For months -- perhaps even a couple of years -- I have been downplaying the likelihood that Bush would be so foolish as to start a war with Iran, especially in light of how much more difficult such a war would be than the war on Iraq and how thinly the military is stretched. It's not that I don't think the neocons don't want such a war or that Bush isn't just irresponsible enough to do it. I have figured that the military would point out the logistical problems and simply let him know in no uncertain terms that it can't be done.
Over the last few weeks, however, I have to admit I've become a bit less certain. The leaking of a tentative decision to declare Iran's Revolutionary Guard, the country's 125,000-strong elite military branch, as a "specially designated global terrorist" group is an important indicator. It turns out that like China's army, the RG has business interests, some of them overseas, so such a designation could have an impact on them. The step, if taken, would be purposely provocative.
Arnaud de Borchgrave (I've met him, talked extensively with him on several occasions and like and respect him, so my judgment may be skewed) has reported that French president "Nicholas Sarkozy came away [from the visit at Kennebunkport] convinced his U.S. counterpart is serious about bombing Iran's secret nuclear facilities. That's the reading as it filtered back to Europe's foreign ministries," in which Arnaud has some pretty solid sources.
If you want a really frightening scenario laid out and have the patience to read a fairly long and involved post, check this out at Arthur Silber's Once Upon a Time. He points out that "The Senate approved -- by a vote of 97 to nothing -- an amendment that accuses Iran of committing acts of war against the United States. Thus, if we were to attack Iran, we would puurportedly only be acting defensively, and in response to what Iran has already done." Both the 2001 post-9/11 congressional authorization to go after terrorists and the 2002 authorization to attack Iraq could thus be stretched to cover an attack on Iran.
Then there's Sarkozy saying he's not quite for a military attack but France won't stand for Iran getting a bomb. De Borchgrave writes that "a ranking Swiss official, speaking privately, said 'Anyone with a modicum of experience in the Middle East knows that any bombing of Iran would touch off at the very least regional instability and what could be an unmitigated disaster for Western interests." But given the way they've cherry-picked the evidence on Iraq post-invasion, Bush and the neocons would undoubtedly interpret the worst imaginable disaster as a solid step toward freedom and democracy.
It would be almost clinically insane to start a war with Iran, but I'm more worried than I have been that it could happen.