The sharp increase in focus on Iran’s alleged threat (nuclear weapons, connections to terror, etc.) is very clear. …
The same has been true with regard to Syria (including last December’s “Syria Accountability Act” passed almost unanimously in Congress, and Bush’s implementation of parts of it in May).
Not reported but quite important is the dispatch to Israel of 100 F16-I’s, advanced jet bombers, with the very specific announcement that they can reach Iran and return, are updated versions of the F-16s that Israel used to attack the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981 (thereby setting off Iraq’s nuclear weapons program, though that part of the story, though pretty well confirmed, is avoided), and are equipped with “special weapons” (according to the Israeli Hebrew press).
All of this is presumably intended for the ears of Iranian intelligence, who have to make worst case analyses. Perhaps the purpose of all of these initiatives is to evoke some action by Iran or Syria that can be interpreted by Washington-media as justification for military action, or perhaps just to rattle the leadership to contribute to internal repression, disaffection, disruption.
If the Iraq invasion hadn’t been such a remarkable failure, by now the US would probably have gone forward with plans to subordinate the region more fully to its interests, which would mean actions against the more independent states, Iran and Syria. This is not entirely unrelated to the “war on terror”: it increases the terrorist threat, just as the invasion of Iraq did. In the case of Syria, that’s been very well analyzed by Stephen Zunes.