(New America Foundation Senior Fellow and Geopolitics of Energy Initiative Director Flynt Leverett: photo credit: NewsHour with Jim Lehrer)
I asked former CIA and Bush administration National Security Council senior official Flynt Leverett for a quick summary of his thoughts on President Bush's Address to the Nation.
Here is Flynt Leverett's response:
The most important things that President Bush said last night dealt with Iran, not Iraq:
According to the President, the Iranians are providing "material support" to attacks on U.S. forces. That is a casus belli. It fits in with the administration's escalating campaign -- encompassing rhetoric and detentions of Iranian officials in Iraq -- to blame Iran for a strategically significant part of the ongoing instability and violence in Iraq.
In the context of describing the deployment of additional U.S. forces to Iraq, the President also noted the importance of securing Iraq's borders. I suspect that at least some of the additional U.S. soldiers going to Iraq will end up on the border with Iran.
Moreover, the President strongly implied that the U.S. military would start going after targets in countries neighboring Iraq to disrupt supply networks for insurgents and militias.
The deployment of a second carrier strike group to the theater -- confirmed in the speech -- is clearly directed against Iran. Since, in contrast to previous U.S. air campaigns in the Gulf, military planners developing contingencies for striking target sets in Iran must assume that the United States would not be able to use land-based air assets in theater (because of political opposition in the region), they are surely positing a force posture of at least two, and possible three carrier strike groups to provide the necessary numbers and variety of tactical aircraft.
Similarly, the President's announcement that additional Patriot batteries would go to the Gulf is clearly directed against Iran. We have previously deployed Patriot batteries to the region to deal with the Iraqi SCUD threat. Today, the only missile threat in the region for the Patriot to address is posed, at least theoretically, by Iran's Shihab-3.
In sum, the administration is laying the rhetorical and operational foundations for implementing a presidential decision to initiate military operations against Iran. No wonder the White House wants Hillary* and me to shut up.
(*Hillary is Hillary Mann Leverett, a former State Department official who also served on President George W. Bush's National Security Council staff. She is married to Flynt Leverett)
Leverett's views are consistent with many others I have spoken to over the last day. He has also been in a battle with National Security Council staff who have insinuated themselves in the "secrets clearing process" managed by the CIA Publications Review Board.
Here is Flynt Leverett's and Hillary Mann Leverett's recent op-ed in the New York Times that was published with the CIA's "blacked out"/redacted lines.
-- Steve Clemons is Senior Fellow and Director of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation and publishes the popular political blog, The Washington Note