John Bolton, who was US ambassador to the United Nations until a few months ago, told a fringe meeting at Tory Party conference on 30 September: “I think we have to consider the use of military force [against Iran]. I think we have to look at a limited strike against their nuclear facilities.”
According to the Guardian, Bolton added that: “If we were to strike Iran it should be accompanied by an effort at regime change... The US once had the capability to engineer the clandestine overthrow of governments. I wish we could get it back.”
Bolton had been renominated by George W Bush for another term as US ambassador to the UN from December 2006, and withdrew only because he feared a rough ride at confirmation hearings from a Democratic-controlled Congress. There is every reason to suppose his views are shared inside Bush’s inner circles.
Seymour Hersh reported in the New Yorker back in April 2006 that: “A government consultant with close ties to the... Pentagon said that Bush was ‘absolutely convinced that... saving Iran is going to be his legacy.’ [A] defence official... told me that the military planning was premised on a belief that ‘a sustained bombing campaign in Iran will humiliate the religious leadership and lead the public to rise up and overthrow the government’.”
And now, as for example Peter Galbraith reports in the Sunday Times (7 October), “The US and international press are full of speculation that Dick Cheney, the vice-president, wants Bush to attack Iran before his term ends”.
If it were possible to imagine some “surgical” operation that would stop Iran’s hideous regime acquiring nuclear weapons, and take out the foul Ahmedinejad, it would be good. The fact that Bush is threatening Iran doesn’t mean that the Iranian regime itself is not a threat.
But then it would have been good if some “surgical” operation could have taken out Saddam Hussein without harming Iraq. Remember the headlines from late 2002? Like “Revealed: Iraq’s quest to build nuclear bomb” (Observer, 22 September 2002)? And see where Iraq is now...
A US attack on Iran, let alone an attempt to topple the regime by “sustained” outside military force, would not only mean destruction in Iran but also probable conflagration in Iraq, where (oddly, considering the rhetoric on both sides) whatever modicum of stability there is depends on cooperation between Iran-linked Shia Islamists and the USA.
Bush’s reported plans seem crazy. The Times reported back in February that “some of America’s most senior military commanders are prepared to resign if the White House orders a military strike against Iran”. Yet Bush’s invasion of Iraq looked crazy before 2001, and unlikely even for much of 2002.
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