Will Obama Bomb Iran?

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Michael Rubin

Michael Rubin is resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. The likelihood of President Obama attacking Iran is between zero and nil. Unfortunately, the Iranians understand that. Wars in the Middle East are not caused by oil or water, but rather by overconfidence. As the Obama administration -- and, to be fair, the Bush and Clinton administrations before that -- demonstrated, American redlines tend in fact to be pink and quite wide. The Iranians concluded that the Americans were paper tigers. When Undersecretary of State Bill Burns -- now deputy secretary -- broke the taboo and sat down with an Iranian delegation in 2008, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards' ground forces declared, "America has no other choice but to leave the Middle East region beaten and humiliated." On the 30th anniversary of the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei ridiculed Obama's outreach. While Americans see the 'pivot to Asia' against the context of China's rise, Iranians and Gulf Arabs hear a repeat of Sir Anthony Eden's "East of Suez" speech, which presaged the British withdrawal from the region almost a half century ago. The looming danger is not a proactive conflict, but rather that the Iranians misread American resolve and force a reactive conflict. A quarter century has passed since Operation Praying Mantis -- the last major skirmish between U.S. and Iranian naval forces -- and that confrontation served as a reminded to Tehran that America would back its rhetoric with action. Let us hope that Obama understands that sometimes the best guarantee of peace is to speak softly and carry a big stick. (AP Photo)

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