The war no one wants

What we need to do to pull us from the brink in Iran and Syria

Israeli diplomats are targeted in third countries, allegedly by Iran, supposedly in revenge for Iranian nuclear scientists killed allegedly by Israel. This was just one more step towards what may well become a major international crisis.

Who knows when it will start, nor why the slide to conflict started. It could have been with the Iranian Revolution itself, or the more recent vitriolic attacks by Iranian leaders against the existence of Israel, or even the yet more recent emergence of a Shia Iraq after the second Iraq war and the sharpening of sectarian divides in the region, or even the resumption of the Iranian nuclear programme after the use of chemical weapons by Saddam's Iraq against Iranian cities. However, all of this is today almost irrelevant, of more interest to political historians as they will search for explanations in the future. Today, the rhetoric, the preparations and indeed the dangers of war appear imminent; yet, no one, at least no major country, even those indulging in these fearful preparations, seems to really want a war.

A few days ago, a media report quoted the Israeli prime minister and the defence minister informing US officials that they might attack Iran's nuclear facilities without US consent or even information. Iran has responded with the warning that it would use the Hezbollah in Lebanon to attack Israel, on a second front, if it is attacked. The US, in election mode, balances its rhetoric with increased sanctions, both through the UN and unilaterally with its allies in economically reeling Europe. Iran, it is reported, has offered its military sites for inspection by the IAEA, having refused to do so two weeks ago, and has declared once again that the possession of nuclear weapons is "a sin", even while continuing its threats to the existence of Israel, and as China and Russia warn against military action.

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