IAEA = Iran Asking for Extreme Action

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Like it or not, the world just moved a big step closer to war with Iran over its nuclear program. It may only be the perception of war that’s a step closer, but sometimes that’s all that counts (and sometimes, the reality and the perception are the same thing). The International Atomic Energy Agency issued a grim statement Wednesday on its latest Iran team’s failure to see what it wanted to see during its just-concluded two-day visit to Tehran:

“During both the first and second round of discussions, the Agency team requested access to the military site at Parchin. Iran did not grant permission for this visit to take place. Intensive efforts were made to reach agreement on a document facilitating the clarification of unresolved issues in connection with Iran’s nuclear programme, particularly those relating to possible military dimensions. Unfortunately, agreement was not reached on this document.”

The situation is becoming increasingly dire, Pentagon officials say.

If Iran is not willing to prove its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, “we’ve got to assume the worst,” a Defense Department officer concludes. The race is on: will sanctions make Tehran cry عمو – Persian for “uncle” – before the Nov. 6 U.S. election? While it’s not publicly discussed, there’s consternation that a military strike on Iran before then will hurt President Obama’s chance of winning a second term.

There’s a sense of deja nuke along the capital’s national-security corridors. In the New York Times Wednesday morning, Scott Shane asks “why is there already a new whiff of gunpowder in the air.” It’s a pungent question, given that the key driver behind the U.S. decision to go to war with Iraq less than a decade ago proved to be false: its WMDs were MIA.