A Red Line

“The United States does not want Iran to develop a nuclear weapon,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told CBS News. “That’s a red line for us.”

I hear that phrase in the Middle East more often than I hear it in the United States. Crossing a government-enforced red line in that part of the world tends to get a person imprisoned or killed. I don’t know if Panetta is aware that the statement he made is much stronger than President Barack Obama’s previous statement than an Iranian nuclear weapon is merely “unacceptable,” but the effect is the same either way. The Iranian government just heard the audible click of a ratchet.


Walter Russell Mead thinks most of us are underestimating the odds that the Obama administration will go to war to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Ron Paul may join the Truther movement and the moonbat brigade in screaming “Wag the dog!” but the administration has been carefully preparing the groundwork for a confrontation for some time — while holding open the possibility that the US will change its approach if Iran will drop the bomb program. That doesn’t seem to be working, and we now seem to be in something of a pre-war atmosphere with Iran.

I still have my doubts that the administration will actually go through with it for a couple of reasons. The Bush administration wasn’t interested, and that crowd was considerably more hawkish than the current one. A war with Iran would likely turn regional within 24 hours and could involve Lebanon, Israel, Syria, Gaza, and possibly even Iraq. And the U.S. may well be bluffing. The Iranian government might flinch if it thinks it’s on the brink of war even if it is not.


Mead is right, though, either way. War is hardly inevitable and it may not even be likely, but the general atmospherics are more pre-war than they’ve been.


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