Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Will Naval Incident Undermine Bush's Iran Message?

by Dr. Triti Parsi
Atlantic Free Press

"It is by now almost routine. With recurring frequency, U.S. leaders tour the Middle East depicting Iran as the region's greatest threat.

As such, President George W. Bush's visit to the Middle East this week has historic precedent. But while the message often fell on receptive ears in the past, regional players today have misgivings about Washington's ability and perhaps more importantly its competence in handling Iran's rise.

So while President Bush beats an old drum during his Mideast tour, repeating the claim that Tehran is pursuing nuclear weapons at a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Wednesday, regional actors are hearing a different tune. Regardless of Bush's message, the writing many see on the wall reads that Washington's Iran strategy is bound to fail........

Against this backdrop, the idea of an U.S.- Arab-Israeli alliance being formed to counter Iran's rise a key impetus for President Bush's Mideast tour seems more farfetched than ever. In this context, the incident between five Iranian vessels and three U.S. Naval ships in the Strait of Hormuz this past Sunday may not, as the Bush administration may have hoped, clarify the threat Iran poses to the region.

Rather, the read of regional players may be that the most dangerous source of tension is the current state of no-war no-peace between the U.S. and Iran, which has created an atmosphere in which incidents at sea whether intentional or accidental can escalate into full-fledged wars with unpredictable regional repercussions. As a result, instead of making the Arabs more receptive to President Bush's message, the naval episode may prompt them to further lose faith in the policy of isolation."

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