on Iran policy. And now, Dick Cheney’s current Middle East tour may be designed to prepare our Arab allies for an imminent “preemptive” war against Iran.
Bush and Cheney have long been rattling the sabers in Iran’s direction. The disaster they created in Iraq isn’t going well, no matter how they spin it. They may feel that engaging the United States militarily in Iran would make it harder to elect anyone other than the seasoned military man, John McCain. The Republican presidential candidate just happens to be touring Iraq with Sen. Joe Lieberman, one of the strongest advocates of a U.S. military strike on Iran. Lieberman is likely on McCain’s short list for a vice-presidential running mate.
Admiral Fallon took early retirement after making comments that contradicted the Bush administration’s aggressive stance on Iran. Fallon told the Arab television station Al Jazeera last fall that a “constant drumbeat of conflict” from the administration against Iran was “not helpful and not useful.” After Fallon announced his retirement, the New York Times reported a senior administration official as saying Fallon’s comments about U.S. Iran policy “left the perception he had a different foreign policy than the president.” If Fallon wants to talk to Iran rather than attack it, then his policy differs from Bush’s.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, however, has downplayed the significance of Admiral Fallon’s abrupt retirement. Admiral Mullen proclaimed recently, “In my view, this should not be seen as a sign — at all — towards any kind of conflict with Iran.” Perhaps the chairman doth protest too much.
The White House has been spewing pugilistic rhetoric toward Iran. In spite of the unanimous conclusion of the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies that Iran is not developing nukes, Bush immediately declared, “I have said Iran is dangerous, and the NIE estimate doesn’t do anything to change my opinion about the danger Iran poses to the world — quite the contrary.”
News reports this morning announced that Dick Cheney is on a surprise weeklong visit to Iraq, Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Turkey. High on Cheney’s agenda is the topic of U.S. policy toward Iran.
Connect the dots. They paint a very frightening picture.
Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and president of the National Lawyers Guild. She is the author of Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law. Her articles are archived at <http://www.marjoriecohn.com/>.