During a private White House meeting earlier this year, President Bush and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Peter Pace were asked by a group of governors about their backup plan for Iraq. “The conclusion they took away, the governors later said, was that there is no Plan B.” Pace reportedly told them, “Plan B was to make Plan A work.”
But according to conservative Washington Post columnist Jim Hoagland, Plan B may be something far more dramatic: “Using Iraq as a springboard and rationale for an American military strike into Iran,” and “strong-arming the admittedly faltering government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki out of office and replacing Maliki with a U.S.-anointed Iraqi savior.”
Arab allies are urging such a course on Bush and would not object to U.S. military action against Iran. There is growing concern in Baghdad that Washington is developing a “Plan B” that involves both hitting Iran and ousting Maliki — who ironically was brought to office by American pressure to force out Ibrahim al-Jafari, Maliki’s predecessor. The concern is augmented by demands from both sides of the aisle in Congress that Maliki meet obviously unrealistic benchmarks quickly or face a cutoff of U.S. support.
Hoagland says such a plan would only “expand the current disaster,” and CentCom Commander Gen. William Fallon reportedly “expressed strong opposition in February to an administration plan to increase the number of carrier strike groups in the Persian Gulf from two to three and vowed privately there would be no war against Iran as long as he was chief of CENTCOM.”
But the administration continues to rattle its sabers, most recently when Vice President Dick Cheney “used the deck of an American aircraft carrier just 150 miles off Iran’s coast as the backdrop…to warn the country that the United States was prepared to use its naval power to keep Tehran from disrupting off oil routes or ‘gaining nuclear weapons and dominating this region.’”