For many Americans the progression toward war with Iran has the feel of cattle being herded from the stockyard into the slaughterhouse, pressed steadily forward with no turning back, until some guy shoots a bolt into your head.
Any suggestion of give-and-take negotiations with Iran is mocked, while alarmist propaganda, a ratcheting up of sanctions, and provocative actions -- like Wednesday's assassination of yet another Iranian scientist -- push Americans closer to what seems like an inevitable bloodletting.
Even the New York Times now acknowledges that Israel, with some help from the United States, appears to be conducting a covert war of sabotage and assassination inside Iran. "The campaign, which experts believe is being carried out mainly by Israel, apparently claimed its latest victim on Wednesday when a bomb killed a 32-year-old nuclear scientist in Tehran's morning rush hour," Times reporter Scott Shane wrote in Thursday's editions.
Though U.S. officials emphatically denied any role in the murder, Israeli officials did little to discourage rumors of an Israeli hand in the bombing. Some even expressed approval. Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai said he didn't know who killed the scientist but added: "I am definitely not shedding a tear."
The latest victim, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, was the fifth scientist associated with Iran's nuclear program to be killed in the past four years, with a sixth scientist narrowly escaping death in 2010, Fereydoon Abbasi, who is now head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization.
As might be expected, Iran has denounced the murders as acts of terrorism. They have been accompanied by cyber-attacks on Iranian centrifuges and an explosion at a missile facility late last year killing a senior general and 16 others.
While this campaign has slowed Iran's nuclear progress, it also appears to have hardened its resolve to continue work on a nuclear capability, which Iran says is for peaceful purposes only. Iranian authorities also have responded to tightening economic sanctions from Europe and the United States with threats of their own, such as warnings about closing the oil routes through the Strait of Hormuz and thus damaging the West's economies.
Another front in Israel's cold war against Iran appears to be the propaganda war being fought inside the United States, where the still-influential neoconservatives are deploying their extensive political and media resources to shut off possible routes toward a peaceful settlement, while building support for future military strikes against Iran.
Fitting with that propaganda strategy, the Washington Post's editorial page, which is essentially the neocons' media flagship, published a lead editorial on Wednesday urging harsher and harsher sanctions against Iran and ridiculing anyone who favored reduced tensions.
Noting Iran's announcement that it had opened a better-protected uranium enrichment plant near Qom, the Post wrote:
"In short, the new Fordow operation crosses another important line in Iran's advance toward a nuclear weapons capability.
"Was it a red line for Israel or the United States? Apparently not, for the Obama administration at least. In a television interview Sunday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said: 'Our red line to Iran is: do not develop a nuclear weapon.' He asserted that Tehran was not trying to develop a weapon now, only 'a nuclear capability.' The Revolutionary Guard, which controls the nuclear program, might well take that as a green light for the new enrichment operation."
While portraying Panetta as an Iranian tool, the Post suggested that anyone who wanted to turn back from an Iran confrontation was an Iranian useful fool. The Post wrote:
"The recent flurry of Iranian threats has had the intended effect of prompting a new chorus of demands in Washington that the United States and its allies stop tightening sanctions and instead make another attempt at "engagement' with the regime. The Ahmadinejad government itself reportedly has proposed new negotiations, and Turkey has stepped forward as a host.
"Almost certainly, any talks will reveal that Iran is unwilling to stop its nuclear activities or even to make significant concessions. But they may serve to stop or greatly delay a European oil embargo or the implementation of sanctions on the [Iranian] central bank -- and buy time for the Fordow centrifuges to do their work."
The Post's recommended instead "that every effort must be made to intensify sanctions" and to stop Iranian sale of oil anywhere in the world. In other words, continue to ratchet up the tensions and cut off hopes for genuine negotiations.
A Vulnerable Obama