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Bush about-face on Iran draws friend's ire

Richard Perle blames Condoleezza Rice for Bush's softer stance on Iran.

The headline in the Washington Post reads, "Why Did Bush Blink On Iran? Ask Condi."

Richard Perle has been there before – the neoconservative working from the inside to stiffen the spine of the president.

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"Twenty years ago," Mr. Perle writes, "I watched US diplomats conspire with their diffident European counterparts to discourage President Reagan from a political, economic, and moral assault on the Soviet Union."

Back then, Perle was assistant secretary of Defense under Caspar Weinberger. The long-suffering secretary of State was George Schultz. Today, it is Condoleezza Rice.

Now, Perle operates from the outside – but just outside. He was for 17 years a member of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board, serving for two years as its chairman under Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. And in his quasiofficial function, he has chosen to complain that Secretary Rice exerts too much influence over the president, to the benefit of the Iranian regime.

"The Americans," he writes, "are no longer saying that Iran must be deprived of its nuclear rights forever. Iran has accomplished a great thing."

Perle takes direct aim at the package of incentives and warnings that the Bush administration and its European allies have offered President Ahmadinejad to give up his nuclear aspirations.

That policy, he says, "is likely to diminish pressure on Iran and allow the mullahs more time to develop the weapons they have paid dearly to pursue."

Under the subhead, "Who Lost Iran?" Perle warns the president that he fails to recognize "the perils of the course he has been persuaded to take." And he describes the administration as "befuddled by contradiction and indecision."

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If that's the way a friend of the president talks, Bush hardly needs enemies.

Daniel Schorr is the senior news analyst at National Public Radio.