President Bush’s statement to the American Legion that “I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran’s murderous activities” is understandably getting a lot of ink this morning. But this is far from the first time that Bush has warned Iran of the consequences of its actions in Iraq. Back in January, he told the American public: “Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We’ll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.”
So it would be wrong to see Bush’s speech yesterday as signalling a dramatic change in policy or even as a rhetorical escalation. A more plausible reading is that Bush is trying to remind the American public that its enemies in Iraq are the same as its enemies elsewhere.