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Gutsy Gates

Justin Webb | 08:07 UK time, Monday, 30 June 2008

The most interesting aspect of the latest Seymour Hersh warning that the Bush administration is gearing up for a fight in Iran (or over Iran) was this claim about a meeting Defence Secretary Robert Gates had with Democratic Senators:

"Gates warned of the consequences if the Bush Administration staged a pre-emptive strike on Iran, saying, as the senator recalled, 'We'll create generations of jihadists, and our grandchildren will be battling our enemies here in America.' Gates's comments stunned the Democrats at the lunch, and another senator asked whether Gates was speaking for Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney.

"Gates's answer, the senator told me, was 'Let's just say that I'm here speaking for myself.' (A spokesman for Gates confirmed that he discussed the consequences of a strike at the meeting, but would not address what he said, other than to dispute the senator's characterization.)"

So Gates and the US top brass will veto a strike. If Gates threatened to resign he would win. Is he gutsier than Powell? That's the question.

Can he withstand the pressure and the selective reporting of threat assessments etc etc? Of course, if he were wrong and Cheney were right - if Iran built a bomb under his watch and used it - history might not smile on him.

Given the high stakes in all of this, the Bill Clinton sulk - if it is being correctly reported here - is going to look to many Democrats to be insufferably petulant and small minded by the autumn.

Obama needs him but the need flows both ways - he needs Obama now to help him rescue his reputation. He needs Obama to win and he needs to be part of that win.

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