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Peace Now From the Pentagon

War appears imminent. At least that’s the impression gleaned from this week’s press blitz on Iran.  In the State of the Union address, Obama said he would “take no options off the table to achieve” the goal of halting Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program. A congressional testimony on Tuesday concluded that Iran has “crossed a threshold in its adversarial relationship with the US.” Finally, Secretary Panetta let slip the cryptic statement, “If we have to do it, we will do it.”

Although most of the Obama administration appears in lock step, there are hints of opposition. In an interview with the National Journal, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs said of Iran, “I just think that it’s premature to be deciding that the economic and diplomatic approach is inadequate.”  Martin Dempsey’s remark subtly contradicts the administration, and echoes comments from Admiral Fallon in 2007, when he said of Iran, “”This constant drumbeat of conflict…is not helpful and not useful. I expect that there will be no war, and that is what we ought to be working for.”

Fallon’s utterance caused such a “perception of policy differences” with the executive branch that Fallon retired early. The situation today is somewhat different; few in the Obama administration are itching for another war in the Middle East, but the White House is as worried about Israeli recklessness as about Iranian recalcitrance. Militant war talk from Washington worries Iran and calms Israel: exactly what the White House wants.

Any White House ire at Dempsey will be about appearance, not substance.  Israeli hawks are scanning the news flow for clues about whether Israel can count on the US or whether it must act on its own. They will worry that Dempsey’s remarks could bring about exactly the kind of confrontation he — and they — would like to prevent.

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  • Walter Sobchak

    Obama is saving Iran for an October episode of Wag the Dog.

  • Roy

    I think the reality is that the Israelis would, more or less, be on their own, and for that reason alone ought to refrain from an attack. I don’t believe, however, that they are aware of their potential isolation in the event of one. Netanyahu seems to be living in an echo chamber, unless all the sabre-rattling is just a clever way of keeping the heat on Iran. America’s tolerance for casualties in the Middle East right now is at an ebb, and the bloc of anti-Israel/antisemites that churns out an endless torrent of bile in the media and on the web has been spectacularly successful at portraying the invasion of Iraq as a nefarious Jewish plot. Given the current international climate, and the fact that its own popularity is at a nadir, partly because of its own missteps, attacking Iran would be something akin to a suicide attempt.

  • Corlyss

    Well, between Rumsfeld and Obama, “An Army of One” will soon become more than a slogan.

  • James

    Why has such an intelligent, thoughtful blog been so cowardly about addressing this issue? No thoughts on the nature of the Islamic Republic’s rhetoric and serious intentions? What its ambitions mean for Israel exactly? What the Obama admin. should be doing to protect the US and its allies? Would be very disappointed if Via Meadia is underestimating and misunderstanding how serious this actually is for Israel and the US like too many others.

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