Sunday, November 11, 2007

US Arguments Against Attacking Iran

Time magazine has published an article claiming tensions between the US and Iran, despite escalating rhetoric, is actually decreasing.

Rhetoric doesn't always match reality in the realm of foreign affairs, and in what may be a further sign that steps are being taken to dial down tensions with Iran, the U.S. military in Baghdad on Friday released nine Iranians in its custody — including two of the five nabbed in Irbil in January, who the U.S. had accused of being linked to Shi'ite militias fighting U.S. troops inside Iraq. There are indications that Tehran may also be acting to cool tensions with the U.S. in Iraq: U.S. officials say the number of deadly explosively-formed-penetrator roadside bombs arriving in Iraq from Iran has been halved between July and October. And while alarmists were quick to note the U.S. Navy's deployment of a second aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf off Iran's coast earlier this year, they have been largely mute as the two ships were replaced by a solo carrier in August.

Albert R. Hunt, with Bloomberg news, via International Herald Tribune goes much further, saying, based on apparently extensive interviews with experts, that any attack is unlikely.

The military, economic and political climate for action against Iran is infinitely less hospitable than it was five years ago, when the United States was preparing for war with Iraq. The prospects for an attack on Iran in the final 14 months of the administration are somewhere between slim and none.

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Conversations with several Republican members of Congress, a couple current administration officials and former top national security advisers yield the same view. Indeed, it's not even clear the vice president is an advocate of action, as opposed to tough talk, on Iran.

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In our system, a major military action of choice isn't done without a consensus, and certainly not in the final months of a presidency. That reality is being ignored by even otherwise smart analysts, like the economist David Hale, who predicted this week that if the Democrats win the election next November, the president will strike Iran before he leaves office.

The US has an incentive to claim it is willing to attack even if it is not planning on doing so. I've thought that this incentive was being played out for a long time.

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