Those familiar with internal battles in the Bush administration say Mr. Gates has eclipsed Condoleezza Rice, the Secretary of State, as the chief opponent of air strikes and is the main reason President George W. Bush has yet to resort to military action.
Pentagon sources say Mr. Gates is waging a subtle campaign to undermine the Cheney camp by encouraging the army's senior officers to speak frankly about the overstretch of forces, and the difficulty of fighting another war.
Bruce Reidel, a former CIA Middle East officer, said: "Cheney's people know they can beat Condi. They have been doing it for six years. Bob Gates is a different kettle of fish. He doesn't owe the President anything. He is urging his officers to be completely honest, knowing what that means."
Officials say Mr. Gates's strategy bore fruit when Admiral William Fallon, the head of US Central Command, charged with devising war plans for Iran, said last month that the "constant drumbeat of war" was not helpful.
He was followed by General George Casey, the army's new chief of staff, who requested an audience with the House of Representatives armed services committee to warn that his branch of the military had been stretched so thin by the Iraq war that it was not prepared for yet another conflict.
Gen. Casey told Congress the army was "out of balance" and added: "The demand for our forces exceeds the sustainable supply. We are consumed with meeting the demands of the current fight, and are unable to provide ready forces as rapidly as necessary for other potential contingencies."
Mr. Gates has forged an alliance with Mike McConnell, the national director of intelligence, and Michael Hayden, the head of the Central Intelligence Agency, to ensure that Mr Cheney's office is not the dominant conduit of information and planning on Iran to Mr. Bush.
Insiders say Mr. Gates has ensured that Mr. Bush has seen more extensive studies of the probable negative effects of an attack on Iran than he was privy to before the war in Iraq.
One CIA insider said: "Bush understands that any increase in real military hostilities in Iran right now could have a negative effect. Bob Gates is the only one opposed to it. He's the single person in the US government who has any standing with the White House fighting it."
That last sentence is the scariest thing I've read in weeks. When Gates was nominated, he was very much seen by pundits as Poppy Bush's man in Junior's administration - there to stop the Kid from ruining matters further and as a paleo-foil to all the neo-WormTongues infesting the White House. It appears that Gates is earning the trust Bush Senior placed in him. If Shipman is right - and there have been other reprots suggesting the same thing - then expect the neocon smear factory to start up on Gates anytime now, in much the same way as they turned on Rice as soon as she began to advocate diplomacy instead of bombs.
LSB: Gates is the only one "in the US government who has any standing with the White House fighting it." The only one? The ONLY ONE? There is NO ONE ELSE IN THE ENTIRE ADMINISTRATION that sees the lunacy of bombing Iran?
Bush will do to the US economy what the Cold War did to the Russian economy when building up their arsenals in the early 80's - push us to the brink of bankruptcy. Then the world will truly have NO super powers left.
But let's set aside for the moment the impact on the economy that yet another war front would create and think about who's going to fight those battles. Is this to be accomplished by air strikes alone, or will there be a front going in to Tehran to "take down" the Iranian goverment? And from where might those soldiers be coming? Will the President cancel all troop rotations and leave our troops in the Middle East until the job is done - decades from now? An assignment like that has surely got to hurt the Pentagon's various recruiting efforts!
Or does he know of another goverment as dysfunctional as ours where the elected head of state will provide some troops to join us in this madness? Has Bush not been reading the news lately? England is pulling out of Iraq; his fellow nut-case in Australia, John Howard, is about to be thrown out of office; and Iceland's lone troop in Baghdad has already headed home. Bush has made sure the US has no credibility and no politcal capital around the world, so from where is another coalition of forces to come?
And then there's always that pesky business of coming up with the manufactured evidence to warrant an attack on Iran. As the President so ineptly pointed out, "Fool me once... shame on you... the point is, you can't be fooled again." Well, Mr. President, we weren't fooled the last time, just too intimidated of being called 'unpatriotic.' We know about your deceitful nature now, so we won't be intimidated a second time!
Surely if I can see the problem with going to war with Iran others with more savvy and experience in the White House can also see these problems. And it there truly is no one else in the White House but Sec. Gates slowing the march to war in Iran, then surely the Congress will find its backbone and halt this march. If not them, then who will stop the madness?