First it was the Washington Post that announced the advent of a new round of “dissent” within the Bush administration. In a previous post, I suggested that this report may have been somewhat overdrawn.
More recently, Helene Cooper at the New York Times discerned “Signs of Split on Iran Policy” within the administration.
The language in Mr. Bush’s [September 13] speech reflected an intense and continuing struggle between factions within his administration over how aggressively to confront Iran. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been arguing for a continuation of a diplomatic approach, while officials in Vice President Dick Cheney’s office have advocated a much tougher view. They seek to isolate and contain Iran, and to include greater consideration of a military strike.
Mr. Bush’s language indicated that the debate, at least for now, might have tilted toward Mr. Cheney….
Allies of Mr. Cheney continue to say publicly that the United States should include a change in Iran’s leadership as a viable policy option, and have argued, privately, that the United States should encourage Israel to consider a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Cooper doesn’t name the “allies of Mr. Cheney” who speak publicly about regime change.
[It matters which one… The “neoconservatives” are split on Iran. Ledeen is primarily interested in regime change; Podhoretz makes the case for military strikes.]
Or is she thinking of Cheney’s house intellectuals, like his chief Middle East adviser David Wurmser?
For a while, it looked like Cheney was preparing to concede defeat in the factional battles with Rice.
First came reports that he signed off on bilateral talks between the US and Iran.
Then came rumors in late July that Wurmser was on his way out. Specifically, Robert Dreyfuss spread the word: “Wurmser will leave the office of the vice president (OVP) in August.”
Deep into September and I have yet to see a report that Wurmser is out.
Steven Clemons predicts Bush won’t attack Iran. But he doesn’t think Wurmser & Co. are necessarily down for the count:
Bush does not plan to escalate toward a direct military conflict with Iran, at least not now — and probably not later. The costs are too high, and there are still many options to be tried before the worst of all options is put back on the table. As it stands today, he wants that “third option,” even if Cheney doesn’t. Bush’s war-prone team failed him on Iraq, and this time he’ll be more reserved, more cautious. That is why a classic buildup to war with Iran, one in which the decision to bomb has already been made, is not something we should be worried about today…
What we should worry about, however, is the continued effort by the neocons to shore up their sagging influence….
We should also worry about the kind of scenario David Wurmser floated, meaning an engineered provocation. An “accidental war” would escalate quickly and “end run,” as Wurmser put it, the president’s diplomatic, intelligence and military decision-making apparatus. It would most likely be triggered by one or both of the two people who would see their political fortunes rise through a new conflict — Cheney and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
That kind of war is much more probable and very much worth worrying about.
I’ll buy that for a dollar.
[Update: Eli Lake at the New York Sun reports that Wurmser has, in fact, left the administration.]