George W. Bush has accomplished his first visit to Israel and Palestine. On January 5, 2008, just hours before heading to Jerusalem and Ramallah on a trip mainly scheduled for pressing ahead the Middle East peace process, an obscure and difficult-to-judge ‘incident’ in the Strait of Hormuz had occurred, when 5 Iranian speed boats approached 3 American war vessels, allegedly threatening them to blow them up. Videos made by both sides have been released and broadcasted in the meantime, not really giving the impression of a serious incident.
While Bush absurdly admonished Mahmoud Abbas to exerting his influence on Gaza Strip's Hamas, talks in Jerusalem and Ramallah did not really prove particular knowledge of the World’s single superpower's leader about the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Nevertheless, it is hoped for both peoples (and the Americans and us, too) that the Annapolis Peace Conference of November 2007 will not be in vain, and Bush’s promise of a peace treaty in 2008 will not be entirely hollow.
When traveling further to Kuwait, Bahrain, and the Emirates, it became more and more disturbing that Bush again used very hard words towards Iran, “the world's leading state sponsor of terror. It (Iran) sends hundreds of millions of dollars to extremists around the world while its own people face repression and economic hardship at home.” Hence, the old 'axis of evil' rhetoric. All Gulf States have cultural and economical connections, and deep interests in Iran and its people. All have Shi’a minorities. The last they would appreciate in the present situation would be a military strike in the last minute of Bush's presidency.
It might be possible that the IAEO Director General Mohamed ElBaradei's visit in Tehran this weekend who even met the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and Bush’s strong rhetoric may have a combined impact on important decisions to be made in Iran’s complicated administration with regard to its nuclear program.
There is a grave concern, however, that any warmongering speech only helps hardliners in the upcoming majlis elections.