Excellent piece by Craig Unger at Vanity Fair, outlining the path to war in Iran. "The Bush White House has already built the fire," says Unger, "whether it will light the match remains to be seen."
The only American whose opinion mattered, however, was not impressed. Bush, Salon reported, slammed the I.S.G. study as "a flaming turd." If Rice even delivered Scowcroft's message, it had fallen on deaf ears.Read the rest here.
Just eight days later, on December 14, Bush found a study that was more to his liking. Not surprisingly, it came from the American Enterprise Institute, the intellectual stronghold of neoconservatism. The author, Frederick Kagan, a resident scholar at the A.E.I., is the son of Donald Kagan and the brother of Robert Kagan, who signed PNAC's famous 1998 letter to President Bill Clinton urging him to overthrow Saddam Hussein. According to Kagan, the project began in late September or early October at the instigation of his boss, Danielle Pletka, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at A.E.I. She decided "it would be helpful to do a realistic evaluation of what would be required to secure Baghdad," Kagan told Vanity Fair.
The project culminated in a four-day planning exercise in early December, Kagan said, that just happened to coincide with the release of the Iraq Study Group report. But he rejected the notion that his study had been initiated by the White House as an alternative to the bipartisan assessment. "I'm aware of some of the rumors," Kagan said. "This was not designed to be an anti-I.S.G. report.… Any conspiracy theories beyond that are nonsense."
In one sense, the neoconservative hawks—including the authors of "A Clean Break"—have been kept aloft by their failures. The strategic fiasco created by the Iraq war has actually increased the danger posed by Iran to Israel—and with it the likelihood of armed conflict. "[Bush's wars] have put Israel in the worst strategic and operational situation she's been in since 1948," says retired colonel Larry Wilkerson, who was Colin Powell's chief of staff in the State Department. "If you take down Iraq, you eliminate Iran's No. 1 enemy. And, oh, by the way, if you eliminate the Taliban, they might reasonably be assumed to be Iran's No. 2 enemy."
"Nobody thought going into this war that these guys would screw it up so badly, that Iraq would be taken out of the balance of power, that it would implode, and that Iran would become dominant," says Martin Indyk.