But the revelation by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the campaign against Iranian officials had already been in effect for several months before Bush’s speech last Wednesday indicates that the new rhetoric is aimed at serving the desperate need of the White House to shift the blame for its failure in Iraq to Iran, and to appear to be taking tough action.
Rice told the New York Times in an interview Friday that Bush had ordered the
The Bush speech coincided with an attack by an unidentified
The statement issued by the
The only other such
Contrary to the impression conveyed by the administration, therefore, it is not targeting those who it knows to be involved in supplying insurgents with weapons but is still trying to find some evidence to justify its tough rhetoric against
The initial rhetoric from Bush suggesting a possible intention to expand the
Bush’s identification in his Jan. 10 speech of Iran and Syria as “allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq” and the more specific reference to Iran as “providing material support for attacks on American troops” seemed to hint at such a plan to expand the war across the board into Iran.
Rice seemed to be dropping even more pointed hints of such a plan in television interviews on Thursday. On the NBC Today show, Rice vowed, on behalf of Bush, “[W]e are going to make certain that we disrupt activities that are endangering and killing our troops and that are destabilising
Rice went on to declare, “The Iranians need to know, and the Syrians need to know, that the United States is not finding it acceptable and is not going to simply tolerate their activities to try and harm our forces or to destabilise Iraq.”
Asked in an interview with “Fox and Friends” whether Bush’s speech could mean “going over the border to chase down those who are providing the technology and possibly the training”, Rice coyly replied, “Well, I don’t want to speculate on what kinds of operations the
In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, Rice refused to answer a question from Chairman Joe Biden on whether the president has the authority to conduct military missions in
Some analysts viewed Rice’s rhetoric as evidence of an administration plan to justify an air offensive against
But the careful wording used and the explicit caveats issued by administration officials belied the impression of menace against
The next day, even though Rice was provoking Congressional fears of a wider war, the whole Bush team was qualifying that rhetoric in remarks to reporters by specifying that U.S. actions to stop the alleged Iranian interference in Iraq will be confined to Iraq itself.
Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who is considered a full member of the Bush administration team, limited the threatened aggressive
He concluded, “We can take care of the security of our troops by doing the business we need to do inside of
And spokesman for the National Security Council Gordon Johndroe, after repeating the new line that the administration would “not tolerate outside interference in Iraq”, went on to say that the actions would be taken only inside Iraq, not across the border.. Secretary of Defence Robert Gates also said on Friday the
The contrast between the general impression of steely resolve toward Iran conveyed by Bush and the unusual clarity about the limited geographical scope of the response points to a sophisticated two-level communications strategy prepared by the White House. For those who get their news from television, the message conveyed by Rice was one of effective action against the Iranians supposedly causing harm to
The two-level communications strategy suggests, in turn, that the White House was acutely aware that a single message of menace toward
Ironically, therefore, the net effect of the new tough line toward
*Gareth Porter is an historian and national security policy analyst. His latest book, “Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in
**This article is the first of a two-part series on the escalation of hostile rhetoric and actions toward