Wednesday, May 28, 2008

To bomb Iran or not to bomb Iran? And is there a conspiracy afoot?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

For what it's worth, Asia Times Online is reporting is reporting that Bush "plans to launch an air strike against Iran within the next two months," this according to "an informed source" later described as "a retired US career diplomat and former assistant secretary of state still active in the foreign affairs community, speaking anonymously."

My friend Cernig thinks the source is Richard Armitage, which was my first thought. Who else could it be? Not Robert Zoellick, who is currently head of the World Bank. And not Lawrence Eagleburger, because he was actually secretary of state at the very end of Bush I's presidency -- although he is more of a "career diplomat" than Armitage is. Not Strobe Talbott, a former journalist who is now head of the Brookings Institution (and a Clinton friend). And not Clifton Wharton, who is an economist. (The latter two were in office during the Clinton presidency.)

Actually, though, there is no such thing as as "assistant secretary of state." Below the secretary of state is, most immediately, the deputy secretary of state and, reporting to the deputy, various under-secretaries. Evidently, ATO got it wrong.

But did it get the story wrong? Maybe not, but why did the source go to ATO and not, say, to an American publication? And what was the point of the leak?

**********

Unless it was Talbott, Clinton friend, who is, on Hillary's behalf, trying to drum up attention to a possible war with Iran in order to shift the media narrative away from Obama's presumptive nomination and, with superdelegates and electability in mind, back towards an ominous issue that might favour Hillary?

(And it would go like this: If war with Iran is imminent, suddenly war with Iran becomes the #1 issue in the general election -- surpassing both Iraq and the economy. McCain, it is supposed (by the media, but also by Hillary), has the necessary foreign policy and national security credentials. Obama, it is supposed (by Hillary, and less so by the media), is weak on foreign policy and national security -- Remember Hillary's infamous 3 am phone-call ad? Remember Hillary saying McCain is more qualified to be president than Obama? If war with Iran is both imminent and the #1 issue in the general election, the superdelegates would have to rethink things. A lot. Suddenly Hillary would look a lot more appealing. Perhaps Obama's poll numbers would go down. Perhaps doubt would creep all around the Democratic Party. Perhaps the media would start talking up Hillary's candidacy again. After all, if Obama couldn't match McCain on Iran -- he would no doubt be in favour of war and would have the alleged gravitas to back it up -- but Hillary could, wouldn't Hillary be the more desirable nominee? Wouldn't going with Hillary be the only way to stop the Republicans from keeping the White House? Well, so it is supposed, according to this Hillary-friendly scenario. As an Obama supporter, I don't agree with it, but I can see how others would. And I can see how Hillary would do such a thing to get elected.)

Or is that just way too conspiratorial?

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