Thursday, September 21, 2006

Attack Iran? Here's why I don't think it's going to happen

David Frum's Diary:
1) Any prudent war planner has to assume that the rulers of Iran will strike back. They may not - they may absorb the blow, they may come to terms, they may be overthrown in a popular uprising - but the plan has to assume a counterstrike. Which means that war planners must plan their counter-counter-strike. Any sign of that happening? And no, talk of sending an additional Aegis cruiser to the Gulf on Oct. 1 does not count.

2) Despite the accusations of America's critics, the United States does not bomb other countries out of a clear blue sky. When it uses force it does so either in response to an aggression against the US or an ally - or with the legitimation of some international organization. For all the talk of * unilateralism * in Iraq, the US went to war on the strength of more than a dozen coercive UN Security Council resolutions. Post-Iraq, this kind of legitimation is more essential than ever to bringing along US allies. The US has not even begun to build any such kind of predicate against Iran - even though Iran has repeatedly been caught violating nonproliferation rules. Most recently, Iran has defied an Aug. 31 Security Council resolution ordering it to suspend its uranium enrichment program - and yet President Bush did not even mention this resolution in his UN address on Tuesday. If he were preparing to lead the nation and the world to war, he would have done so.

3) Nor has there been diplomacy outside the UN. The American public strongly prefers going to war alongside allies. If the allies refuse, that is politically risky - but if they are not even asked, that is far worse.

4) Finally, through Washington there echoes the hushed sound of back doors being opened to quiet negotiations. See, for example, this:
Just got back from the first-ever press conference of the super-low-key commission on what to do in Iraq, chaired by James Baker and Lee Hamilton. ... Baker, in response to a question by Jim Lobe of Inter Press News, disclosed that he is "fairly confident that [the panel] will meet with a representative at a high level of the Iranian government" during the upcoming United Nations General Assembly session.
One hears things like that about once a week these days.

Which is why I'm betting that rather than war, the US and Iran are heading toward a deal.