Iran is in the news again today, with reports that it has test-fired missiles with a range of 1,200 miles. "Our hands are always on the trigger and our missiles are ready for launch," blustered a general from Iran's Revolutionary Guard. That sent oil prices up again. It also fueled the debate about the Bush Administration's plan to put missiles in Eastern Europe. And it caused more speculation about a U.S. and/or Israeli preemptive strike against Iran. I'm not worried.
Iranian President Ahmadinejad doesn't seem to be worried, either, since he referred to such threats as a "funny joke." He added, "I assure you that there won't be any war in the future." Funny or not, Iran also threatened to set Israel "on fire" and to close down the Persian Gulf outlet if Iran were attacked. Still, I'm not worried.
Last week, in The Dreyfuss Report, I wrote about the comments of Admiral Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said clearly that the United States is not planning war with Iran and doesn't want one.
Now, via ArmsControlWonk, we learn that Tony Cordesman, a sober, realist-minded conservative analyst, was in Israel last week, and had this to say:
"Cordesman is visiting Israel this week, and gave a lecture yesterday at Tel Aviv University and at Hebrew University on Sunday. He talked about Mullen's comments last week in Washington when the Admiral said such an Israeli attack would be dangerous and could destabilize the Middle East. Mullen spoke after returning from a visit to Israel, during which he met with Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and other senior IDF officers."
Cordesman said Mullen came to Israel to deliver a message - that Israel did not have a green light to attack Iran and that it would not receive U.S. support for such a move.
According to Cordesman, Mullen was expressing the official opinion of the U.S. administration, including that of President George W. Bush and the National Security Council.
There can't be any attack on Iran. First, the United States and its allies now find it impossible to blame Iran for supporting terrorism in Iraq since Iraq is relatively quiet. (In fact, I believe Iran is working hard behind the scenes to damp down intra-Shiite fighting, persuading Muqtada al-Sadr to behave himself, and pushing Nouri al-Maliki's government to start talking about an American military withdrawal.) Second, the United States can't credibly use Iran's nuclear program as a pretext for an attack. That rationale was demolished by the CIA last year, via the National Intelligence Estimate that Iran had stopped work on a bomb in 2003. And now Iran is signalling its readiness to negotiate, saying talk will begin within days:
Iran expects talks on its disputed nuclear program to begin within days, a senior Iranian official said in remarks published on Wednesday.
"Now the West has accepted to start negotiations with Iran and this is the best way," Mohammad Saeedi said when asked about possible talks with European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana. "Our diplomacy is based on negotiations."
Saeedi, deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, was quoted by Fars news agency as saying: "Talks will start in the next few days and at that time many issues will become clear."
In my opinion, progressives ought to worry a lot more about the real wars we're fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, not the one we aren't going to have with Iran.
By Robert Dreyfuss
Reprinted with permission from The Nation