Surprises abounded early this week, when intelligence reports came out showing Iran has not gone forward with developing its possible nuclear weapons program since 2003. (see story: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22095352/) Of course, this story is as complicated as trying to enrich uranium.
What this report means, first of all, is that Iran is not immune to diplomatic, international pressure - which is surely a good sign. Internationally, in 2003, Iran was urged very strongly to stop its weapons development. We weren't really sure at that time that they would, but of course, America had bigger Middle Eastern fish to fry in 2003 -- the year we invaded Iraq. And here's the complicated question: Was Iran primarily influenced to stop its production due to international diplomatic efforts, or was it the fact that the Americans were bombing the hell out of their next door neighbors? Now, it stands to reason that if Iran saw that America would bomb whatever country they saw fit, without real evidence of weapons (like the faulty and completely inaccurate, doctored intelligence reports for Iraq), then it wouldnt really matter if they developed nukes or not - if America wanted to bomb, they would bomb. If this was their logic, then the diplomatic pressure would be the key inducement. But the question of why they stopped is one likely never to be fully answered.
Then there is the issue of how much we want to trust our own intelligence reports, both past and present. Obviously, it's nicer and easier to believe that Iran has stopped developing nuclear capabilities. But leading up to the invasion of Iraq, it was also nice and easy for the Bush administration to believe that Iraq was developing weapons, so we could go in - because many people in Washington (and the south) wanted us to. So it burns the fingers to type - but we can't ignore the possibility that this report can be flawed as well, and Iran might be doing some not so good things with uranium.
However, Bush's premise that this new report should be viewed as a "warning signal" is completely in the wrong. It's as if he had someone write this speech expecting the report to come out with Iran harboring missiles, and they only changed a few words once they actually were handed the report - the argument is unchanged. What makes Bush so glaringly brash and overwhelmingly hawkish is that he argues the same points no matter what the outcomes - in Iraq, it was since they had weapons, we must threaten force; now that Iran doesn't have weapons, well, we must threaten force. There is no variation in his approach - he is such a zealous hawk, you half expect him to come out to his podium with a dead mouse in his beak.
Iran is a serious, complicated issue, and the country deserves attention and political finesse, two things which this gunslignin' president is absolutely impotent when it comes to performing them. But the scariest part is that as his second term clock ticks away, Bush is actually beginning to show some foresight - at least in terms of his legacy, and this is the most dangerous type of introspection and analysis he could enrich. The Annapolis Mideast peace talks are a benign example of Bush grasping at popular-opinion straws, trying to polish up his image by attempting to broker a conversation between other incredibly weakened leaders (who might have maybe done something a few years ago, but with the raise of Hammas and other militant/fundamentalist organizations, forget about it). As these talks were relatively harmless-fine - but what happens if Bush decides to "really do something" about Iran before he flies the coop? It will be up to the new president to fly in the olive branch - and that will be an effort to fix a Bush-made disaster of truly biblical proportions.