An epidemic of denial over Iran

For at least a year and a half, a dangerous conventional wisdom has been percolating within the foreign-policy community and it is this: America ain’t gonna attack Iran. Whether ignoring familiar warning signs or waving them away, most mainstream analysts are towing this line, too. If you don’t believe me, just check out some examples of what I’m talking ...

599412_070912_elbaradei_05.jpg
599412_070912_elbaradei_05.jpg

For at least a year and a half, a dangerous conventional wisdom has been percolating within the foreign-policy community and it is this: America ain't gonna attack Iran. Whether ignoring familiar warning signs or waving them away, most mainstream analysts are towing this line, too. If you don't believe me, just check out some examples of what I'm talking about here, here, and here (us, too). Too bogged down in Iraq. Just talking tough to Tehran. The generals won't let it happen. These are all convenient forms of denial, and the foreign-policy establishment and media appear to have bought into them big time.

SAMUEL KUBANI/AFP/Getty

And why shouldn't they? Even Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said flatly: "We are not planning for a war with Iran." But the situation appears to be changing—and fast. Germany reportedly informed the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council last week that it would not back further sanctions against the Islamic Republic. That decision could deadlock next week's meeting of the six powers in Washington, where Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns hopes to secure a new set of sanctions. The European Union is also failing to fully back International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohammed ElBaradei's plan for new inspections in Iran.

For at least a year and a half, a dangerous conventional wisdom has been percolating within the foreign-policy community and it is this: America ain’t gonna attack Iran. Whether ignoring familiar warning signs or waving them away, most mainstream analysts are towing this line, too. If you don’t believe me, just check out some examples of what I’m talking about here, here, and here (us, too). Too bogged down in Iraq. Just talking tough to Tehran. The generals won’t let it happen. These are all convenient forms of denial, and the foreign-policy establishment and media appear to have bought into them big time.

SAMUEL KUBANI/AFP/Getty

And why shouldn’t they? Even Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said flatly: “We are not planning for a war with Iran.” But the situation appears to be changing—and fast. Germany reportedly informed the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council last week that it would not back further sanctions against the Islamic Republic. That decision could deadlock next week’s meeting of the six powers in Washington, where Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns hopes to secure a new set of sanctions. The European Union is also failing to fully back International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohammed ElBaradei’s plan for new inspections in Iran.

All of this has official Washington’s patience wearing thin, and should be cause enough for concern. If not, this startling report out today by Fox News ought to do the trick:

Political and military officers, as well as weapons of mass destruction specialists at the State Department, are now advising Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the diplomatic approach favored by [Under Secretary of State Nicholas] Burns has failed and the administration must actively prepare for military intervention of some kind. Among those advising Rice along these lines are John Rood, the assistant secretary for the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation; and a number of Mideast experts, including Ambassador James Jeffrey, deputy White House national security adviser under Stephen Hadley and formerly the principal deputy assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs…. [T]he likely timeframe for any such course of action being over the next eight to 10 months, after the presidential primaries have probably been decided, but well before the November 2008 elections.

Next thing you know, you’ll start hearing folks at AEI saying that Iran was responsible for 9/11. Wait a minute, that’s already happening, as Peter Beinart pointed out in Sunday’s New York Times. “It’s the 2007 equivalent of the claims made in 2002 and 2003 about Iraq,” Beinart noted. “The years between 9/11 and the Iraq war gave rise to a cottage industry … charging that Saddam Hussein was the hidden mastermind behind a decade of jihadist terror. While refuted by the 9/11 Commission and mainstream terror experts, these claims had a political effect.”

Looks like it’s time to stop the epidemic of denial that has the foreign-policy community convinced that an attack on Iran is out of the question. Before it’s too late.

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