It seems to me that one thing we are losing sight of is that in November, the GOP candidate, if he is Romney or Santorum, will be campaigning to launch a new war in the Middle East. It will be one of the starkest contrasts between Romney and Obama, unless Romney flip-flops. But it seems to me that the evangelical fervor for war against Iran and in defense of Israel will make it very hard for Romney to flip. And when the issue is reduced to war or diplomacy, Romney will have a problem. He could even be credibly portrayed as guaranteeing a massive increase in gas prices. And if the Democrats weren't so craven toward the Greater Israel lobby, they could make a strong case that an unnecessary attack could torpedo the recovery.
Now a new poll (pdf) reveals that the US public is saner about all this than their political elites:
Americans show substantial pessimism about Iran and its nuclear program. Six in ten believe that Iran has decided to try to produce nuclear weapons and is actively working to do so. Nine in ten believe that it is likely that Iran will eventually develop nuclear weapons.
Netanyahu is on weak ground with Americans if he decides to act unilaterally:
If Israel goes ahead with a military strike against Iran’s nuclear program and Iran retaliates (but not against American targets), only one in four favors the US providing military support for Israel and only 4 in 10 favor the US providing even diplomatic support. Few would support open opposition. The most popular position is for the US to take a neutral stance.
The chances of an Israeli action alone seem to have abated somewhat – but at the cost of a clear US commitment to do it for them if negotiations fail, as they probably will. But if it happens, the US should abstain in the Security Council.