The leitmotif of Bush’s high-profile tour of the Middle East is unmistakably Iran. But Washington’s Iran policy lies in tatters and it has no choice but to ratchet up anti-Iran rhetoric, though it realizes there are no takers in the Middle East for such rhetoric of fire and brimstone. The danger now is that Tehran may choose to hunker down and prefer to deal with the next US administration.
Tehran once heeded back-channel pleas from Ronald Reagan’s campaign managers not to negotiate the hostage crisis with the Carter administration in its final months in the White House so that Reagan could claim the credit for the denouement. Bush is certainly better placed than Carter insofar as presidential hopefuls such as Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee would never do such a Reaganite thing on him.
Actually, the danger to the Bush legacy comes from faraway places. Continued delay in constructively engaging Iran will only open the gateway wider for the international community to encroach into a region that until four years ago used to be the exclusive strategic preserve of the US. China is already wading deep into the region, and Russia too. The S-300 missiles from Russia are a sign that US dominance of the Middle East is in serious jeopardy. [complete article]
See also, Bush calls Iran ‘threat to world peace’ (CNN).
President Bush began an eight-day Middle East peace mission Wednesday as Israeli leaders warned him and the world not to forget about the regional threat that Iran poses.
Standing on the airport tarmac with Bush looking on shortly after his arrival, Israeli President Shimon Peres relegated peace talks with the Palestinians to secondary status and issued a warning to Iran.
“We take your advice not to underestimate the Iranian threat,” Peres said.
“Iran should not underestimate our resolve for self-defense.” [complete article]
Shortly before Christmas, over dinner in his palace, one of the ruling sheiks of the United Arab Emirates told this reporter he had not been at all surprised by the release of the National Intelligence Estimate that said Iran had suspended its nuclear weapons program back in 2003.
“We were warned by Rafsanjani to expect a very big, very surprising announcement out of Washington,” the sheik said. “He knew it was coming.”
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, former president of Iran and chairman of the country’s Assembly of Experts, also chairs the special council that mediates between the ayatollahs and the Parliament whenever there is a dispute. Derisively nicknamed “Akbar Shah” by his enemies, he is also the head of what is widely reckoned to be Iran’s richest family. Born into a prosperous family of pistachio farmers, he is the link between the ayatollahs, politics and the business community.
Seen as something of a moderate by Iranian standards, Rafsanjani is believed in the Gulf states to have long maintained his own back channels to Washington — hence his supposed advance knowledge of the NIE. [complete article]
Editor’s Comment — As an indication of the importance of President Bush’s trip to the Middle East, his press secretary, Dana Perino, is blogging the trip — though being too diffident to use the actual term “blog”, the White House is modestly calling her record, Trip Notes. Since she’s only two days into this bold new communications venture, I should perhaps refrain from passing judgment, but I was hoping to be able to find at least one — just one — memorable line. The best I could find was this: “As we descended into Tel Aviv, many of us looked out the window to see a country that some of us have only seen in pictures.” Perino was one of the many, but was she also one of the some? I guess divulging whether she’s been to Israel before or how many of her trip mates are on a return trip would be way too personal.
In light of the focus of the current trip, Perino might want embellish her “notes” a bit and see if she can make them at least as interesting as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s blog. Here’s a recent entry of his:
To read or to write, that is the question! 2007/11/18
In the Name of Almighty God-the All-Knowing, the Most Lovingly Compassionate
Since my last post on the blog, a few months have passed. But this doesn’t mean that I have not been keeping my promise of spending fifteen minutes per week on it. As a matter of fact, I have spent more than the allocated time on the blog. The magnitude of the reception and acclamation from the viewers was beyond expectations. So I had to decide how to spend the limited time that I have allocated for the blog; should I write new notes or respect those viewers who kindly and generously have shared their thoughts and opinions with me and sent messages and read their numerous received messages.
As you know, the purpose of running this blog is to have a direct and mutual contact and communication with the viewers and even though I have received many messages from the viewers to update the blog and write new notes, I preferred to write less and spend more time on reading the viewers’ messages – and not let this communication tool become just a one-way medium.
I personally have read those messages that are considered to be short. I even have read those messages that have started with a sentence like “I know that the president is not going to read this message, but….”
Also some of my trusted students have shortened the long messages for me and have prepared a statistical report regarding all of the messages which I have read and studied those too. God willing, a portion of the overall analysis of the messages and its interesting results will be posted on the blog in the future.
I am apologetic to those who have been waiting for my new posts, but fortunately overall, the analysis of the messages has got to a point that I can start writing here again.
I would like to use this opportunity and ask those of you who intend to send me messages through blog, to make it as brief as you can. Thank you.
Written by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at 23:24
Now if the White House really wants to push the envelope and follow Ahmadinejad’s lead, the Trip Notes from the Middle East should include at least one entry from the president and also be open to comments. On Ahmadinejad’s blog, comments are not as strictly moderated as one might expect, such as the comment from one “John Jacobs” from the United States: “I hate you. you are retarted. that simple mentally retarted.” The remarks of an irate pastry chef?