At a not-for-quotation pre-speech briefing on Jan. 10, George W. Bush and his top national security aides unnerved network anchors and other senior news executives with suggestions that a major confrontation with Iran is looming
By Robert Perry
"Commenting about the briefing on MSNBC after Bush’s nationwide address, NBC’s Washington bureau chief Tim Russert said “there’s a strong sense in the upper echelons of the White House that Iran is going to surface relatively quickly as a major issue – in the country and the world – in a very acute way.”
Russert and NBC anchor Brian Williams depicted this White House emphasis on Iran as the biggest surprise from the briefing as Bush stepped into the meeting to speak passionately about why he is determined to prevail in the Middle East.....
Reasons for Alarm
In his prime-time speech, Bush injected other reasons to anticipate a wider war. He used language that suggested U.S. or allied forces might launch attacks inside Iran and Syria to “disrupt the attacks on our forces” in Iraq.
“We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria,” Bush said. “And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.”
Bush announced other steps that could be interpreted as building a military infrastructure for a regional war or at least for air strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities.
“I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region,” Bush said. “We will expand intelligence sharing and deploy Patriot air defense systems to reassure our friends and allies.”.....
Militarily, a second aircraft carrier strike force would do little to interdict arms smuggling across the Iran-Iraq border. Similarly, Patriot anti-missile batteries would be of no use in defeating lightly armed insurgent forces and militias inside Iraq.
However, both deployments would be useful to deter – or defend against – retaliatory missile strikes from Iran if the Israelis or the United States bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities or stage military raids inside Iranian territory.
Iran has a relatively sophisticated arsenal of short- and medium-range missiles. Those short-range missiles could be fired at U.S. bases in Iraq or elsewhere in the Persian Gulf. The medium-range missiles could conceivably hit Tel Aviv.
Not only could Patriot missiles be used to knock down Iranian missiles while they’re heading toward their targets, but the fearsome firepower of two aircraft carrier strike forces could deter any Iranian retaliatory strike following a U.S. or Israeli attack.
In other words, the deployments would fit with Israel or the United States bombing Iran’s nuclear sites and then trying to tamp down any Iranian response.
Another danger to American interests, however, would be pro-Iranian Shiite militias in Iraq seeking revenge against U.S. troops. If that were to happen, Bush’s escalation of troop levels in Iraq would make sense as a way to protect the Green Zone and other sensitive targets.
So, Bush’s actions and rhetoric over the past several weeks continue to mesh with a scenario for a wider regional war – a possibility that now mainstream journalists, such as Tim Russert, are beginning to take seriously....."