Like diplomacy, only different

Ignoring calls for talks with Iran and Syria, Bush threatens military action instead.

By Tim Grieve
Published January 11, 2007 3:42AM (EST)

The Iraq Study Group urged the Bush administration to launch a "diplomatic offensive" that would include direct talks with both Iran and Syria, a move senators from both sides of the aisle seemed to endorse during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing earlier today. The president said nothing about that recommendation tonight, but that doesn't mean he ignored the two countries at issue.

Bush acknowledged tonight that "succeeding in Iraq . . . requires defending its territorial integrity -- and stabilizing the region in the face of the extremist challenge," but he made it clear that he doesn't think diplomacy, or at least diplomacy involving Syria and Iran, is the way to accomplish those things.

"These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq," Bush said. "Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq. We are also taking other steps to bolster the security of Iraq and protect American interests in the Middle East. I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region. We will expand intelligence sharing -- and deploy Patriot air defense systems to reassure our friends and allies. . . . And we will work with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating the region."

Earlier today, the White House released a summary of the "key tactical shifts" the president plans to make. Among them: "Increase operations against Iranian actors." It all sounds so very intimidating -- at least until you remember that the Joint Chiefs of Staff have said that it will be tough to come up with even the 20,000 additional troops Bush wants to fight in the last war he started.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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