-- Over the weekend, Gen. David Petraeus said in Baghdad: "Any student of history recognizes there is no military solution to a problem like that in Iraq. ... A political resolution of various differences ... is crucial." Any such resolution, said the general, requires engaging some of the Sunni enemies that U.S. forces have been fighting.
-- With U.S. approval, the Saudis have helped cobble together a coalition government in Palestine of Hamas and Fatah. And though Hamas has balked at the three non-negotiable demands of the Quartet -- that it recognize Israel, accept all previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements and renounce war -- a diplomatic track appears to be opening. And Ehud Olmert, surprisingly, has told his Cabinet he will "treat seriously" the Saudi Plan that calls for Israeli withdrawal to its 1967 borders, in return for peace with the Arab nations.
-- Moreover, if personnel is policy, the changes since November augur a change in policy. Rumsfeld is out, Robert Gates of the Iraq Study Group is in. John Bolton is gone from the United Nations. Doug Feith is defending himself from charges he cherry-picked the intel to get us into war. Scooter Libby is no longer the eminence grise of the West Wing, but fishing for a pardon. President Bush is said to be listening more to Condi Rice and less to Richard Cheney.
Thermidor may be at hand for the Bush Revolution, but there remains a great and unresolved issue.
The first article of the Bush Doctrine is that the world's worst regimes will not be permitted to acquire the world's worst weapons. That article has been defied with impunity by Pyongyang. But is it still applicable to Iran? Will Bush, in the absence of a diplomatic deal with Tehran to halt its enrichment of uranium, leave office without using American power to effect the nuclear castration of Iran?
This question raises others. Does George W. Bush have the constitutional authority, without further congressional action, to order a U.S. attack on Iran's nuclear facilities and the defensive installations that protect those facilities? And if Bush should ask for authority to bomb Iran, would Congress sign another blank check?
Within the principal antagonistic states of the Middle East -- Syria and Iran, Israel and the United States -- there appear to be both forces that seek confrontation and forces willing to do a deal that meets the minimal security demands of the other side.
If Bush can broker a deal that suspends the nuclear enrichment program of Iran before it goes critical, he may yet salvage something of value out of the hellish mess in Mesopotamia.
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