Greg Sheridan, the foreign editor of the Australian, writes:
"There is, I would guess, somewhere between a 30 and 40 per cent chance that the
Bush administration will bomb Iran's nuclear facilities before the end of the year.
"This is, naturally, a personal judgment. It is based on two weeks of
intense conversations I have had with American national security figures. . . .
"People who know Vice-President Dick Cheney well believe he wants to strike
Iran, that he has made a sober judgment that time is running out. . . .
"Defence Secretary Robert Gates is strongly opposed. Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice is also opposed.
"Some analysts believe that in the first
Bush administration Cheney won all such arguments, whereas in the second
administration Rice is dominant. They take this to mean Bush won't strike.
"I don't think it's that simple. It is true that Bush has ceded an enormous
amount of national security power to Rice. However, the Bush administration is
better seen as having two personalities, the psychology of which rose out of
Bush's peculiar historical circumstances.
"Bush understands that he is unpopular across the world and, as a result to some extent, so is the US. Therefore, on every issue where it's possible, from Africa to North Korea, he presents a kindly, moderate, multilateral face. And that face is Rice.
"However, Bush also knows that history will judge him on the outcome in
Iraq. So he does absolutely everything he can to win in Iraq. And this means
mostly following Cheney's advice. Remember that for all of Rice's undoubted
sway, she opposed the troop surge in Iraq, as did Gates. The surge went ahead
anyway, and was successful.
"So at this moment, in the second half of 2008, does the Rice side of Bush or the Cheney side win the argument on Iran?
"I think anyone who pronounces dogmatically on that question doesn't know what
they're talking about. For a start, if the Iranians are caught doing something
stupid, the calculations change dramatically."
Since I don't know what I am talking about, I am the perfect person to make a dogmatic pronunciation. When push comes to shove, I'd put my money on Cheney over Rice. Cheney has the greater motivation; he wants unfettered access to Middle Eastern oil. He is a completely focused and driven man, who is running a large organization he built to fulfill his goals. His time is running out, both as vice-president and as a man with enormous health problems.
Rice seems to be devoted just to her job as Bush's Secretary of State. She doesn't seem to have any grand ambitions beyond the job. And as far as I know she has a lot less power than Cheney. When the two clash, Cheney wins. Korea might be an exception, but Korea isn't sitting on a pool of oil.
Who is in charge? What is his goal? Does he have the resources and will to take what he wants? Can anyone block him? Those are the questions that might give us the answer.
Unless something unexpected happens, we're going to bomb Iran.