COUNTERINTUITIVE THOUGHT FOR THE DAY ON IRAN….Here’s an odd, half-formed thought about the effect that the new NIE may have on how we talk about the Iranian leadership. It strikes me that there are probably some people — I don’t know if it’s a few or a lot, but I know that I’m occasionally one of them — who deliberately tone down their rhetoric towards Iran because they know perfectly well that even justified criticism adds to the war fever favored by the Cheney/Bolton/Kristol wing of the Republican Party. Justified or not, it’s better to stay quiet than to risk adding fuel to that fire.

But that risk is now pretty much gone. There’s plenty of disagreement over what the NIE really means, but virtually everyone, even the megahawks, seems to agree that military action is now firmly off the table. “The Iran-war scare is over for now,” says Bill Arkin, “and the World War III camp has been sharply rebuked.”

Maybe this will have no real effect at all. But I wonder if some writers and analysts, and possibly even some countries, might now feel freer to support both sanctions and, more generally, a somewhat more hawkish line against Iran solely because they think it’s safer to do so now that Dick Cheney has been stuffed back into a box? At most it will be a subtle change, and it might not happen at all, but it’s worth keeping an eye out for.

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