How serious? This serious:

…according to a well-placed Bush administration source, “everyone in town” is now participating in a broad discussion about the costs and benefits of military action against Iran, with the likely timeframe for any such course of action being over the next eight to 10 months, after the presidential primaries have probably been decided, but well before the November 2008 elections.

The discussions are now focused on two basic options: less invasive scenarios under which the U.S. might blockade Iranian imports of gasoline or exports of oil, actions generally thought to exact too high a cost on the Iranian people but not enough on the regime in Tehran; and full-scale aerial bombardment.

But here’s some important context: these discussions have ramped up just as Germany decides to ditch multilateral sanctions.

The Germans voiced concern about the damaging effects any further sanctions on Iran would have on the German economy — and also, according to diplomats from other countries, gave the distinct impression that they would privately welcome, while publicly protesting, an American bombing campaign against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Are we just calling Germany’s bluff? And, in the process, reminding Iran that there are much worse things than sanctions?

If we’re bluffing, though, they’re going to raise us–threatening “teeth-breaking” reprisals against our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And Britain is going to see their raise, and raise them right back:

British forces have been sent from Basra to the volatile border with Iran amid warnings from the senior US commander in Iraq that Tehran is fomenting a “proxy war”.

In signs of a fast-developing confrontation, the Iranians have threatened military action in response to attacks launched from Iraqi territory while the Pentagon has announced the building of a US base and fortified checkpoints at the frontier.

350 new troops at the border are mainly there to interdict weapons shipments, but they also serve as, effectively, hostages just as our troops in Seoul are hostage there: if they are attacked, it guarantees their government will have a political imperative to retaliate.

“Proxy war” is a term I’ve seen a lot in the last few days. General Petraeus mentioned it, of course, about the current situation in Iraq. But “proxy war” has been Iran’s game for a long time now, and as a thorough new report by Thomas Joscelyn lays out in chilling detail, our failure to come to terms with that fact means they keep winning hand after hand.

Exit Question: I thought the nuclear program was for energy, not medicine. Light water reactors require enriched uranium; heavy water reactors don’t–so I guess they’re planning to shut off their enrichment centrifuges. Right?