Speaking at a meeting sponsored by the journal National Interest, edited by Irving Kristol, father of Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol Debate stated:
US military planners were not preparing for “pinprick strikes” against Iran’s nuclear facilities. “They’re about taking out the entire Iranian military,” he said.As in the run-up to the war in Iraq, President Bush is maintaining the fiction that he is "committed for now to the diplomatic route," but many signs indicate that the decision to attack has been taken as irrevocably as the decision to attack Iraq in the fall of 2002.
The legal argument to bypass the U.S. Congress has already been floated. As I noted in my DailyKos post:
The U.S. cannot mount a ground invasion or occupation of Iran, but it might be capable of an air attack and sea embargo. The administration has prepared a legal justification by floating its plan to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization. Since the IRGC is under the command of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, the administration, with its usual legal acuity, could claim legal authority for an attack on Iran under Senate Joint Resolution 23 of September 18, 2001,which authorized the use of military force against "those who plan, authorize, commit, or aid terrorist attacks against the United States and its interests -- including those who harbor terrorists."There has been much speculation about how Iran would respond, mostly in Iraq, Lebanon, or against Israel. I would add that Iran is prepared to respond in Afghanistan as well. For nearly a year Iranian officials dealing with Afghanistan have been been signaling danger. Under the Khatami administration, they told me, Iran's policy was, "If the U.S. attacks Iran, Iran will not react in Afghanistan," because of Iran's overriding interest in keeping the country stable as a bulwark against Taliban and al-Qaida. Under President Ahmadinejad, priorities have changed.
The Iranian government has been preparing for the possible collapse of the much weakened Karzai government. They have been doing so mainly by providing extensive military and political assistance to the former Northern Alliance, the grouping of commanders supported by Iran, Russian, and India that was funded by the U.S. to occupy the territory vacated by Taliban and al-Qaida fleeing U.S. air strikes in the fall of 2001. Iran denies the charges by the U.S. that it is aiding the Taliban, but it may well be doing so despite longstanding enmity because it now gives a higher priority to creating problems for a U.S. that it sees as bent on forcible regime change.
U.S. officials may be deceived by the illusion of stability in northern and western Afghanistan. If those areas are quiet, it is because Northern Alliance leaders, under pressure from both the U.S. and Iran, have placed a premium on keeping the anti-Taliban coalition together and have only intermittently openly opposed the government. A U.S. attack on Iran may change this calculus. While some northern leaders will try to maintain an agenda independent of Iran, which is not popular in Afghanistan, the region could quickly move out of government control, as it did when these same commanders' calculus changed in January 1992.
The U.S. can have a confrontation with Iran or a chance for some success in Afghanistan. It cannot have both.
On Afghanistan, David Rohde of the New York Times continues his excellent analytic series with a report from Southern Afghanistan showing that the Afghan police and administration have been unable to hold much territory retaken from the Taliban by NATO forces. The background to the weakness of the police goes back to the decisions analyzed in Rohde's previous article: the ideological opposition to "nation building," which led Donald Rumsfeld to refuse President Karzai's request for funding the police.
In the L.A. Times, Peter Bergen and Sameer Lalwani report from Uruzgan province, that "U.S. efforts to eradicate Afghanistan's [poppy] crop are empowering the Taliban by sowing seeds of resentment." They echo the conclusions I presented here and in other posts on this blog. They write, "The U.S. government, in short, is deeply committed to an unsuccessful drug policy that helps its enemies."
Finally, where are the Democrats and sensible Republicans? It's time to amend the Authorization for the Use of Military Force to make clear that it does not authorize a pre-emptive war on Iran. Congress should also stop the policy of crop eradication that is driving Afghans into the arms of the Taliban while actually increasing the size of the opium economy. Congress should shift the funding allocated for eradication to alternative development. At the moment, according to Bergen and Lalwani, in the new U.S. Strategy for Counter-Narcotics in Afghanistan:
The increased funds set aside in the new plan to help farmers find alternative livelihoods -- $50 million to $60 million -- are woefully inadequate and constitute a paltry 6% of American counter-narcotics spending in Afghanistan for 2007. Eradication continues to receive the largest share of the budget.It is difficult to see how the effort in Afghanistan can survive the Cheney-Bush administration's policies on Iran and narcotics. All who believe, as all Democratic presidential candidates and many Republicans claim, that the effort in Afghanistan and Pakistan is the core of our strategy against those who attacked us on 9/11, should be doing all they can to halt this course.