Christopher Dickey thinks we’re on that road.

A COUNTDOWN has started for war between the United States and Iran. It’s quiet but persistent right now, like the ticking of a Swatch. Soon enough though, alarms will start ringing.

When did this move toward war begin? You could say 25 years ago, with the fall of the Shah of Iran, or just this year, when Saddam was deposed. You could make the case that the clock started the moment some of Osama bin Laden’s key aides found sanctuary in Iran, or on the day that Iranian equipment used to make nuclear fuel showed traces of the stuff used in nuclear weapons. But whenever the countdown to war began, it’s already well under way.

Now, countdowns come in a lot of guises. They can be bluffs as trivial as a schoolyard threat, “I’m gonna count to three!” And sometimes they can be stopped, of course. But when it comes to making war, the closer you get to zero hour, the harder that is to do. Expectations rise, political capital is spent, troops are deployed. A crescendo approaches, a point of no return is passed–or is said to be–and the drama of the countdown itself starts to dictate events.

And he thinks the case is far better than the one for war with Iraq (which, granted, he didn’t think very good):

Weapons of mass destruction? Iran has chemical weapons and probably has developed biological ones, but the danger of nasty germs and poison clouds is minor compared to The Bomb, which Iranians are better able to produce with each passing day. So much evidence has piled up suggesting they’re doing just that, a special team from the International Atomic Energy Agency went to Iran at the beginning of this month. The U.N.-backed organization has set an Oct. 31 deadline for Iran to come clean. Inspectors are still there. Still digging. Their report is expected to be tough. So, WMD? Check.

Terrorism? Iran supports suicide attacks on Israelis, and its rap sheet for bombing and kidnapping Americans goes back to 1979. (Just 20 years ago next week, it helped blow up 241 Americans at the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut.) But the big question today is whether Iran has ties to Al Qaeda. In the last few weeks, damning leaks have come out of Washington, Europe and various Arab intelligence services suggesting that, yes indeed, those links exist. Osama bin Laden’s son, Saad, along with Qaeda operations chief Seif al-Adel and other notables are supposed to be working with a special unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards known as the Jerusalem Force. With help from this group, they are reported to have plotted recent attacks in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. The sourcing for these stories is not conclusive. But they’re much more detailed than the vague allegations about Saddam’s Al Qaeda connections. So, terrorism? Check.

If there’d been this much evidence about Saddam, his zero hour would have come a lot sooner.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Steven says:

    I dunno if I can take any analyst seriously who references a “swatch”.

  2. lefty skeptic says:

    Had we not invaded Iraq, maybe this scenario would play out. But I think we’re a little too extended (not overextended yet) to take this on in reality.

  3. JC says:

    Like that’s going to stop them.