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Are the latest accusations and tough language leveled against Iran, Syria, and North Korea evidence of a resurgence by the remaining hawks in the administration of President George W. Bush hoping for a final confrontation against one or more members of the revised 'axis of evil' before his term next January?
That's the big question here this week, particularly following Thursday's long-awaited intelligence briefings to Congress about alleged North Korean involvement in the construction of a 'covert nuclear reactor' in Syria that was destroyed in a raid by Israeli warplanes in September last year.
According to some interpretations, the briefing's timing and content appeared deliberately designed to raise tensions between Washington, on the one hand, and Pyongyang and Damascus, on the other, potentially derailing ongoing long-running negotiations between the State Department and North Korea and Turkish-mediated peace feelers between Israel and Syria.
That Vice President Dick Cheney, whose opposition to engaging both North Korea and Syria and support for 'regime change' in both countries is both well known and of long standing, had pushed hard for the briefing to take place has added to speculation that a major power play by the hawks to reverse the diplomacy that has dominated Bush's second term is underway.