Daily Archives: January 4, 2012

Is there anyone not frustrated by Mitt Romney’s narrow win in the Iowa caucuses? Conservatives are disappointed because they recognise that Mr Romney, who used to favour legal abortion and was for Obamacare before it was called that, is only pretending to be one of them. Seventy-five per cent of Iowa’s Republican voters wanted someone farther to the right. But because their votes were divided among a large field of weak candidates, the only moderate running in their state came out on top.

Liberals are disappointed because Mr Romney has moved closer to inevitability and is the strongest potential challenger to President Barack Obama. And journalists are most disappointed of all, because Mr Romney gliding to victory is a weak story.

Thanks to all this, there is tremendous reluctance on all sides to call the outcome before “the voters have spoken”. So expect to hear more and more about less and less likely alternatives to a Romney victory. Jon Huntsman, the only candidate yet to enjoy a moment of popular enthusiasm, could do better than expected in New Hampshire. Once Rick Perry joins Michele Bachmann in dropping out, conservative sentiment could coalesce around the unlikely survivor Rick Santorum. Given how unloved Mr Romney is, someone new could still enter the race. Anything is possible, of course. But in the end, the GOP is overwhelmingly likely to nominate Mr Romney because it is his turn and because he is the most electable candidate available. Read more

Iran has been relentlessly provoking America for the last ten days. Its military recently threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, and Tehran warned on Tuesday that US carriers should not return to the Gulf. But Iran is bluffing, and war with the US or Israel is very unlikely in the foreseeable future.

Tehran is indeed angry, and its rage has been steadily building in recent months. The latest and strongest trigger was a sanctions bill, signed by President Barack Obama on December 31, which will make it more difficult and less profitable for Iran to sell oil. Nevertheless the regime doesn’t want war. Military conflict in the Strait would block its own ability to export oil. Tehran’s main goal is to scare the US and its allies away from implementing sanctions against exports.

For a war, Iran needs an opponent; but neither the US nor Israel are interested in an imminent fight. Leading members of the US military have spoken out against attacking Iran and the American public has no appetite for another military undertaking.

In the more distant future, as yet unseen progress by Iran on its nuclear programme, especially in building faster centrifuges, could cause conflict – particularly if the new equipment is used to build a bomb. But many observers are misreading the current joust in the Gulf. Iran is bluffing and baiting, but neither the US nor Israel will bite. Read more