How one reports the news is more important than the actual content, with many readers only scanning headlines before moving on to the sports or entertainment pages. An article by Yeganeh Torbati of Reuters that appeared on July 1st caught my eye, “Iran threatens Israel; new EU sanctions take force.” The tale of how Iran has threatened to destroy Israel has been told often enough even though there is no evidence that any Iranian leader has actually said such a thing in quite that way. In this case, the full text of the article states that “Iran…threatened to wipe Israel ‘off the face of the earth’ if the Jewish state attacked it…” The key qualifier is, of course, the “if” clause. The actual statement (in translation) attributed to Revolutionary Guards General Amir Ali Hajizadeh was provided later in the article: ”If they take any action, they will hand us an excuse to wipe them off the face of the earth.” Iran is clearly talking about retaliation for a military attack by Israel which has been its line consistently, not a preemptive or unilateral attack by its own forces. In any event, Hajizadeh does not have the authority to order the use of Iranian armed forces, a decision that must come from the country’s civilian leadership.
The article also goes on to state “Israel says it could attack Iran if diplomacy fails to force Tehran to abandon its nuclear aims. The United States also says military force is on the table as a last resort…” If anything the threat would appear to be coming from Tel Aviv and Washington. I will not delve deeply into the oft repeated observation that Iran has no nuclear weapons and, both CIA and Mossad agree, has not yet decided to acquire any. And Israel, with Washington’s concurrence, keeps moving the goal post backwards in terms of what Iran must be required to do. Israel, which has an estimated 200 “secret” nukes and the means to deliver them on target, is now insisting that Iran have no enriched nuclear stockpile whatsoever lest what they do have be diverted and further enriched to produce a weapon. The US and its P5+1 negotiators have demanded that Iran basically concede on all points while themselves refusing to offer any incentives for Iranian compliance. That is not the way diplomacy works and it is hardly a negotiation. There has been no proposal to begin the lifting of some sanctions if Iran offers concessions, for example.
It is probably fair to say that President Barack Obama genuinely does not desire a war with Iran, but he and his administration are creating conditions in which a war is the only possible outcome. Mitt Romney, for his part, has virtually promised military action, saying that he will follow the Israeli lead. He will be on his way to Israel in three weeks to talk things over with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.