Vice President Dick Cheney had at one point considered asking Israel to launch limited missile strikes at an Iranian nuclear site to provoke a retaliation, Newsweek magazine reported on Sunday. The news comes amid reports that Israel launched an air strike against Syria this month over a suspected nuclear site.
Citing two unidentified sources, Newsweek said former Cheney Middle East adviser David Wurmser told a small group several months ago that Cheney was considering asking Israel to strike the Iranian nuclear site at Natanz. A military response by Iran could give Washington an excuse to then launch airstrikes of its own, Newsweek said.
Me, April 2006:
In a rational world, Bush's dismal track record (by our standards) would hasten the handing of the car keys to a designated driver. In the strange world that Bush and Karl Rove inhabit, it means that a bigger distraction must be created.
The public groundwork for that new distraction is now being laid. The threat posed by Iran is now being trumpeted; the doctrine of preemptive war is being defended; and the pundits are already discussing the salutary effects another preemptive war.
What would happen if, for whatever reason, Iran sank a couple of American warships? George Bush would find another megaphone and another telegenic pile of bubble to stand on. The Andrew Sullivans and Thomas Friedmans of the world would drag their laptops and their Huggies with then as they dive under their beds, and again write trembling jibberish praising their Savior in Chief. And millions who only recently wandered out of Camp Jingo would scurry back in mortal fear.
The cowed millions would demand action, and action they would get. Bush would round up his nuclear posse and unleash an unprecedented retaliation. Iran would glow for millennia with the radiation of a thousand nuclear warheads in the first all-out nuclear strike in history. Millions of Iranians, or perhaps tens of millions, would die. And Red State America would cheer. Bush's poll numbers would regain their former heights, and talk of censure and Valerie Plame and Katrina would dissolve into the radioactive haze that would blanket the planet.
The civil war in Iraq would probably subside. Or perhaps we would withdraw regardless, having made a superseding, definitive statement of Texas testosterone. Either way, an Administration currently besieged on all sides would again ride high.
My nightmare is that our rulers are now trying to figure out how to achieve this desirable result. Absent provocation like the sinking of a few U.S. ships, Bush will never get away with going nukular against Iran. So how to provoke Iran into taking the gambit? "Incredibly, we are on now upon the second iteration of that genus of questions. We know that Bush talked with Tony Blair about how to goad Saddam into throwing the first punch against us three years ago." It is probably safe to assume that such high-school logic still prevails. So the Administration will look for ways to provoke such an attack again.
One possibility we cannot dismiss out of hand is a "false flag" strategy. There are many viable options: we could attack Israel pretending to be Iran; Israel could attack us pretending to be Iran; we could attack Iran pretending to be Israel. In the superheated environment we have helped to create, it won't take much to ignite an inferno.Another is the possibility that Bush will ask Israel to take credit for starting the fight.