Obama planning to attack Iran?

The Washington Post and the New York Times have nothing on this, so let’s take a look overseas to see what our government might be planning, shall we?  The Guardian reports that the UK has begun preparing to support the US in a strike on Iran, thanks to a new IAEA report that concludes — very much belatedly — that Tehran has been working all along to develop nuclear weapons:

Britain’s armed forces are stepping up their contingency planning for potential military action against Iran amid mounting concern about Tehran’s nuclear enrichment programme, the Guardian has learned.

The Ministry of Defence believes the US may decide to fast-forward plans for targeted missile strikes at some key Iranian facilities. British officials say that if Washington presses ahead it will seek, and receive, UK military help for any mission, despite some deep reservations within the coalition government.

In anticipation of a potential attack, British military planners are examining where best to deploy Royal Navy ships and submarines equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles over the coming months as part of what would be an air and sea campaign.

They also believe the US would ask permission to launch attacks from Diego Garcia, the British Indian ocean territory, which the Americans have used previously for conflicts in the Middle East.

We’ll come back to the Guardian in a moment.  First, let’s go to the closest point to Washington DC where the IAEA findings are being reported.  That would be Canada, of course:

Iran is on course to build nuclear weapons, according to evidence compiled by United Nations inspectors.

Research to be presented by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) next week will provide details pointing to the military dimension of Iran’s nuclear program. …

The atomic watchdog is expected to say that Iran is working on nuclear missile technology, researching the detonation of a nuclear device and dramatically increasing uranium enrichment at a facility buried deep in a mountainside. Its report is likely to take the Middle East a step closer to a nuclear arms race. …

The key part of the IAEA report is expected to say that Iran is dramatically increasing uranium enrichment at a facility in Qom, deep in a mountainside, that could within months be fortified against conventional weaponry.

Gee, who was it that tried to tell us that the Iranians were throwing everything they had at developing nuclear warheads?  George Bush.  Who was it that said that Iran had stopped working on that project in 2003?  Why, it was the IAEA, along with the CIA in their now-infamous National Intelligence Estimate of 2007, which Democrats used to paint Bush as a warmonger.  That included a backbencher in the US Senate named Barack Obama, who once derided the very notion of a “tiny” Iran being a threat to the US.

As President, however, Obama seems to be singing a much different tune, as reported by the British wire service Reuters:

A report due next week from the IAEA nuclear watchdog will be an important point for the world to assess whether Iran is meeting its obligations, the White House said on Thursday. …

The United States and its partners are concerned that Iran’s nuclear program is aimed at developing a nuclear weapon capability. Tehran says the programme is peaceful and is aimed at producing energy and for medical purposes.

Remember when Obama and his fellow Democrats derided John McCain for chanting, “Bomb bomb Iran”?  Of course you do — but the Guardian has some memory loss, as Power Line notes:

The Guardian assures us that President Obama would really prefer not to attack Iran prior to next year’s election:

They made clear that Barack Obama, has no wish to embark on a new and provocative military venture before next November’s presidential election. But they warned the calculations could change because of mounting anxiety over intelligence gathered by western agencies, and the more belligerent posture that Iran appears to have been taking.

Times certainly have changed since 2008. One of the West’s most left-wing newspapers reports that President Obama is planning a pre-emptive attack on a Middle Eastern country, and, rather than being critical of such a strike, the paper merely wishes to run interference against any suspicion that it may be politically motivated. It’s enough to give you whiplash.

Yes, I’m sure that the Obama administration won’t attack Iran before the next election, but not because they’re afraid of politicizing a new war.  They’re afraid of losing what’s left of the progressive base they’ve begun to assiduously court through Obama’s new class-warfare rhetoric.  Launching another war after Obama’s intervention in Libya and his drone strikes in Yemen would probably be the last straw for many of them, even if it would be the right thing to do.  If Iran is truly close to developing nuclear weapons, the extremely lousy option of military strikes might very well be the right thing to do, especially after the discovery of the Iranian military plot to conduct terrorist attacks in the US.  However, if that’s the right thing to do, then get it done before the Iranians have a chance to defend against it, and leave the electoral cycle out of the strategic consideration.

Finally, it might be folly to expect a newspaper like The Guardian to give consistent treatment to the same subject regardless of which party controls the White House, but the Guardian is open about its biases.  It’s less of a stretch to expect newspapers like the Washington Post and the New York Times to report the news at all.  If this had been Bush and Tony Blair revving up attack plans, does anyone doubt that the pages of both papers would have been filled with skeptical analysis by now?

Update: There are also plenty of rumors that Israel might attack Iran unilaterally — which would perhaps save the US and UK from diplomatic and military backlash — but Barry Rubin scotches that idea:

First, Israel has decided not to attack Iran–a point I’m making due both to direct knowledge and direct statements, a few of them made publicly, by those involved in the debate. The reasons for this decision make sense but I won’t list them here to save your time.

Second, there is no new development to prompt such an attack. On the contrary, all of the reports have been about the slow pace of Iranian progress toward obtaining deliverable nuclear weapons. There is no urgency in such an operation.

Third, all the reasons for not attacking Iran (okay, I’m changing my mind a bit from point one), are stronger than ever. Israel can expect little international support, the moves toward radicalism in Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Tunisia, and Turkey (plus a heightened risk-taking by a shaky Syrian regime) make the environment for such an attack far more dangerous for Israel than a year or two ago. And again there is no vital incentive for launching such an attack.

Fourth, the Jerusalem Post article doesn’t even say that Israel is thinking of attacking Iran but only that there is a plan and that practicing is going on by the Israeli military. I should hope so but that proves nothing about an imminent attack. The Haaretz article says that Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu has asked the cabinet to make such an attack. If that’s true there’d be a lot more leaks and since Netanyahu not so long ago persuaded the cabinet not to do it that also sounds doubtful. But again, even if true that wouldn’t be an imminent attack but a start for a new round of debate.

Jeff Dunetz does the same:

If Israel is good at anything, its good at keeping secrets. In fact the country gets falsely accused of some sort of covert military action, Israel’s government will refuse to confirm or deny the accusations even if they are false.

It has been my experience that if you hear a rumor about an upcoming Israeli action, it is probably fake. These rumors stem from the press interpreting statements from Israeli government officials as “hints” that they were working on an attack. Now if Israel was going to launch a very  difficult military operation that would, at best damage but not destroy the Iranian nuke program and at worst begin a war with a very strong Iranian military, history and logic would indicate that the last thing they would do would be to drop hints that Iran should sharpen its anti-aircraft skills because an attack was coming. …

It’s interesting that the same media that is so quick to criticize any Israeli military effort is seemingly beating the drums of war for Israel to attack Iran.

Interesting is certainly one word, especially after the orgy of media recriminations against Bush in 2007 after the publication of that deeply flawed — and thoroughly discredited — 2007 NIE.

Update II: I wrote Israel in first paragraph where I meant Iran — sorry about that.  More coffee, please!