Before the Election: A Pattern of Provocations u201CCuriouser and curiouser!u201D cried Alice

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Recently by Justin Raimondo: Trotskyites for Romney

The news that the administration has agreed to one-on-one talks with Iran will no doubt be brought up at the upcoming foreign policy debate, with Mitt Romney averring this is yet more evidence of the Obama administration's u201Cweakness.u201D Talking, you see, is weakness: killing is proof of strength. That's the Republican approach to foreign affairs.

On the other hand, both the White House and the Iranians are denying direct talks are in the offing: and while cowardice is a signature characteristic of this administration, especially when it comes to dealing with the phony Iranian nuclear u201Ccrisis,u201D the Iranians have good reason to keep this under deep cover. They are all too aware of the Israel lobby's ability to squelch efforts to reach a peaceful settlement. According to the Times, Tehran has agreed to talks only after the election, on the grounds that they don't know whom they'll be dealing with in the White House come January.

The Iranians reportedly want to link the nuclear question to other outstanding issues afflicting Washington’s rocky relations with Tehran – Bahrain, Syria, and probably the ongoing terrorist campaign being waged against them by both Israel and the United States. The US, for its part, has always refused such linkage: US policy toward Bahrain, for just one example, is not an issue they want to bring to the fore.

In any case, the denials coming out of Washington and Tehran should be discounted, because both have good reason to keep this under wraps. The question is: will those talks ever take place? Because if they don't, there is reason to believe the next step is war.

We have already entered phase one of a war with Iran: the draconian sanctions we've imposed – which are an act of war – are having a real effect, as the President is sure to underscore during Monday's debate. If this goes on much longer, a naval blockade of Iran can't be too far down the road – but you can be sure it will be after the election.

It isn't just the Iranians who want these talks to commence after election day: for if Obama is going to take the path to war, then he can't signal his intentions before all those peaceniks in the Democratic party – and there are more than a few – get to pull the lever for him.

As to what the administration is thinking, Helene Cooper, one of the Times reporters working on this story, said on Meet the Press Sunday morning: u201CThe belief is that you cannot make any sort of case for going to war if you haven't exhausted all diplomatic options.u201D There’s nothing like eagerly anticipating failure: it’s bound to end in the desired result. You'll notice Bibi Netanyahu has shut up about his u201Cred lineu201D for the moment, and it looks like the administration has lulled them with some sort of promise – was it a promise to start the bombing once The One wins reelection?

I can hardly wait to find out.

What's interesting is why this came out now, two days before the foreign policy debate and a couple of weeks before the election. Best bet: it was a hostile leak, designed to torpedo the talks before both parties fully agree to them. The Israelis have their eyes and ears all over Washington, and are hardly averse to scooping up highly-sensitive classified information – just ask Larry Franklin: they (or, more accurately, their American amen corner) could well be the source of the Times report (or this one).

In the meantime, the bomb blast in Beirut that claimed the life of a prominent intelligence official has the usual suspects blaming the Assad regime – although why the Syrian despot, who's having trouble hanging on to his own country, would choose this particular moment to intervene in Lebanon again is a question no one is asking. Whenever a bomb explodes in Lebanon, it's always the Syrians who are behind it – that's a rule of thumb assiduously adhered to by Western officials and commentators. As for evidence – don't be so old-fashioned! Since when does the West need real evidence to justify its actions in the region (or anywhere else for that matter)?

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Justin Raimondo [send him mail] is editorial director of Antiwar.com and is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard and Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement.

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