As the diplomatic impasse over Iran’s nuclear program continues, the threat of war and the display of preparations for war loom ever larger. Both sides are hoping to frighten the other into backing down as the moment approaches when either one side gives way or war comes.On the Iranian side, we see ever more dire pronouncements about Iran’s will and ability to close down the Straits of Hormuz, the narrow choke point through which much of the world’s oil passes on its way out of the Persian Gulf. On the coalition side, we see the opening of pipelines that bypass the Straits, sending a message to Iran that the world is not moved by its threats.Meanwhile, the rising tensions are affecting oil prices; Brent crude is back up over $100 per barrel, with analysts largely blaming the move on Iran’s falling production and uncertainty over the future.Neither Washington nor Tehran really wants a war, but it is increasingly difficult to see how either side can back down. For the US to accept an Iranian nuclear weapon would destroy President Obama’s administration at home and fatally wound American credibility abroad at this point. But the mullahs look at Libya and Syria and believe that a concession on the nuclear issue would lead to increased pressure for regime change in Tehran. Neither side trusts the other and so far nobody has proposed a way out of the impasse that the two parties can accept.We must therefore look for the war dance to continue as the two sides play for time and try to intimidate one another into staging a retreat. There is one small consolation in the news, however. Progress on the pipelines will reduce the global consequences of another war in the Gulf and it may well be that a sense of diminished leverage will tip the balance in Tehran towards those who think abandoning the nuclear quest is a safer course than a dash for the bomb.
Iran: The War Dance Continues
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