Rove’s exit: good for the Mideast?

THE vast majority of Americans would have never recognised Karl Rove even if they had bumped into him in the street or in a shopping mall. Yet, Rove was without doubt among the most influential and powerful men in Washington.

By Claude Salhani

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Published: Sat 18 Aug 2007, 8:45 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 1:07 AM

A long-time friend of President George W Bush, Rove liked to toil behind the limelight of his principals, working hard and usually discreetly getting them appointed. Then he would surf in on their coat tails making a spot for himself as the “eminence grise,” the power behind the power.

His leaving the White House at this time does not bode well either for domestic nor for international policies, which Rove is most likely to continue to influence President Bush and the tight group of neoconservatives still running the White House. Rove said he is leaving Washington for personal reasons, yet being the political animal that he is Mr Rove cannot give up party politics cold turkey. Once he has tasted the red meat of electoral victory, it becomes difficult to give up the adrenaline rush. Indeed, many analysts inside the Washington Beltway suspect Rove’s announced departure from Washington about 18 months before the end George W’s term in the White House is one of his most cunning political manoeuvres, allowing the presidential adviser to withdraw from two pending investigations, in which he made well be implicated.

His departure from Washington would allow the "Dark Prince" to concentrate on a strategy to bring the Republican Party to victory in 2008, as he did in the two previous elections. His distance from Washington, and more importantly from the centre of power would allow him to focus on how to give the Republicans another victory without judicial interruption or threats of being called before Congress to testify in the two notable scandals, which now Rove leaves behind.

Rove was accused of being involved in the leaking of the name of an undercover CIA operative to the media, that of Valerie Plame, the wife of former ambassador Joseph Wilson. The buzz around the Washington Beltway is that Rove was trying to get back at Wilson for an article he wrote in The New York Times, which contradicted the administration's allegations that Saddam Hussein had obtained yellow cake from Niger.

Yellow cake is an essential ingredient in the production of nuclear bombs. Then not only a few weeks ago Rove became involved in the brouhaha over reports that the firing of nine US district attorneys was politically motivated, with the intention to replace them with lawyers more faithful to the president. The aim was to influence the elections.

"Although Rove will remain out of the light in the 2008 presidential election, he is very likely to be orchestrating policies and advising the GOP in a discreet manner," said Hiam Nawas, a political analyst in Washington.

Among the tight group of neoconservatives that surrounded the president, Rove was undoubtedly the closest, having gone to work for him when George W was running for governor. From there he drove Bush to two presidential victories. He remains a highly controversial figure, loathed by many, but admired by others for his razor-sharp intellect. Among his detractors are those who accuse him of trying to turn the country into a unilateralist super-bully, now that the United States is the only remaining superpower. He is thought to be one of the main architects of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and, along with Vice-President Cheney, one of the hawks calling for "decisive action," in other words military action against Iran in order to put a stop to the Islamic republic's nuclear ambitions.

How does Rove’s departure affect the Middle East? Chances are the political mastermind of the White House for these last few years would be far too busy planning the Republicans’ comeback in 2008. This will be a crucial election for the Republicans who stand a good chance to lose the race to the Democratic Party. If he does get involved in any Mideast policy making his counsel may be short and terse. In dealing with the Iran dossier, much like the vice-president, he is likely to support the use of force and would counsel Bush accordingly. The saving grace is that while the president keeps insisting that “all options remain on the table,” Bush, for the moment, remains opposed to the military option.

Claude Salhani is International Editor and a political analyst with United Press International in Washington, DC. Comments may be sent to

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