Iraq is not over yet but with the Jan 30 election approaching, the administration can bolt with a straight face. But, where to go? I mean, we have half-a million soldiers waiting to kick some ass, general.
Let us revisit Jan 29, 2002's SOTU address:
Our second goal is to prevent regimes that sponsor terror from threatening America or our friends and allies with weapons of mass destruction. â€šÃ„â€ Some of these regimes have been pretty quiet since September the 11th. â€šÃ„â€ But we know their true nature. â€šÃ„â€ North Korea
is a regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while starving its citizens. Iran
aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror, while an unelected few repress the Iranian people's hope for freedom.
continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror. â€šÃ„â€ The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade. â€šÃ„â€ This is a regime that has already used poison gas to murder thousands of its own citizens -- leaving the bodies of mothers huddled over their dead children. â€šÃ„â€ This is a regime that agreed to international inspections -- then kicked out the inspectors. This is a regime that has something to hide from the civilized world.
States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil
, arming to threaten the peace of the world. â€šÃ„â€ By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. â€šÃ„â€ They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred. â€šÃ„â€ They could attack our allies or attempt to blackmail the United States. â€šÃ„â€ In any of these cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic. [emphasis mine]
In May 2002, John Bolton, the UnderSecretary of State, added Cuba, Libya and Syria to the Axis. Libya knocked itself off the list by proving, once and for all, its irrelevance. Cuba, with the election over, is worthless for the next 3 years.
I projected that Iran will be next in the crosshairs. If you remember a few months ago (in Aug/Sep), there was some talk of al-Qaeda regrouping in Iran and that Iranians were sending massive aid to insurgents in Baghdad and were even hosting al-Qaeda [forget the whole rabid anti-Shi'ism professed by UBL]. Ironically, Iran was also recently accused by King Abdullah of sending in a million voters to subvert the Iraqi elections [doesn't that prove that democracy has a foothold in Iran!]. Mansoor Ijaz, my favorite Terrorism Expert at Fox News, has been yelling "Osama is in Iran" for a long while. See this from Nov 2003 or this from Jan 2004.
Add the Chalabi factor - the Mujahedin Khalq (MEK). As Reza Aslan wrote in LAT a few days back:
Ever since the invasion of Iraq, the MEK (and its Paris-based political front, the National Council of Resistance in Iran) has tried to establish itself as the Iranian equivalent of Ahmad Chalabi's "government in exile," the Iraqi National Congress âˆš“ and not without success. Like the INC before the war, the MEK has advocates in the highest levels of government. And like the INC, the MEK has been inundating the U.S. intelligence community with uncorroborated and, according to some intelligence officials, highly suspect information meant to encourage the White House to carry out the same policy of regime change in Iran that it did in Iraq. But the United States will probably discover that the MEK âˆš“ just like the INC âˆš“ can't be trusted.
All this led me to conclude that Iran would indeed be the next target and I have been teaching Persian cuss words to my draftable friends in prepration. But, a surprise development just threw off my prognostication powers.
US and Iraq have started mentioning Syria and the Ba'athists lately. Today Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol finally revealed Operation Next:
By Bush Doctrine standards, Syria is a hostile regime. It is permitting and encouraging activities that are killing not just our Iraqi friends but also, and quite directly, American troops. So we have a real Syria problem.
Of course we also have--the world also has--an Iran problem, and a Saudi problem, and lots of other problems. The Iran and Saudi problems may ultimately be more serious than the Syria problem. But the Syria problem is urgent: It is Bashar Assad's regime that seems to be doing more than any other, right now, to help Baathists and terrorists kill Americans in the central front of the war on terror. [...]We could bomb Syrian military facilities; we could go across the border in force to stop infiltration; we could occupy the town of Abu Kamal in eastern Syria, a few miles from the border, which seems to be the planning and organizing center for Syrian activities in Iraq
Here comes 2005.