Analysis by Jim Lobe
"......That conflict is likely to become much more intense -- and violent -- with the approach of regional elections in October, according to Iraq specialists here, making it even less likely that Washington will withdraw more troops before Bush leaves office.
"It's abundantly clear that President Bush is simply trying to 'run out the clock' and hand off the mess to the next president," observed Sen. Edward Kennedy.
As grim -- and as widely accepted -- as that conclusion appeared to be by the end of the week, some observers noted that the administration's focus on Iran and its "nefarious" role in Iraq raised anew the spectre of a much larger "mess" that Bush might yet leave to his successor.
Speculation that Bush might yet attack Iran before the end of his term, which had been mostly silenced after the publication last December of the intelligence community's assessment that Iran had suspended a key part of a nuclear-weapons programme in 2003, was raised anew this week by the Petraeus/Crocker testimony and Bush's equation of the threats posed by al Qaeda and Iran.
In addition, Vice President Dick Cheney, the leader of the administration's Iran hawks, came out of his usual seclusion this week to describe President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in an interview this week as "a very dangerous man... who believes... that the highest honour that can befall a man is that he should die a martyr in facilitating the return of the 12th imam."
Ahmadinejad has repeatedly threatened to "destroy Israel", he noted, adding that the deterrence strategy used by Washington against Moscow would not work with Tehran. "Mutual assured destruction with Ahmadinejad is an incentive," he said. "You have to be concerned about that." "