ANALYSIS: THE United States now interprets almost every issue in the Middle East through the prism of Iraq. Fresh speculation about Washington's plans to carry out "surgical" strikes against targets in Iran is another manifestation of this obsession.
With 160,000 US troops caught up in an unpopular and bloody occupation, it's not hard to understand why Iraq dominates American thinking. The Bush Administration has long accused Tehran of deliberately abetting the Iraq insurgency.
But whatever it has done in Iraq, Iran has been careful to cover its tracks. The public evidence of Iran's meddling across the border is still patchy.
Washington is also convinced Iran wants to develop nuclear weapons. A procession of reports in recent years has warned about covert nuclear facilities, centrifuges to enrich uranium and hardened bunkers to hide the development of weapons.
But for a US Administration with injured credibility, after getting allegations of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction so infamously wrong, much of the world is yet to be convinced.
If it was Hollywood, it would be hard to cast a better villain than Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. By denying the Holocaust and threatening to wipe Israel off the map, he has fed the caricature of a lunatic tyrant.
All this empty speculation, with little evidence on display, has a concerning echo of the run-up to invading Iraq.
Australia has even been implicated as a supporter of strikes against Iran. It is not yet clear whether this support was offered, or simply assumed.
But there is a lot of history to overcome before any wider conflict. In the 1980s, Iran and Iraq fought the longest conventional war of the 20th century — a cruel affair that probably killed millions.
You could cheekily suggest the US invaded Iraq in 2003 to protect Iran, so often did political leaders in Washington cite Saddam's past aggression towards his neighbours.
It's an irony that won't have escaped Tehran.
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