Citing sources close to the Israeli prime minister, Yediot Achronot reported on its front page Wednesday that Olmert, who is due to hold closed-door talks with Bush in Washington, will say that “time is running out” on diplomatic efforts to curb Iran’s nuclear program.
The Washington Post’s Dan Froomkin writes that “there are some signs that [Olmert will] have a receptive audience” in his White House meeting. Speaking at AIPAC yesterday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice delivered an “unusually sharp” verbal assault against Iran. Olmert himself told the audience, “We must stop the Iranian threat by all possible means.”
Despite Bush and Olmert’s mutual agreement on the possible need for force, Yediot Achronot reports that a variety of factors are weighing against such a course of action:
It is doubtful whether such decision, under such circumstances, has a precedent in American history. Almost everything is working against it: The Iranians are not threatening the United States. They are careful about not initiating an incident that would give the Americans a pretext to attack. Such operation has no international support, not openly at least, and most of all, following the entanglement in Iraq most Americans strongly object to opening yet another front in the Middle East and treat any military initiative by Bush with suspicion.
Nevertheless, as time ticks down on Bush’s presidency, the rumors of a possible last-minute military strike on Iran are increasing. The Jerusalem Post reported last month that a senior administration official told Israeli officials to anticipate such an attack.
While the White House has dismissed these reports by claiming they are “not worth the paper they’re printed on,” neoconservatives are getting a very different message. Asked recently whether he could imagine Bush attacking Iran before the end of his term,” John Bolton said, “I think so, definitely.” Norman Podhoretz has made a similar claim. Richard Perle has said he has “very little doubt” that Bush could order a strike before he leaves office.