Monday, October 22, 2007

Warnings To Iran Flow, But War Remains Unlikely

Written from Montreal--

Vice President Cheney is the latest to warn that the U.S. will not permit Iran to have nuclear weapons. His strongly-worded speech to the Middle Eastern Institute followed President Bush's statement that an Iranian atomic bomb could mean World War III, and French and German warnings have also proliferated.

It was taken as a bad sign also when Ali Larijani either resigned or was forced out last week as Iran's chief nuclear negotiator. The New York Times report speculated that this meant new support for the fanatic Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, from Iran's supreme ayatolla, Ali Khamenei.

The U.S. is ratcheting up pressure by sending three aircraft carriers to the Persian Gulf, and there are reports that last month's Israeli air strike at a possible nuclear installation in Syria was practice for a strike against such facilities in Iran.

But a war between Iran, Israel and the U.S. probably remains unlikely for several reasons.

First, everyone on both sides realizes such a conflict could provoke mass murder in the Middle East and, with resulting terrorism in the U.S. and Europe, probably would not be confined to the Middle East.

No one really wants a war, certainly not either the Bush Administration or Israel. Both would certainly accept a deal allowing Iran to develop nuclear energy, if some system of inspection and guarantees could be devised against its development into weapons.

There are certainly elements in Iran which realize that a war would likely mean the end of the regime of the Mullahs there.

It is in this light that Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit last week to Tehran might be seen. There was much bombast at this meeting, but it is hard to conceive that Putin did not make serious offers to resolve the crisis. A war between Iran and the U.S. and Israel is not in Russia's interest either. And, notice, Russia sent two ranking diplomats to Jerusalem immediately following the Putin visit. And the Israelis conducted a minor body exchange with Iranian-backed Hezbollah, and there was talk of a prisoner exchange., so talks are on there too. The Iranians seem to have backed off their earlier attempts to oust the pro-Western government in Lebanon.

Behind the scenes, so, there is much diplomacy.

Already, the Iranian nuclear facilities are probably well diversified underground and very difficult to knock out. But I think that what really militates against war is that everyone recognizes how bad it would be.

Big wars usually result from fatal miscalculations. There is so much contemplation of the stakes here that it will probably never take place.

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