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.
Peace Now From the Pentagon
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