Iraq war complicates dealings with Iran

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The following editorial appeared in the Dallas Morning News on Wednesday, April 12:

There’s a mad Middle Eastern regime pursuing weapons of mass destruction. The United Nations has proved ineffective to stop it. The international community is divided and feeble. Time seems to be running out.

We have been here before. Today it is Iran; yesterday it was Iraq. Except, in almost every way, the United States is in a far weaker position – militarily, politically and diplomatically – to face down an Iranian regime that Tuesday dramatically raised the stakes with its announcement that it had for the first time produced enriched uranium for atomic reactors.

President Bush has called media reports that the United States is considering a pre-emptive military strike against Iran’s nuclear program “wild speculation,” but there is increased awareness that Washington’s patience with the Iranians is running out.

Given what a mess Iraq has become, there will be many who will reject out of hand the idea that the United States should wage war on Iran. Understandable, but unwise. Never say never. However, the situation on the ground in Iraq and the errors the Bush administration has made there raise the bar to an extraordinarily high level.

Polls show that most Americans regret the decision to go to war with Iraq. It’s not hard to see why, and these reasons should weigh heavily in any deliberations about a future war with Iran.

The chief rationale the administration offered for the Iraq war was Saddam’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction. As we now know, he didn’t have them. We have since learned that the White House had intelligence estimates warning that this was the case but ignored them.

Similarly, the administration failed to plan for the effective occupation of Iraq and made serious strategic mistakes that have contributed to the current miserable situation there, which, if it’s not a civil war, soon could be. Based on the record, the public is right to be skeptical of the administration’s ability to correctly judge and prepare for the contingencies of a Middle East war.

In truth, Iran might be worse than Saddam’s Iraq was purported to be. But we don’t know. And that’s the rub.

Miscalculations about Iraq reveal the limits of American power and make it vastly more difficult for the president to rally the nation and the world to deal with the Iranian menace.

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