Last week, the front pages of the world press blossomed with photos of four Iranian rockets, fired in salvo, heading skyward.
The image was powerful, and the message reinforced by the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Should Israel attack Iran, said Ali Shira, Tel Aviv will be "set on fire."
U.S. reaction was swift and bristling. "Rice Says U.S. Will Defend Gulf," declared the headline over the AP story that began:
"Condoleezza Rice flexed America's muscles in the Middle East Thursday, forcefully warning Iran the U.S. won't ignore threats and will take any action necessary to defend friends and interests in the Persian Gulf. ...
"Rice said Iran's leaders should understand that Washington won't dismiss provocations from Tehran and has the ability to counter them. 'I don't think the Iranians are too confused, either, about the capability and the power of the United States to do exactly that.'"
And what were the results of last week's missile crisis in the Gulf? Tensions rose, strengthening Tehran's embattled Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And oil prices shot from $136 a barrel to a record $147.
That $11-a-barrel spike alone translates into $25 million a day in fresh revenue for Ahmadinejad and Co. And as the United States imports 13 million of the 20 million barrels we daily consume, that $11 spike in price translates into $143 million more sucked out of the U.S. economy every day -- into the coffers of Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and OPEC.
Can we not see who benefits and who pays for this war talk?
Every day the war drums beat, the mullahs get richer and we get poorer. Which raises the question. Was this mini-missile crisis cooked up by the mullahs to rip off Uncle Sam? For by week's end it appeared the Americans had been had, big-time.
Saturday's New York Times reported that that photo of the four Iranian missiles fired in salvo had been doctored.
One rocket appears twice in the same photo. The large missile, on inspection, was not the new Shahab-3b, which has a range of 1,200 miles, but a Shahab-3a, with a range of 900 miles. It is no longer in production.
The missiles fired with the Shahab-3a turned out to be Scuds, a short-range missile that is no threat to Israel.
The second day's firing turns out to have been of a single anti-ship missile. Iranian TV showed one firing from three angles, making it appear as though three missiles had been fired in succession.
"The bottom line is that the Iranians are tweaking our noses," said Charles Vick, an expert on Iran's missile forces.
Under Secretary of State Nick Burns then splashed cold water on Iran's alleged crash program to acquire nuclear weapons.
"Iran has not yet perfected (uranium) enrichment," said Burns, "and, as a direct result of U.N. sanctions, Iran's ability to procure technology or items of significance to its missile programs, even dual-use items, is being impaired."
Though the ex-head of Mossad, Shabtai Shavit, says Iran may be one year away from a bomb -- and will use it on Israel -- according to the latest U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, Iran shut down its nuclear weapons program in 2003.
Iran, says Burns, has not yet mastered the technology of converting uranium gas into fuel for use in power plants, let alone the stuff of bombs. And even if Iran is one day able to enrich to weapons grade, she would still have to build and test a nuclear device, then weaponize it to fit atop a missile and deploy a missile force. All in all, says Burns, Iran's progress with uranium enrichment has been "modest."
There is thus no imminent crisis to justify war on Iran.
Yet, what is Nancy Pelosi's Democratic House doing?
Some 220 members, a majority, have endorsed House Concurrent Resolution 362. This virtual war resolution "demands" that President Bush initiate a blockade to halt all Iranian imports of refined petroleum products and impose "stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran."
A Democratic House that came to power denouncing the rush to war on Iraq is about to vote to demand that Bush commit an act of war against Iran.
The front men for 362 are liberal Gary Ackerman of New York and conservative Mike Pence of Indiana. But the juice behind them is that of the Israeli lobby AIPAC, which is marching in step with Israel.
Last week, Mossad's chief, Meir Dagan, was here to make the case for war on Iran. This week, Defense Minister Ehud Barak visits Dick Cheney and maybe Bush. Next week, it is the head of Israel's armed forces.
Israel and its Fifth Column in this city seek to stampede us into war with Iran. Bush should rebuff them, and the American people should tell their congressmen: You vote for 362, we don't vote for you.