By Steve Hynd
There's a certain momentum to the U.S. public discourse over Iran this year, as there hasn't been since...actually, no, it's pretty much been a steady drumbeat for a decade now. We've had countless predictions that Iran would go fully nuclear this year or next and countless predictions that the U.S. or Israel would attack Iran pre-emptively. Neither has happened, despite these predictions from necons and neoliberals alike and despite an entire forest of paper being wasted on lurid stories which are always shaky at best.
Why? Because Iran has been forthright - it wants the Japan Option, a capability to build a weapon swiftly rather than a weapon-in-being, and something that isn't illegal by the NPT treaty or any other - and because even the Pentagon realizes any attack on Iran would be sheer lunacy which would guarantee both nations would come out in worse situations than they went in. What the U.S., Israel and and their allies are engaged in is a form of "strategic ambiguity", where threats of war are meant to leverage Iran into backing down and offering concessions. Unfortunately for this idea, every part of Iran's political spectrum, including the Green reformists, is heavily invested in Iran keeping what it believes it has by right and international law. So despite Iran offering concessions that fall short of ending their enrichment program more than once, the U.S. and it's allies have never seriously considered those overtures. It's an object lesson - you shouldn't play poker with a haggler.
And so the whole sorry mess grinds on year after year. The real war risk isn't that iran will launch proxy attacks on CONUS, or that the U.S. will launch pre-emptive cruise missiles at Tehran. the real risk is an incident that turns into an accidental shooting war. Der Spiegel's Alexander Smoltczyk got that exactly right this week. Most worryingly, we don't even have the level of contact that the U.S. and U.S.S.R. had during the Cold War to head off such accidental wars.
Senior U.S. military commanders have worried about such a miscalculation for some time. During his last days on the job, then-Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen raised such worries. "We haven't had a connection with Iran since 1979. Even in the darkest days of the Cold War, we had links to the Soviet Union," Mullen said. "We are not talking to Iran, so we don't understand each other. If something happens, it's virtually assured that we won't get it right, that there will be miscalculation."
And that scenario, Mullen warned, "would be extremely dangerous in that part of the world."