Just doing what he’s told, I suppose. After all, he came into the Bush Administration expecting to supervise the retreat from Iraq and the Grand Bargain with Iran, only to find that the president wanted to up the ante in Iraq and challenge the mullahs on the ground. So Gates duly supported the surge, and perforce cracked down on Iranian activities in Iraq.
Now comes Obama, who is all about smashing al Qaeda, and making the Grand Bargain with Iran. So Gates duly blames the upsurge in violence in Iraq on al Qaeda–thoughtfully leaving Iran out of it, although they are in it up to their turbans–and warning that a military attack on Iran’s nuclear program wouldn’t really do much good.
Gates was quite categorical in testimony earlier this week to the Senate Armed Services Committee:
“The judgment of the commanders is this is an orchestrated effort on the part of al-Qaida to try and provoke the very kind of sectarian violence that nearly tore the country apart in 2006.”
One wonders which commanders he’s been talking to, since a report just a few days ago from American military sources on the ground in Iraq was equally categorical in claiming that “the US has found evidence of Iranian-backed Mahdi Army leaders conducting attacks that were designed to mimic al Qaeda suicide bombings.” And the intelligence that underlies that claim was convincing enough for American forces to act, which annoyed the Iraqi Government:
The US military broke up an Iranian-backed terror cell associated with Muqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi Army during a raid in Al Kut in central Iraq. Iraqi officials are claiming the US military conducted the raid without approval.
Coalition forces killed one Iranian-backed terrorist and captured six others during a raid that targeted a financier that supports both the Mahdi Army Special Groups and the Brigade of the Promised Day.
Although the Maliki Government was upset by the American raid in Al Kut, the Iraqis are well aware of stepped-up Iranian attacks. As Bill Roggio reports, Iraqi forces have been rounding up Mahdi Army terrorists for weeks of late around Basra, from which the Brits are now exiting.
None of this seems to have found its way into Gates’s testimony. Had he spoken about such things, it would have inconvenienced the gaggle of Obaman czars and special envoys currently flooding several back channels to the mullahs in search of the evanescent Grand Bargain. For those who worry about politicizing intelligence, leaving out inconvenient details is often a sign that the intelligence is being shaped to fit the desires of the policy makers.
Then there’s the question of the Iranian bomb. Here again, Gates was quite explicit.
Use of the military option to force Iran to halt its nuclear program would only yield temporary and ineffective results, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday.
Sanctions would make more sense, he said.
Gates said a military attack on Iran would merely send the country’s nuclear program further underground. Instead, the United States and its allies must convince Teheran that its nuclear ambitions would spark an arms race that would leave the Islamic republic less secure.