Is Obama waging a preemptive war on Iran?
Jeffrey Goldberg thinks so:
Following a (perhaps not-so-mysterious) explosion on a military base last month that took with it the life of Gen. Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam--one of the Iranian missile program's most distinguished OGs--comes news of a second explosion in Isfahan this past Monday, which according to sources "struck the uranium enrichment facility there, despite denials by Tehran."
Of course, accurate news out of Tehran is hard to come by, but if you want to take this a step further, one might consider Tuesday's (perhaps not-so-spontaneous) storming of the British embassy by Iranian "students" to be quite an effective smokescreen in keeping news of this second explosion from making serious waves. If you've had a lot of coffee, it's also worthy to note that on Monday evening, following the explosion in Iran, four missiles fired from southern Lebanon struck Israel--the first such incident in over two years.
Thomas Donnelly slams the Obama administration for not preparing the public for a full-out war:
So this might be a last opportunity to formulate a larger strategy for dealing with Iran, and for defining what would really constitute success. Spooky operations are fine as far as they go, but rarely achieve significant strategic results. The United States is, indeed, in a low-level war with Iran, and no one particularly wants to see it get bigger. On the other hand, wars have a logic of their own, and the presumption that everything is under control â?? that all repayments will be â??in kindâ? and somehow proportionate â?? in not the best basis for planning. What is now merely curious might easily become deeply compelling.
We are not well prepared for a larger war. Weâ??re not prepared domestically, diplomatically, or militarily. Even a successful small-scale Iranian attack here would be a profound shock. The British and French may be with us (or in front of us, hence the attack on the British embassy) when it comes to sanctions, but they have little appetite or capability for any next step; China and Russia object to further sanctions. And weâ??re not only retreating from the region but in the process of a larger defense drawdown.
I think Donnelly raises an important issue - the U.S. is either leading (or following Israel) into a hot war with Iran and Donnelly's right to warn that events could quickly and unexpectedly take on a life of its own. But I don't know what "preparing the public" for war with Iran would accomplish. I suspect that a majority of Americans would oppose such a war, and it's not altogether clear that Obama wants to wage it in a more overt fashion.
I think it's clear the administration does not want a hot war with Iran - an administration hell-bent on conflict would have seized on the plot to kill the Saudi Ambassador - but if the tit-for-tat intensifies it might find its options sharply constrained.
Consider too the implication that Americans would find an Iranian attack against its interests or even the homeland a "profound shock." But how could the Obama administration prepare the public for such a shock without casting its Iran policy in a less-than-favorable light? If President Obama told the public that America was working with Israel to murder Iranian scientists and blow up Iranian buildings and sabotage Iranian infrastructure and that the Iranians might seek to retaliate in kind, it would implicitly cast Iranian motives as rational.
As we saw in the run up to the Iraq war, one of the key arguments advanced against Saddam Hussein was that he would do something irrational (hand over WMD to al-Qaeda) and hence couldn't be trusted. Iranian irrationality and religious fanaticism is also a critical component in the case for taking military action against their nuclear program. A key to sustaining the aura of irrationality is to strip out any of the strategic context of Iranian actions.