However, if Bush does not attack Iran, he will go down in history as the president who not only lost the Iraq war, but turned Iran -- a foe of America and Israel -- into a regional superpower. If Bush is to have any hope of saving his reputation -- that is, if Bush is to go down in history as something other than the worst president in US history-- perhaps he has little choice but to take a huge gamble and invade Iran. Such an attack will most likely prove disastrous not only for US interests but for the world economy. Attacking Iran amounts to a big gamble. It's not sensible for a nation as powerful and secure as the US to make such a reckless gamble, but if you were as weak and insecure as President Bush now feels himself to be, you might be tempted.
The US is lost in a new Middle East of its own creation; it's a situation the present US administration does not have a snowflake's chance in hell of understanding, and coping with effectively. This becomes quite clear if you read an important article by Seymour Hersh published in this week's New Yorker Magazine. Hersh investigates the Bush administration's policy towards Iran and describes the emergence of a kind of Cold War in which the two factions of Islam -- Sunni and Shiite -- confront one another. (Although 90% of Muslims are Sunni, many oil-rich regions of the Middle East are in control of Shiites, most notably Iran and most of Iraq. Predominantly Shiite countries include Iran, Bahrain, and the Hezbollah faction within Lebanon. Although Syria is not Shiite, Syria's leaders are allied with Shiite Iran. Other countries of the Middle East -- Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, etc -- are mostly populated by Sunni.)
Hersh's article makes it appear that the US has sided with Saudi Arabia and the Sunni states against the Shiite states. This gets confusing because essentially, this means the US is fighting on the same side as Al Quaeda (which is pro-Sunni). The exception is Iraq, where the US supports its Shiite government and where most of the attacks against American forces have been conducted by Sunnis.
Here are some interesting quotations taken from Seymour Hersh's article -- from his interviews with various officials in the Middle East:
Hersh raises the alarming possibility that the US is secretly funding covert operations intended to destabilize Syria and Iran. There are echoes of Iran-Contra scandal and also the "secret war" in Laos and Cambodia during the Vietnam era. But this time it could be worse.
- Saudi official: “Today, the only army capable of containing Iran”—the Iraqi Army—“has been destroyed by the United States. You’re now dealing with an Iran that could be nuclear-capable and has a standing army of four hundred and fifty thousand soldiers.” (Saudi Arabia has seventy-five thousand troops in its standing army.)
- Saudi official: “We have two nightmares,” the former diplomat told me. “For Iran to acquire the bomb and for the United States to attack Iran. I’d rather the Israelis bomb the Iranians, so we can blame them. If America does it, we will be blamed.”
- Martin Indyk, of the Saban Center, said, however, that the United States “does not have enough pull to stop the moderates in Lebanon from dealing with the extremists.” He added, “The President sees the region as divided between moderates and extremists, but our regional friends see it as divided between Sunnis and Shia. The Sunnis that we view as extremists are regarded by our Sunni allies simply as Sunnis.”
- Partition would leave Israel surrounded by “small tranquil states,” he said. “I can assure you that the Saudi kingdom will also be divided, and the issue will reach to North African states. There will be small ethnic and confessional states,” he said. “In other words, Israel will be the most important and the strongest state in a region that has been partitioned into ethnic and confessional states that are in agreement with each other. This is the new Middle East.”
The implication is that secret -- undoubtedly illegal -- covert operations are being run out of Vice President Dick Cheney's office. “There are many, many pots of black money, scattered in many places and used all over the world on a variety of missions,” Hersh quotes a four-star US general as saying. It's scary to contemplate so much power in the hands of Dick Cheney. Cheney is one very arrogant bully and actual events have proven him wrong about most every policy he has advocated in recent years. Cheney's dismal track record and the unchecked powers of his office make Cheney just about the most dangerous man on the planet.