Adrian Hamilton: The more we talk of war with Iran, the more likely it becomes
All winter long the drums of war have been beating. At first it was reports, taken seriously by even hardened observers of the Middle East scene, that Israel was planning to use the Christmas holiday period to launch an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. Then Iran in its turn ratcheted up the tensions as the New Year approached with a threat to close the Straits of Hormuz to oil shipping in the event of further sanctions from the US and Europe.
Neither event has so far happened and current wisdom would still suggest that they won't. The consequences would be almost too terrible to contemplate. Which is why, for the moment at least, you hear senior naval and other figures in Iran declaring that the country does not intend to close the Straits and why senior figures from Israel's security forces have openly talked of restraining the government of Benjamin Netanyahu from sending the bombers to Iran.
But these voices are very much in the minority. The really frightening thing about the situation is not so much the military preparations but that so many are ready to discuss war as if it was a perfectly rational, and indeed likely, possibility.