Why do I have a bad feeling about where this will end up?

Tehran moved a step closer to economic and diplomatic sanctions today as Iranian scientists returned to their labs to resume forbidden research into nuclear power.

The provocative move follows the collapse yesterday of talks with Russia aimed at seeking a compromise over Iran’s suspended nuclear enrichment programme, a key phase in both civilian fuel production and in the generation of weapons-grade uranium.

. . . Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel prize-winning boss of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Authority), said that the decision to remove UN seals and resume research in the face of international criticism was “regrettable”.

So, talks with the Russians fell apart (not that there was ever much hope of their success). What’s next? Well, we have a rigid, conservative Islamic government in power in Iran, thanks in part to the Bush administration’s own bellicose meddling in Iranian politics:

The high turn-out [in the Iranian election ], however, must be a major disappointment for President Bush. Last autumn a number of commentators expressed the belief that the unequivocal international hostility to Bush’ candidacy was a significant factor in his re-election. Similarly, Bush’s public dismissal of the Iranian process was credited by many analysts with being a significant stimulus to voter turn-out.

The day before the first round of voting Bush said the election was undemocratic: “Power is in the hands of an unelected few who have retained power through an electoral process that ignores the basic requirements of democracy”. The day after, he denounced it as a sham which ignored “basic democratic standards”.

And we know from Bush’s own words that “regime change” in Iran would be a major goal of his second term:

PRESIDENT George Bush has promised that if re-elected in November he will make regime change in Iran his new target.

Bush named Iran as part of the Axis of Evil along with North Korea and Iraq almost three years ago. A US government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that military action would not be overt in changing Iran, but rather that the US would work to stir revolts in the country and hope to topple the current conservative religious leadership.

The official said: “If George Bush is re-elected there will be much more intervention in the internal affairs of Iran.”

And we know that 2006 is an election year in the US, one which comes on the heels of a disastrous performance by the Bush administration in 2005. So can you connect the dots? In the face of scandal and ineptitude, what strategy has Bush, Cheney, Rove & Co. consistently employed to change the subject and their political fortunes?

How soon do you think it will be before we hear statements from “senior administration officials” of the impending threat of Iran’s weapons of mass destruction? Of their ties to terrorists? Of the failure of a “corrupt United Nations” and the timidity of our allies? Of the need for “bold action” to defend America before the smoking gun of a mushroom cloud appears above us? How soon before the PR blitzkrieg on Iran?

My bet? Soooner than you think.

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