Reading The Iran War Tea Leaves

Andrew Sullivan —  Nov 3 2011 @ 11:46am

The Guardian reported yesterday that the British are preparing for an attack on Iran. Ron Kampeas flags some conflicting analysis on the likelihood of a strike from different sources. Tarek Osman warns that events of recent months might enable a strike:

[I]f Israel or the United States (or both) were to decide to attack Iran – through air-strikes rather than a ground invasion – they will seek to ensure three preconditions in the region: that Arab resistance to any such attack will be limited; that it would not be perceived as an attack on “Islam”; and that Iran’s regional satellites (Hizbollah and Hamas) are given strong disincentives to engage in the struggle. All this will be difficult, but much of it is not impossible. Saudi Arabia and most other Gulf monarchies want to see Iran’s powers curtailed; Egypt will for the next few months at least be consumed by its internal travails; Syria’s regime is entangled in a domestic war for survival, and even Hizbollah’s solidarity with Iran in an armed confrontation with Israel would have its limits.

Unless there is evidence of an imminent threat to Britain or the US, I cannot think of a crazier strategy. As outlined above, it may well be seen as the West's entrance into the Sunni-Shi'a struggle in the region, providing plenty of ammunition for any Shiite Jihadist, let alone a Quds operative, to strike back, and force a ratcheting up of the police and security state at home even further. Bruce Riedel analyzes what Iran could do in response:

Iran’s capability to retaliate for an Israeli strike against the U.S. is enormous.  It could encourage its Shia allies in Iraq to attack American forces, as they seek to withdraw from the country before the end of the year, or the American diplomats who will stay behind. It could encourage the Afghan Taliban, with which it has developed a closer relationship in the last couple of years, to step up its attacks on NATO forces in Afghanistan. The Italian forces in Afghanistan are particularly vulnerable, since they are deployed near the Iranian border around Herat, but American bases across the country would be even more at risk than they are today. U.S. bases in the Gulf states, including Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman, would be in range of Iranian missiles and terrorists. Hizbullah and Iran have contingency plans for attacks on American diplomatic and other targets across Europe, Africa, Asia, and here at home. They don’t need to rely on Mexican drug cartels to hit inside America.