Just two weeks ago, Condi Rice insisted
that the entire Bush administration is absolutely united behind a single policy when it comes to Iran. Never mind all those rumors
about Cheney's team actively circumventing the president's team in order to instigate a U.S. conflict with Iran, Rice said, everyone is on the same team: "The president of the United States has made it clear that we are on a course that is a diplomatic course. That policy is supported by all of the members of the cabinet, and by the vice president of the United States."
Two weeks later, Rice's comment almost appears quaint
A year after President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced a new strategy toward Iran, a behind-the-scenes debate has broken out within the administration over whether the approach has any hope of reining in Iran's nuclear program, according to senior administration officials.
The debate has pitted Ms. Rice and her deputies, who appear to be winning so far, against the few remaining hawks inside the administration, especially those in Vice President Dick Cheney's office who, according to some people familiar with the discussions, are pressing for greater consideration of military strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities.
Steve Clemons' report
from late May about the "race currently underway between different flanks of the administration to determine the future course of US-Iran policy" appears more and more accurate all the time.
And while the administration's factions continue to maneuver for position, Iranian officials are in the midst of the most intense crackdown
on its people in a generation.
The recent detentions of Iranian American dual nationals are only a small part of a campaign that includes arrests, interrogations, intimidation and harassment of thousands of Iranians as well as purges of academics and new censorship codes for the media. Hundreds of Iranians have been detained and interrogated, including a top Iranian official, according to Iranian and international human rights groups. [...]
"The current crackdown is a way to instill fear in the population in order to discourage them from future political agitation as the economic situation begins to deteriorate," said Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "You're going to think twice about taking to the streets to protest the hike in gasoline prices if you know the regime's paramilitary forces have been on a head-cracking spree the last few weeks."
Cheney and Lieberman want a war, Rice and Europe want diplomacy, and Ahmadinejad wants to crush any hints of dissent, while ensuring that Iranians don't hear a peep about any diplomatic discussions between Iran and the West.