A non-trivial point regarding this from the Sy Hersh Iran piece in the New Yorker:
At a White House meeting with Cheney this summer, according to a former senior intelligence official, it was agreed that, if limited strikes on Iran were carried out, the Administration could fend off criticism by arguing that they were a defensive action to save soldiers in Iraq. If Democrats objected, the Administration could say, “Bill Clinton did the same thing; he conducted limited strikes in Afghanistan, the Sudan, and in Baghdad to protect American lives.” The former intelligence official added, “There is a desperate effort by Cheney et al. to bring military action to Iran as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the politicians are saying, ‘You can’t do it, because every Republican is going to be defeated, and we’re only one fact from going over the cliff in Iraq.’ But Cheney doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the Republican worries, and neither does the President.”
Playing dishonest games with national security, reckless, moronic, yadda yadda. What got my attention was how almost exactly opposite their current cover argument falls from the truth. Our bases in Iraq are supplied mainly by overland convoys from Kuwait through hundreds of miles of mostly Shiite territory. Conveniently enough, the British just ceded one of the most important traffic nodes to local control and they have too few forces in country to take it back.
Adding that together, to keep convoys rolling after southern Shiites decide to make them stop we would have to reinforce hundreds of miles of road about as thoroughly as we guard the road to the Baghdad airport. That’s about six miles of constant patrols and non-stop checkpoints. I’m not sure that we have enough forces in the entire country of Iraq to do that over five hundred miles.
The Iraqi Shiite community may not revere the Iranian leadership, but at this point they love Iran more than they love us. Remember, the administration itself spent over a year in near-hysterics about Iran’s deep penetration of the Iraqi insurgent community. Granting the Bushies even one tenth of what they claim (the border is indeed porous to the point of non-existence and some Shiite factions unquestionably answer to Tehran) it should be child’s play for Iran and its sympathizers in Iraq to end the truck convoys from Kuwait. When that occurs our very best option would be to airlift the men and dynamite our gear. After that the options get too awful to think about.
The argument from Cheney’s camp is not merely dumb, it is almost ludicrously counterfactual. In the name of protecting American troops an influential faction of our government plans to endanger them to the maximum degree possible. It’s buffoonery taken to the ethereal plane of a master like Wayne Gretzky or Michael Jordan.