Foreign Affairs have a debate chaired by Jonathan Tepperman (thanks to Nina for drawing my attention to this) on the pros and cons of attacking Iran which is available to watch here. True to CFR form the debate is non-partisan and each side are given fair due. The debate came on the back of Kroenig's popular (in the sense that it was at one point the most viewed) article in Jan/Feb 2012, Time to Attack Iran.
Yahoo! News ran the headline, "On Iran, Obama assails Republican candidates for ‘beating the drums of war’". In fact, Obama didn't assail them for beating the war drum, only for beating the drum without really understanding what the beat meant. As the article notes:
"Some of these folks have a lot of bluster and a lot of big talk," he said scornfully at his first White House press conference of 2012, but "those folks don't have a lot of responsibilities. They're not commander in chief."
"The one thing that we have not done is: We haven't launched a war. If some of these folks think that it's time to launch a war, they should say so. And they should explain to the American people exactly why they would do that and what the consequences would be," he said. "Everything else is just talk."
That's mainstreaming the notion of attack. It also gets Iraq and Afghanistan out of the foreign policy discourse and back to American high tech military action.
Tepperman during the CFR debate also draws attention to a piece that first appeared in an Israeli security-related blog, Debkafile, that Russia have upgraded a Syrian surveillance station, in order to give it greater detection capabilities over Israeli airspace. David Fulghum in Aviation Week asserts that Syrian installations, particularly early warning systems, and in Lebanon are key to the Iranian problem. Air defence, supplied by Russia, is of such a level in Syria that arguably the most influential US General, James Mattis, head of CENTCOM, said, when considering assisting the Free Syrian Army, that these defences meant any strike against the Assad regime's forces would be difficult.
And there is a very big intelligence call to make. Iran has been after the S300 Russian air defence system, for some time:
With Russia apparently not willing to supply it, Iran came into some leverage with the captured RQ-170 sentinel drone. Why does it want the S300 air defence? Because it is capable against stealth aircraft and cruise missiles. Exactly the method of an Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear assets. It was reported in Russian media in 09 that Iran had shifted its hopes to a Chinese replica system but the RQ170 would prove valuable for both China and Russia, the former having a rapidly expanding drone capability.
Meanwhile, diplomacy aimed at inspections to assess use and capability is being renewed.
Internal tensions run high in Iran. It shouldn't be thought of as a homogeneous state, united its anti-American rhetoric. It has a tech-savvy youth - bloggers, tweeters of the facebook generation - and in this regard identify with their Western counterparts. Massive resource wealth handled so very badly by the ruling entity will lead, inevitably, to revolution. Any outside intervention will coagulate the state against the aggressor and set back the internal change.