On Iran, Bush ratcheted up his so-far rhetorical battle with that country's government. Bush said the Iranian government has a choice: It "can live in peace with its neighbor, enjoy strong economic and cultural and religious ties, or it can continue to arm and train and fund illegal militant groups which are terrorizing the Iraqi people and turning them against Iran
"If Iran makes the right choice, America will encourage a peaceful relationship between Iran and Iraq. If Iran makes the wrong choice, America will act to protect our interests and our troops and our Iraqi partners."
Very tough and clear speech. If Iran continues to meddle in Iraq, watch out! Slight problem: there doesn't appear to be any evidence that Iran is doing any such thing.
It's blame-blame-blame, blame-blame Iran. We've heard this song before. The Bush administration warbles it every time it needs to justify its failed Iraq policies and rally a skeptical public.
One of the main charges against Iran is:
The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, who will also testify, accused Iran of providing some of the rockets that have struck the Green Zone in Baghdad, causing a number of U.S. casualties. "We got the tailfins of what was dropping on us ... This was quite literally made in Iran," Crocker told reporters.
But Juan Cole points out that religious pilgrims travel from Iran to Iraq and back again in very large numbers, perhaps a million a year. Weapons may indeed be traveling across the border, but it's not like the weapons would necessarily come to Iraq via a deliberate Iranian policy:
Cole also questioned U.S. claims that Iran was intentionally supplying weapons to the Mahdi Army. "There's no proof for that, and whenever the U.S. Army is pressed for evidence, they always back off." The weapons are available on the black market, and the Mahdi Army, flush with funds, can easily buy them.
Back during the Vietnam War, whenever an advanced weapon appeared in the hands of Vietnamese who were fighting the Americans, it was so plainly imported from either the Chinese or the Russians that no attempt was made to hide where any of the weapons came from. That's not the case in the Middle East. With approximately 100 million AK-47s produced worldwide (They sell for $30 to $125) and with no gun control in Iraq, an AK-47 is part of pretty much every family's arsenal. IEDs and RPGs are also pretty generic and similarly hard to trace.
Vice-President Cheney had a talk with Sean Hannity wherein he warned darkly about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad having all sorts of crazy beliefs. Beliefs about Iran's need to destroy Israel (Juan Cole has argued that Cheney is quoting from a mistranslation) and that Ahmadinejad believes in "The 12th Imam," a rather mystical notion similar to the Christian Biblical "End Times." Mid-east scholar Bernard Lewis has already predicted an Iranian attempt to bring about an Islamic version of the "End Times," but nothing happened on the predicted day of Aug 8th, 2006.
In a rather alarming statement from Bill Kristol (Whose magazine, The Weekly Standard, pressed for war with Iraq from that famous September 11th until the invasion began), he said: "I think people are overdoing how much of a lame duck the president is." Shades of the 1989 "Wimp factor" that the elder George Bush exorcised by invading Panama!
And finally, the very latest news is that " said the U.S. will be as aggressive as possible to counter the increase in Iranian support for militias." As the Iranian support for the militias appears to be more a matter of covering all their bets as opposed to trying to push Iraq in one direction or another, it's not really clear what countering Iranian support actually means. Gates was then quite vague about whether Iran was supplying more weapons to Iraq or not, echoing Bush's "gut instinct" of the period before the Iraq War. Gates went on to claim: "I think the Iraqi government now has a clearer view of the malign impact of Iran's activities inside Iraq."
I'd say if there was an Iran War equivalent of the nuclear "Doomsday Clock," I think we can move it a bit closer to midnight.