I posted the first blog on Wednesday, August 29. On the morning of Thursday, August 30, someone who is a professional in handling information called me to recount a conversation from the previous Thursday or Friday (August 23 or 24). In this conversation, someone whose proximity to knowledge of such things is so great that I cannot identify him in any other way, told my interlocutor that President Bush would be inclined to accept suggestions for withdrawing some troops from Iraq and moving as many as possible into more secure bases, as a safeguard against reprisals in the event of a U.S. attack on Iran.
In today's reports from Iraq (see for example the New York Times and the Washington Post) President Bush is quoted as saying, "If the kind of success we are now seeing here continues it will be possible to maintain the same level of security with fewer American forces." The president made a point of visiting and lauding the progress in predominantly Sunni Anbar province, where the U.S. would be more secure from reprisals by Shi'a militias sympathetic to Iran. Anyone who follows political thinking in the Middle East will realize that throughout the region this will be interpreted as confirming a shift in U.S. strategy toward allying with Sunnis to encircle Iran. The British withdrawal from Basra is also said have been accelerated to avoid reprisals on their highly exposed position there.
Meanwhile, the war rollout started on Labor Day with a Newsweek article by Reuel Marc Gerecht of the American Enterprise Institute stating that "War may come, but not because negotiations break down. The likely trigger is an Iranian provocation." He concludes:
Washington can try to exercise soft power—through sanctions, resolutions, diplomatic isolation and rougher rhetoric. But the Islamic Republic, especially its radical president and praetorian guard, are accomplished practitioners of hard power. They are unlikely to be overwhelmed by moderate tactics. Instead, they seem set to continue killing Americans in Iraq, waiting to see if and when the United States gives up and run for the exits.Of course the government of Iraq, dominated by Shi'a groups with close ties to Iran, would oppose an attack on Iran. But it turns out that the central government in Baghdad is now irrelevant to success in Iraq! According to David Brooks in the New York Times, "the key Iraqi figures are not in the center but in the provinces and the tribes. Peace will come to the center last, not to the center first. Stability will come not through some grand reconciliation but through the agglomeration of order, tribe by tribe and street by street." The Wall Street Journal reports (from the news side) that:
The new policy is a profound shift away from the Bush administration's original goal of building a multisectarian democracy in the heart of the Middle East. Instead, the new strategy seems likely to lead to an Iraq with a very weak central government and largely self-governing and homogenous regions. Over the long term the goal is to connect these local leaders to the central government by making them dependent on Baghdad for funds. To qualify for U.S. assistance, local groups must pledge loyalty to the central government, though many Sunni leaders who are working with the U.S. complain the Shiite dominated government is illegitimate.So when the central government in Baghdad opposes a U.S. attack on Iran, the administration can still announce success, because of support in Anbar, at the grassroots, where it really counts. If this war happens, we can count on journalists and "experts" traveling to Ramadi on Pentagon-escorted tours to report on Iraqi popular support for the attack on Iran and widespread opposition to the position taken by the "illegitimate," pro-Iranian government in Baghdad.
Let's see if we start hearing of very grave Iranian provocations.
Final note: from a Cheney-Addington legal point of view, it does not matter if the entire Sepah-e Pasdaran (Revolutionarly Guards) or only the Qods Force is declared a terrorist organization. The Authorization for the Use of Military Force of September 18, 2001 authorized the use of military force by the President not only against terrorist organizations but against anyone harboring them. So if the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei refuses to hand over the commander of the Qods Force to U.S. custody, there will be a legal casus belli.