Last year Mr Bush came down in favour of Ms Rice, who along with Britain, France and Germany has been putting a diplomatic squeeze on Iran. But at a meeting of the White House, Pentagon and state department last month, Mr Cheney expressed frustration at the lack of progress and Mr Bush sided with him. “The balance has tilted. There is cause for concern,” the source said this week.
Nick Burns, the undersecretary of state responsible for Iran and a career diplomat who is one of the main advocates of negotiation, told the meeting it was likely that diplomatic manoeuvring would still be continuing in January 2009. That assessment went down badly with Mr Cheney and Mr Bush.
“Cheney has limited capital left, but if he wanted to use all his capital on this one issue, he could still have an impact,” said Patrick Cronin, the director of studies at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
The Washington source said Mr Bush and Mr Cheney did not trust any potential successors in the White House, Republican or Democratic, to deal with Iran decisively. They are also reluctant for Israel to carry out any strikes because the US would get the blame in the region anyway.
“The red line is not in Iran. The red line is in Israel. If Israel is adamant it will attack, the US will have to take decisive action,” Mr Cronin said. “The choices are: tell Israel no, let Israel do the job, or do the job yourself.”
This one’s about as credible as that super-keen lefty blog “expose” a few months ago about Darth Cheney conspiring with Israel to launch Armageddon, although the boldface part rings worryingly true. My feelings about another Bush-managed war are the same as Dennis Miller’s were in an old bit he used to do about Germany’s reunification: much like a Martin and Lewis reunion, he said, he wasn’t impressed with their previous work and wasn’t really looking forward to seeing any of the new sh*t. Hey, George: Let Fred handle it. Or, god forbid, a Democrat if it comes to that.