From the department of "old news is good news" - The walrus-faced one, John Bolton, still wants to bomb Iran yesterday, and Bob Gates is still saying no.
Right now, Gates is seen as the best insurance that the Bush administration (read: Vice President Cheney) will not leave a legacy of ashes in Iran. According to many former and current government officials who have conferred with Gates publicly and privately, he takes the conventionally accepted view that Iran should not be allowed to build nuclear weapons. He pointedly refuses to rule out military force while calling for more-effective economic sanctions. But the secretary of Defense has also told associates that bombing Iran would create chaos in the oil region, unleash terrorism on Europe and possibly the United States, and serve to strengthen, not weaken, the fragile and fractious Iranian regime—while only postponing for a year or two its nuclear ambitions.Thank heavens for Bob Gates, even if I don't agree with him on everything. I'd feel way happier about any Republican nominee who had the balls to draft him as their pick for SecDef should they win the White House race.
To avoid that scenario, Gates has used his considerable bureaucratic skills to lower the temperature on Iran. He has cautioned military commanders in the Gulf to guard against the risk of accidents that might give a provocation for war—the capture of a pilot, say, or a collision at sea. In recent weeks U.S. commanders in Baghdad have intentionally sought to praise Tehran for being more cooperative in Iraq. According to two separate sources who declined to be identified discussing military plans, Gates has also pared down strike options against Iran, cutting the targets to its nuclear facilities alone. It is a mistake to make too much of this—the military is constantly being asked to devise new options for civilian authorities. But Gates has also allowed the top brass to make public their qualms about attacking Iran, which makes it that much harder for the White House to steamroll them. This is classic Gates: no noisy confrontations with the likes of Cheney, just low-key, pragmatic steps to avoid sparking a conflagration.
...On the surface, Gates (sometimes called "the anti-Rumsfeld") is principally different from his predecessor in that he doesn't try to dominate and end-run Rice, who, as national-security adviser in Bush's first term, was outmaneuvered and sometimes bullied by the then secretary of Defense. Gates and Rice are friendly and collegial. But Gates exerts a subtle influence on Rice. "He was her boss," former career diplomat James Dobbins points out. In the Bush 41 White House, Rice worked for Gates, who was then deputy national-security adviser. More to the point, she and the president know that it would be impossible, or nearly so, to attack Iran without the support of Gates, for the simple reason that he stands in the chain of command to the military forces that would be used to do the fighting.