The thinking in Washington is therefore as follows: a small-scale attack would inevitably lead to a wider confrontation, so better to limit the size of such an Iranian response by pre-emption. Such an operation would set back Iranian nuclear aspirations by several years, and would greatly damage the ability of the Quds force and other Revolutionary Guard units to make things worse in Iraq….
There is always the possibility that the Israelis themselves will provoke a war, inciting in return an Iranian response against US forces in the region which then leads on to full-scale US military action (see "Iran in Israel’s firing-range", 8 December 2005). A greater risk, though, is that some small incident sets in motion a chain of escalation that rapidly gets out of hand – possibly made worse by deliberate overreaction. There are, after all, powerful forces in the United States and Iran that actually seek a clash.
This is the real danger of the present atmosphere of confrontation. It is likely to endure for many months, quite possibly right up to the presidential election in November 2008. That is a long time to manage a stand-off without some misjudgment or accident. It goes a long way to explaining why the Persian Gulf region remains the most important focus of danger anywhere in the world.