NYU professor and Afghanistan expert Barnett Rubin started a flurry of speculation on liberal blogs this weekend when he posted this nugget:
Today I received a message from a friend who has excellent connections in Washington and whose information has often been prescient. According to this report, as in 2002, the rollout will start after Labor Day, with a big kickoff on September 11. My friend had spoken to someone in one of the leading neo-conservative institutions. He summarized what he was told this way:
They [the source's institution] have "instructions" (yes, that was the word used) from the Office of the Vice-President to roll out a campaign for war with Iran in the week after Labor Day; it will be coordinated with the American Enterprise Institute, the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, Commentary, Fox, and the usual suspects. It will be heavy sustained assault on the airwaves, designed to knock public sentiment into a position from which a war can be maintained. Evidently they don't think they'll ever get majority support for this--they want something like 35-40 percent support, which in their book is "plenty.
But Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad doesn't fear a U.S. attack:
I am an engineer and I am a master in calculation and tabulation. I draw up tables. For hours, I write out different hypotheses. I reject, I reason. I reason with planning and I make a conclusion. They cannot make problems for Iran."
Mahmoud's calculations are probably right. By rattling some sabers, but doing so in a deniable way, the Bush administration is trying to stiffen the spines of its European partners and the IAEA. The current goal is to pass new sanctions via the U.N. Security Council, not go to war. Remember, we saw a very similar pattern of leaks and official statements in the run up to the second round of sanctions that were passed in March. That drumbeat "worked" precisely because it sounded so plausible. But the Iranians aren't fooled. Expect them to keep thumbing their noses at everyone, while offering just enough cooperation with the IAEA to sow dissension among the Western powers.
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