Iran: The War That's Always Imminent

Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

Michael Koplow mocks the tendency of media figures to use any evidence, even when wildly contradictory, to support the narrative that war is looming between Israel and Iran.

[A]n imminent Israeli attack can be predicted based on two diametrically opposed sets of facts. For instance, in May it was reported that the decision to attack was imminent because Israeli officials were being uncharacteristically silent, and this speculation lockdown meant that an attack was about to come. As one unnamed Israeli official said, "Nobody is saying anything publicly. That in itself tells you a lot about where things stand.” So the lesson is that when things are quiet, an attack is on the way. But wait – now there is a slew of reports that Israel has decided to attack because all sorts of officials are openly talking about it, and everyone knows that rampant speculation means that an attack is about to come. So the lesson now is that when there is lots of noise about an attack, an attack is on the way. Isn’t it nifty how that works? No matter what Israeli officials are saying and doing, a strike on Iranian facilities can be easily predicted.

Koplow notes that certain factors can be useful in gauging the likelihood of war. He points what should be obvious: Israel does not have support from key segments of society (and Israel's top ally, the United States), the Israeli military's inability to execute such a war unilaterally, and a general lack of preparedness among the population of Israel.

Despite that healthy dose of reality, Koplow is hesitant to dismiss the possibility of war:

[I]t appears to me that a strike on Iran is still unlikely, but it is not out of the question. More stuff like this from the press and various analysts would be helpful, rather than people running around with their hair on fire and claiming that an attack is coming because the sun rose in the east this morning and will set in the west this evening. More facts please, and less rampant breathless speculation.