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Mr. Bush, What Are You Up To?

I have a question for those responsible for foreign policy on this side of the Atlantic to their counterparts in your country: what are you up to? Has President Bush just abandoned his long standing doctrine, best summed up as, do what we say or we will hit you? At least we knew where we were with that policy. We whacked Saddam when he wouldn't give up his weapons of mass destruction. Even though in the end he didn't actually have any, at least the policy was clear enough.

That is why our soldiers are now in Afghanistan. There was a threat and the only way to meet it was to put in the troops. America went in, and as ever we were, and still are, at your shoulder. So when those dangerous and volatile people in Iran were reported to be developing a nuclear weapon, we knew what to expect.

Remember, Iranian agents are said to be working in Iraq, arming militias who are attacking our soldiers and yours. So the talk from Washington was tough. Iran is, they said, the premier state sponsor of terror. The result seemed inevitable. Either abandon the nuclear program and the terrorism, or WHACK.

But suddenly, in the last few days, we discover the policy has changed. The White House is now ready to talk. The carrot has replaced the stick. Clearly those in Washington with the ear of the President persuaded him that as he cannot control events in Iraq or Afghanistan, there was precious little hope of doing so in Iran. So for the moment, it's Jaw Jaw, not War, War.

It all sounds curiously like the policy advocated a couple of years ago in Iraq by the French. You remember - they did their best to sabotage the build up to war there. That was when people in America stopped eating French Fries & called them Freedom Fries instead. Whatever happened to Freedom Fries?

Anyway, here in Europe, the question is this -- is Washington just being cunning about Iran? Will you send in Condi to charm them, and then follow up with Rumsfeld's bombers when their guard is down? Or is this the sign of a lame duck president who no longer has the authority to lead his country into another conflict?

Maybe this U-turn is even more significant. Could it be the return to a foreign policy practiced through so many years of the Cold War, of avoiding direct military conflict and relying on diplomacy, economic pressure and international consensus? Soon as you find out, please get on the phone. We would like to know.
by Peter Allen by Peter Allen