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William Pfaff: "Can Bush Forestall Defeat?" (IHT)

This can be read as a coded statement of preparations to attack Iran,
probably with Israel interposed. Israel and its friends have been
pressing for such an attack, or threatening that Israel might make such
an attack itself.

He has proven to be a gambler. To have invaded Iraq on the
mass-destruction alarms and promises of military success, provided by
Washington neoconservative amateurs, and by ignoring the professional
assessments of CIA and State Department bureaucracies, he made an
incredible gamble, which has gone wrong for the predicted reasons.

TO: Distinguished Recipients
FM: John Whitbeck
Transmitted below is Bill Pfaff's analysis of what this week's "New Way
Forward" speech is likely to bring us in the new year.

International Herald Tribune <http://www.iht.com>

*Can Bush forestall defeat?*

*William Pfaff
Tribune Media Services *

Friday, January 12, 2007

PARIS

http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/01/12/news/edpfaff.php

President George W. Bush's speech on expanding the U.S. troop presence
in Iraq was the most sober and reasonable speech that he has given since
taking office.

The inflated rhetoric and unbelievable claims of progress in dealing
with the insurrection were gone, although there was a fleeting reference
to an old threat: Unless the terrorists are routed in Iraq they will
attack Americans in the streets of San Francisco or Des Moines.

Another Karl Rove touch was the suggestion, made during the
administration's advance touting of the speech, that the "long" war will
go on for at least another two years. Of course by then a new
administration will have taken office.

It makes sense to leave the problem of getting out of Iraq to the next
president. And of course, if it is a Democratic administration, the
Republicans could then pillory it for betraying the troops, giving in to
terrorism, and allowing America's defeat.

The most ambiguous and troubling comment of Bush's speech was the
following: "We are also taking other steps to bolster the security of
Iraq and protect American interests in the Middle East. I recently
ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the
region. We will expand intelligence sharing — and deploy Patriot air
defense systems to reassure our friends and allies. We will work with
the governments of Turkey and Iraq to help them resolve problems along
their border. And we will work with others to prevent Iran from gaining
nuclear weapons and dominating the region."

This can be read as a coded statement of preparations to attack Iran,
probably with Israel interposed. Israel and its friends have been
pressing for such an attack, or threatening that Israel might make such
an attack itself.

Since Israel's attack on Lebanon during the summer, which backfired by
demonstrating the effectiveness of Hezbollah guerrilla tactics, the
Israeli public is said to be suffering an "existential" crisis.

Israel's propaganda campaign against Iran, accusing it of developing
nuclear weapons, was originally meant to convince the American public
that the United States should go to war against Iran to eliminate its
power to threaten Israel. This too may have backfired, convincing the
Israeli public itself that Israel is in greater danger than is actually
the case.

John Negroponte, who has just left the post of director of all U.S.
intelligence, has said to the NBC television network that expert opinion
in the U.S. estimates that any Iranian nuclear weapon is years away,
"probably into the next decade." However, in the Israeli public's
present state of mind — as Israelis witness U.S. popular opinion turn
against the Iraq war, and Bush admits major errors in Iraq and announces
a dramatic and controversial change in strategy — "existential" anxiety
is no surprise.

Until now, the huge political downside, and danger to American forces
and interests in the region, of an attack on Iran has made most American
observers believe that even the Bush administration would reject an Iran
attack as unacceptably reckless.

On the other hand, Bush surely understands that the modest troop
escalation and tactical changes he announced on Wednesday have virtually
no chance of providing the "victory" of Iraqi democracy he needs in
order to prevent his presidency from ending as a catastrophic failure
that leaves the Middle East in profound crisis.

He has proven to be a gambler. To have invaded Iraq on the
mass-destruction alarms and promises of military success, provided by
Washington neoconservative amateurs, and by ignoring the professional
assessments of CIA and State Department bureaucracies, he made an
incredible gamble, which has gone wrong for the predicted reasons.

There are many objections to be made to bureaucracies, but one thing
they do is guard an administration against making foolish mistakes.

Bush is gambling again with the "surge" scheme, once again promoted by
military amateurs at the American Enterprise Institute and rejected by
the responsible military commanders in Baghdad, whom Bush, accordingly,
has had to replace.

If this plan doesn't give early signs of working, the president's back
will be against the wall.

Fleet units have been ordered to the Gulf, together with troops not part
of the Iraq reinforcement. An admiral has been named theater commander.
The Israelis are ready to go.

The president seemed uncharacteristically nervous as he gave his speech
on Wednesday. He knows that the game is not over.
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