In the Arena

Don’t Iran to Conclusions

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OK, OK. Lots of chatter among readers about an imminent attack by U.S. or Israel against Iran. Some of it is being generated by this piece by Sy Hersh. A few days ago, David Kurtz at Talking Points Memo posted a Ha’aretz report about Israel asking for overflight clearance from neighboring countries for an airstrike against Iran.

This is wild stuff and highly unlikely, I’d say. Any attack on Iran would face serious resistance from the U.S. military. Last December Bush met in the “Tank” with the Joint Chiefs. I’m told that he asked the Chiefs about taking out the Iranian nuclear programs. They told Bush that the U.S. military could effectively take out the Iranian air force, air defenses and command and control structure with an air strike (and, I imagine, the oil fields, too), but not the nuclear program–because of a lack of intelligence. There was unanimous opposition, for a multitude of reasons (but then, I’m told, the Chiefs also unanimously opposed the surge at that meeting).

I wouldn’t be surprised if there were mass, high-ranking military resignations if Bush were to insist on an Iran attack. And there would be impeachment proceedings, too. A prominent Republican told me last week, “I don’t know what [Bush's] plans are, but if he’s stupid enough to do this, I’d expect a broad, bipartisan, fast-moving movement to impeach.”

The Pentagon undoubtedly has plans for an attack on Iran, probably even an active, ongoing planning operation…but that doesn’t mean very much. There are similar plans for North Korea and a host of other countries. I would be shocked if we, or the Israelis, launched on Iran.

update: Excellent anecdote from UPI, via reader JJ:

At a farewell reception at Blair House for the retiring chief of protocol, Don Ensenat, who was President Bush’s Yale roommate, the president shook hands with Washington Life Magazine’s Soroush Shehabi. A grandson of one of the late Shah’s ministers, Soroush said, “Mr. President, I simply want to say one U.S. bomb on Iran and the regime will remain in power for another 20 or 30 years and 70 million Iranians will become radicalized.”

“I know,” President Bush answered.

“But does Vice President Cheney know?” asked Soroush.

The president chuckled and walked away.