When President Bush this week raised the specter of World War III if Iran manages to build nuclear weapons, he not only roiled the diplomatic world, he also underscored how much Iran has come to shadow the political dialogue both here in Washington and on the presidential campaign trail.
While Iraq has faded from the Beltway debate for now, Iran has emerged as the top foreign policy topic of the moment. Democratic candidates are arguing about Bush’s efforts against Iran, with underdogs accusing front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton of giving the president a blank check. Republican candidates, on the other hand, are vying over who would be toughest on Iran, with each vowing to take military action if necessary.
Bush’s comments at his Wednesday news conference only fueled the discussion and may have also signaled a shift in his personal redline in Tehran’s progress toward a nuclear weapon. With most attention focused on the doomsday scenario he invoked, another part of his answer may be telling. Although in the past he has said it is “unacceptable” for Iran to possess a nuclear bomb, Bush said Wednesday that it is unacceptable for it to even know how to build a bomb.
The talk of military options has led to sometimes feverish speculation that a strike may be imminent, a notion dismissed by administration officials who say that Bush is committed to diplomacy at this point. But with 15 months left in office, Bush may eventually confront the choice of dealing with Iran’s program or passing the problem onto a successor. [complete article]
While military action against Iran is a last resort, the U.S. has the resources to attack if needed despite the strains of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the top U.S. military officer said.
Navy Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Thursday the focus now is on diplomacy to stem Iran’s nuclear ambitions and its support for insurgents in Iraq.
But, he told reporters, “there is more than enough reserve to respond (militarily) if that, in fact, is what the national leadership wanted to do.” [complete article]