In 2007, the U.S. intelligence community’s National Intelligence Estimate on Iran argued that the Iranian regime—loathsome as it is—is “guided by a cost-benefit approach.” In 2011, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified before Congress that “we continue to judge Iran’s nuclear decision-making is guided by a cost-benefit approach.” Last week, Gen. Ron Burgess, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told Congress that “the agency assesses Iran is unlikely to initiate or provoke a conflict.” Last weekend, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria: “We are of the opinion that Iran is a rational actor.”
Most of the Israeli security officials who have commented publicly have said similar things. In December, Haaretz reported that Mossad chief Tamir Pardo had called Iran a threat, but not an existential one. Earlier this month, former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy echoed that view, declaring that “it is not in the power of Iran to destroy the state of Israel.” That same week, former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Halutz said virtually the same thing: that “Iran poses a serious threat but not an existential one.”
this war talk is dangerous, it can lead to “Guns of August” consequences, and it is particularly dangerous to have Republican candidates decide that outdoing one another in warlike talk about Iran is good for them or the country.** …
** The Times says about the politics of the issue:
Israel… [JF: more accurately, the most hawkish voices in the Netanyahu administration] views the possibility of an Iranian nuclear weapon as a threat to its very existence and has warned that Iran’s nuclear facilities may soon be buried too deep for foreign bombers to reach.
Israel’s [JF: Netanyahu’s] stance has played out politically in the United States. With the notable exception of Representative Ron Paul of Texas, Republican presidential candidates have kept up a competition in threatening Iran and portraying themselves as protectors of Israel.
Daniel Larison examined the substance of the Senate’s resolution on Iran, and concluded:
the ridiculous anti-containment resolution, S. Res. 380, makes completely unreasonable demands that Iran could never accept … The goal of any provocative ultimatum is to make such excessive demands that there is no way that the other government could ever agree to all of them without suffering complete humiliation. Undermining a possible negotiated settlement is the purpose of the resolution as far as many of the resolution’s co-sponsors are concerned. By declaring containment to be intolerable as an alternative, the co-sponsors are doing their best to make war with Iran unavoidable.
An imaginable next few months: Bush-like Netanyahu heeds the advice of ideologues over his intelligence community and goes to war. Pres. Obama speaks out against Israel’s action. Gas rises to $6 per gallon. Mitt Romney wins in November, ushering in an America-destroying, world-crippling few years of wars designed to get a few percentage points of support for GOP candidates in the Midwest.