I'm not going to answer the question in the headline. But here are three sane voices on the red-herring car-salesman Iranian terror plot. First, MJ Rosenberg at Media Matters says we've seen this neoconservative movie before:
But for the lies and manufactured evidence that led us into Iraq, we might actually accept the idea that the Iran plot is thoroughly genuine and in no way linked to the determination of so many inside our government and out of it who are hell-bent on war with Iran and who would do anything they can to achieve it.
Fortunately, however, and this may be the only fortunate thing about the Iraq war, the Iraq experience taught us to be skeptical, especially of anything and everything championed by the hawks.
...The neocons' "drop bombs now and ask questions later" approach has been thoroughly discredited. How stupid would we have to be, then, to allow the same gang to lead us into yet another reckless war, one that would be infinitely more deadly?
And here is a very insightful piece about the railroading of American public opinion on Iran, called "Dear America, Iran is not your country's greatest threat," by Madison Schramm at the CSM (posted at Business Insider-- h/t Mark Wauck):
Well before Attorney General Holder announced the thwarted assassination plot, in two recent Gallup polls, Americans ranked Iran as enemy No. 1 – in front of the two countries the US is at war in; before China, which owns over $1 trillion in US treasuries; in front of Pakistan, where Osama bin Laden was found; ahead of Yemen and Somalia where some of the most recent terrorist attackers hail from; and even before unpredictable, weaponized North Korea....
George Bush included Iran in the "axis of evil" in his State of the Union address in 2002. Rick Santorum said in the Ames Republican presidential debate a little over a month ago, “anyone that suggests that Iran is not a threat to this country or is not a threat to stability in the Middle East is obviously not seeing the world very clearly.” But clarity is not prevailing in the calculations of Mr. Santorum and others. The Eurasia Group’s 2011 Top Risks Report included Iran in the "Red Herring" category.
And this latest furor over Iran may fall into that category as well....such a plot would seemingly go against Tehran’s most basic political interests. The last thing the Iranians would want is to empower the US-Saudi relationship. Several pundits have pointed out how the alleged plot also runs counter to Iran’s past behavior. Former Middle East CIA case officer Robert Baer even said, "this is totally uncharacteristic of them.”
...Iran’s military capability never bounced back after the Iran-Iraq War, and Iran only ranks 61st internationally in military expenditures. As for being an economic threat, Iran is ranked 104th internationally in terms of GDP per capita and most certainly will not be giving the US (ranked 11th) a run for its money anytime soon....
Iran's nuclear program is a strategic, not a direct, threat. Despite Mr. Ahmadinejad's annual performance at the UN General Assembly, the leadership in Tehran is rational and would be highly unlikely to actually deploy nuclear weapons. Doing so would ensure the obliteration of Iran, and the leadership in Tehran is eccentric, not suicidal. In September, Ahmadinejad offered to stop uranium enrichment at 20 percent enrichment (90 percent is considered weapons grade) if Iran were guaranteed fuel for a medical research reactor.
Yes, Iran has almost hit the nuclear capable mark, at which point it would possess the technical expertise and materials to move quickly to create a weapon. But if Iran manages to cross that threshold, it will be in the company of the estimated 40 states already in the nuclear capable club. Were the Iranians to gain capability and then to arm, Washington would need to prepare for some muscle flexing – not Armageddon...Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned that Iran will instigate an arms race, but the arms race in the Middle East began in the 1960s when Israel armed. Since then, over half a dozen countries in the Middle East have sought nuclear capability, but Israel is the only country that has succeeded. A nuclear Iran could very well accelerate an arms race, but it could be contained. By leveraging US patronage to the region and continuing to supply Gulf states with conventional weapons, the US could dissuade other countries from joining the race.
Glenn Greenwald at Salon:
Perpetual war-cheerleader Ken Pollack of Brookings says that, if true, this plot “shows that Tehran is meaner and nastier than ever before” and “would represent a major escalation of Iranian terrorist operations against the United States.” Also, he announces, this “should remind us that Iran also is not a normal country by any stretch of the imagination.” That — self-anointed arbiter of who is and is not a “normal country” — from a person as responsible as any pundit or think-tank expert for the attack on Iraq that killed at least 100,000 human beings, denouncing as Terrorists and abnormal a country that has invaded nobody...
On NPR this morning, Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations — and Ken Pollack’s co-author on Iran — said this when asked if he has any doubts about the accuracy of U.S. government statements: “The only unusual aspect of this is actually having a terrorist operation on American territory. I don’t know what the evidence about this is, but I’m not in a position to doubt it.” That perfectly summarizes the political, media and “expert” class’ attitude toward U.S. Government claims: they’re keeping everything secret about their accusations, so there’s no reason to doubt what they’re claiming. The National Security Priesthood that uncritically amplified every U.S. Government claim and fanned the flames of war against Iraq is alive, well, and more mindless and dutiful than ever.