A flood of newly-issued war reports, speeches and international feuds are beginning to set the stage for an upcoming showdown between anti-war senators and Army Gen. David H. Petraeus this September.
The latest National Intelligence Estimate, which is presumed to closely mirror the forthcoming testimony Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker will deliver to Congress, warned that support for U.S. troops to leave Iraq could increase violence in the region.
Released August 23, the NIE reported “perceptions that the Coalition is withdrawing probably will encourage factions anticipating a power vacuum to seek local security solutions that could intensify sectarian violence and intra-sectarian competition….Iraq’s neighbors will continue to focus on improving their leverage in Iraq in anticipation of a Coalition drawdown.”
Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad confirmed the NIE’s judgment nearly word for word in a Tuesday news conference in Tehran.
“The political power of the occupiers is collapsing rapidly. Soon, we will see a huge power vacuum in the region. Of course, we are prepared to fill the gap, with the help of neighbors and regional friends like Saudi Arabia, and with the help of the Iraqi nation,” Ahmadinejad said.
Later that day, President Bush spoke at the American Legion convention in Reno, Nevada. He addressed Ahmadinejad’s threat directly.
Bush said if Americans were forced out of the Middle East, “extremists of all strains would be emboldened by the knowledge that they forced America to retreat. Terrorists could have more safe havens to conduct attacks on Americans and our friends and allies. Iran could conclude we were weak—and could not stop them from getting nuclear weapons. And once Iran has nuclear weapons, it would set off a nuclear arms race in the region.”
“The Iranian regime must halt” their threats against the West, President Bush said. “And until it does, I will take actions necessary to protect our troops. I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran’s murderous activities.”
Bush delivered another major speech on August 22 that emphasized the importance of stabilizing the fledgling democracy in Iraq. He spoke at a convention for Veterans of Foreign Wars and compared the Iraqi conflict to ideological struggles for democracy against Japanese militarists and communists in Korea and Vietnam.