William Arkin has a post in the Washington Post’s blog listing six signs that we’re not going to war with Iran. I agree with his conclusion but I’m not sure I follow some of his logic.
Contrariwise, I’d like to propose some indications we might look for if war with Iran were imminent. First, bipartisan support. As chagrined as the Democratic senators who voted in favor of the Authorization to Use Military Force are about their votes now, there was demonstrable bipartisan support for an attack on Iraq. Not to mention the 1999 declaration that regime change in Iraq was the official policy of the United States.
Second, cessation of diplomacy with Iran.
Third, redeployment of our troops within Iraq. My guess is that there would be some combination of dispersal to reduce the likelihood of concentrations of our troops being a target for Iranian attacks and mustering at the border with Iran. We might also see some missile defenses being installed.
Fourth, increases in the Gulf fleet.
Fifth, probing attacks. I think that special forces attacks within Iran would be pretty likely if war were imminent. And the world being what it is today we’d hear about them.
Sixth, ratcheting up of rhetoric. I’d think the Bush Administration would be making some sort of case for the need for an immediate attack if one were imminent. While I think there’s been a rather ineffective combination of saber-rattling and assertion of a desire for a diplomatic solution to the differences between the U. S. and Iran, there’s been no escalation in the rhetoric.
Seventh, at least the perception that some worthwhile objective is achievable by attack or invasion. I don’t think we can achieve anything useful by attacking Iran and in all likelihood we’d actually accomplish things that we wouldn’t like to see, e.g. making the case to the rest of the world that Iran should have nuclear weapons and shoring up the regime.