These are strange times for those of us who follow the debate about a possible war with Iran. It is clear that the Israeli government and its neoconservative camp followers here in the United States are increasing pressure on President Obama to either attack Iran or let Israel do it (in which case we would be forced to join in). But the idea of another war in the Middle East is so outlandish that it seems inconceivable it could actually occur.
Still, the conventional wisdom holds that it can, because this is an election year and the assumption is that no one will say no to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
War enthusiasm will rise to a fever pitch by March, when AIPAC holds its annual policy conference. Netanyahu will, if the past is any indication, bring the crowd of 10,000 to its feet by depicting Iran as the new Nazi Germany and by coming very close to stating that only war can stop these new Nazis. Other speakers will say the same. The few who mention the idea of diplomacy will be met with stony silence.
From the convention center, 10,000 delegates will be dispatched to Capitol Hill with two or three “asks” for Members of Congress. One will, no doubt, be that “containment” of a nuclearized Iran be ruled off the table (leaving war as the only remaining option should Iran get the bomb). Another will likely be that the U.S. stop all dealings with the Palestinian Authority should Hamas and Fatah permanently reconcile. A third could apply either to Iran or Palestine and will inevitably demand fealty to whatever Netanyahu’s policy of the moment happens to be. I’ve sat in on those meetings where the AIPAC “asks” are developed, and it was always clear that the substance didn’t matter all that much.