Did you know that Bush is still president and therefore Commander in Chief? It's true. And he's got plenty of time to stir up trouble if he wants to.
While Democrats sling mud at one another across the barricades, Bush is harping on the nuclear threat from Iran. The Washington Post reports:
[M]ost striking was Bush's accusation that Iran has openly declared its nuclear weapons intentions, even though a National Intelligence Estimate concluded in December that Iran had stopped its weapons program in 2003, a major reversal in the long-standing U.S. assessment.
"They've declared they want to have a nuclear weapon to destroy people -- some in the Middle East. And that's unacceptable to the United States, and it's unacceptable to the world," Bush told U.S.-funded Radio Farda, which broadcasts into Iran in Farsi.
Experts on Iran and nuclear proliferation said the president's statement was wrong.(WaPo)
They also said that it's unclear whether Bush believes what he's saying or "was deliberately distorting Iran's position." (WaPo)
Somehow neither possibility is very reassuring.
Joseph Cirincione, president of global security foundation Ploughshares Fund, said that Bush's statements about Iran's intentions were "as uninformed as [Sen. John] McCain's statement that Iran is training al-Qaeda. Iran has never said it wanted a nuclear weapon for any reason. It's just not true. It's a little troubling that the president and the leading Republican candidate are both so wrong about Iran."(WaPo; emphasis added)
Yes, it is a little troubling, isn't it? After all, it's one thing to elect a hawk for president. It's another if you can't assume that the hawk in question is competent. An ignorant hawk who can't be bothered to learn the facts or one that deliberately misrepresents them would be as dangerous as...well, Bush.
Suzanne Maloney, an Iran expert formerly employed by the State Department who is now at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center said: ""The Iranian government is on the record across the board as saying it does not want a nuclear weapon. There's plenty of room for skepticism about these assertions. But it's troubling for the administration to indicate that Iran is explicitly embracing the program as a means of destroying another country,""(WaPo)
Of course, W is rarely troubled by these fine distinctions; semantics is not a Bush specialty. ""National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said Bush was referring to previous Iranian statements about wiping Israel off the map. "The president shorthanded his answer with regard to Iran's previously secret nuclear weapons program and their current enrichment and ballistic missile testing," Johndroe said.""(WaPo) Ah, so that's what it was: short-hand.
Anyway, while we Dems are eating our own, here's what Bush seems to be set on antagonizing Iran:
Signaling further pressure on Tehran, the administration also issued a warning on Thursday to U.S. financial institutions about the dangers of doing business with Iranian banks because of inadequate checks on money laundering and the growing risks to the international financial system posed by Iran's financial sector. "The government of Iran disguises its involvement in proliferation and terrorism activities through an array of deceptive practices," the Treasury Department said. (WaPo).
Experts are concerned that all this rhetoric and pressure might actually interfere with diplomatic relations. You think?
[A]nalysts warned that Bush's statement on Iran's nuclear intentions could escalate tensions when U.S. strategy for the first time in three decades is to persuade Iran to join international talks in exchange for suspending its uranium enrichment, a process used for peaceful nuclear energy that can be converted for use in a weapons program. "The bellicose rhetoric from one side only produces the same from the other," Maloney said.. (WaPo).
On a more positive note, he was individually respectful in his comments to the Iranian people. ""Please don't be discouraged by the slogans that say America doesn't like you, because we do, and we respect you."(WaPo). Here's hoping they find comfort in this.