Support for US attack on Iran grows in Middle East

David Ignatius:

The potentially transforming events in the 2008 campaign are matters of war and peace. Both may be in play between now and November, in ways that add extra volatility to the presidential race.

Let's start with war: The United States is already fighting two of them, in Iraq and Afghanistan. But judging from recent statements by administration officials, there is also a small, but growing, chance of conflict with Iran.

The administration is signaling the Iranians that they need to stop supplying and training Shiite militias in Iraq -- or run the risk of U.S. retaliation. The Maliki government in Baghdad, worried about the danger of escalation, is passing this message to Tehran, but so far the only consequence has been that the Iranians have broken off talks in Baghdad that were aimed at stabilizing the situation.

Saber rattling from the Bush White House may seem almost routine, but pay attention to the comment last week by Adm. Michael G. Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "Iran is not going away. We need to be strong and really in the deterrent mode, to not be very predictable."

The risk of a U.S.-Iranian confrontation is growing in part because Saudi Arabia and other U.S. allies in the Middle East are so eager for it. "Behind closed doors, we are praying that the Iranians will make a mistake so that you will have a reason to attack," one Saudi told me this week. Another prominent Arab official said he hopes the United States will strike Iranian training camps just over the border from Iraq.

How would a U.S.-Iran confrontation play out in the campaign? Obviously, that depends on how you read the American political mood. Usually, we assume that the nation rallies around the party of war, but that's less certain in this case. America is war-weary, and it mistrusts President Bush. So a military skirmish with Iran might backfire, adding to public dissent -- much as happened with the Nixon administration's attack on Viet Cong sanctuaries in Cambodia in 1970.

Adding to the combustible mix is Hillary Clinton's hawkish position on Iran, which has support from the center-right of the party even if she drops out. Her rhetorical threat to "totally obliterate" Iran if it launched a nuclear attack against Israel was sharper than anything that has come out of the Bush White House. The anti-Iran stance from centrist Democrats blunts John McCain's appeal as the tough-guy candidate. But it complicates the Democrats' argument for withdrawing U.S. troops rapidly from Iraq, since the main beneficiary of such a move would be Tehran.

The other wild card in the campaign is, happily, the possibility that Middle East peace negotiations might actually bear fruit....

...

The chances of a Middle East peace agreement are too remote to even factor in. The Palestinians have nothing of value to offer Israel. Until they do, there is no hope that any agreement will accomplish peace if entered into.

Iran is interesting because Obama is an appeaser in the Carter mode. In fact he has many of Carter's advisers. Attacks against Iran would highlight his wimp factors and probably help McCain.

BTW, Nixon was right to attack the communist in Cambodia. The hysterical reaction of the Democrats was just another reason why they should never be trusted on national security issues. Neutrality requires that you not permit your country to be used as a sanctuary in a conflict. If you fail to stop that use, you are no longer neutral. For example in World War II, the Swiss did not permit any of the warring countries to use their soil as a sanctuary or a base for attacking the other side.

The Iraqis are the key on any Iranian action. They are currently building their case to show Iranian aggression through supplying and training enemy forces in Iraq. That case will be more persuasive to the world, and will be used at the UN to justify the attacks on Iran.

Comments

  1. The Saudis should stop "praying" for Iran and America to get into it and create a coalition of gulf and Sunni states to eliminate the threat the regime poses to the region. Israel is not the nation with the most to fear from Iran. The government of Iran is desperate for some chaos and acts that most would currently think impossible for a Muslim state to contemplate are on Iran's discussion table. Twelvers make regular zealots look sane. Not to mention the desire for more regional influence, reducing that of neighbors and other motivations which make Iran too great a threat to leave to hope in an American involvement. Unfortunately, the nations of the region will not see it this way.

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  2. Amen Merv.

    People who rant about how the fighting was bad in the Mekong generally don't know where the Mekong Delta is.

    Once you look at a map, you realize that the only way there could be fighting in the Mekong is if the North Vietnamese violated the treaty and Cambodia's sovereignty to get there.

    To be fair to Cambodia, Sihanouk knew it was a pissant country that didn't have the power to fend off its own growing Communist movement AND the Chinese backed North Vietnamese.

    Cambodia deliberately turned a blind eye to and sometimes encouraged the U.S. bombing campaign. He was deposed by Lon Nol in 1970 because Lon Nol correctly guessed that the Communists were going to be big trouble for Cambodia, and that Sihanouk wasn't doing enough to stop it.

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