CRAWFORD - The US rationale for war in Iraq has morphed from ousting strongman Saddam Hussein, to countering Al-Qaeda militants to its latest incarnation — facing down what officials in President George W. Bush’s administration call the Iranian “threat”.
“Iraq is the convergence point for two of the greatest threats to America in this new century: Al-Qaeda and Iran,” Bush said last week, renewing accusations that the Islamic republic is backing Iraqi militias hostile to US forces and covertly seeking nuclear weapons.
“If we succeed in Iraq after all that Al-Qaeda and Iran have invested there, it would be a historic blow to the global terrorist movement and a severe setback for Iran,” he said.
With Saddam dead and Al-Qaeda weakened — according to Bush — Iranian-financed extremists, which top US commander in Iraq David Petraeus has called “special groups,” have emerged as a key reason for maintaining US troop levels in Iraq.
“Unchecked, the ’special groups’ pose the greatest long-term threat to the viability of a democratic Iraq,” Petraeus said last week as he told US lawmakers of military strategy in Iraq for the coming months.
However, exactly what steps the United States may take to counter this “threat” remain unclear, and depend largely on Bush’s decisions in his remaining nine months in the White House.