European support for US threats against Tehran will lead to disaster
The cloud is still no larger than George Bush's hand but the storm of concern which the US is orchestrating over Iran is beginning to show uncomfortable similarities with the row over Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
A deadline has been set for Iran to make a full declaration of its nuclear energy programme by the end of this month. There is a demand for international inspectors to go in and examine any site to check for a possible hidden weapons project. Punitive measures are threatened in the case of non-compliance.
Many British and American critics of the last war take comfort in the view that the mess the United States and Britain have got into in post-war Iraq has the benefit that Bush and Blair will not repeat their adventure. Do not be fooled. That, increasingly, looks complacent.
Blair's speech this week showed that he stands by his view that preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction - if necessary by pre-emptive force - is top of his foreign policy priorities. It was not to be expected that the prime minister would publicly admit he got Iraq wrong. Had he done so, it would be a resigning matter.
But if he had private regrets he might at least have shifted the focus of future British policy to different challenges, like his old rhetoric about world poverty and Africa being a scar on the conscience of humankind. But no. He told the conference that dealing with WMD proliferation headed the agenda for the 21st century. On the BBC's Today programme, he went further by claiming a new success for the war on Iraq. It had helped to get Iran to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency, he said.
For Bush, too, dealing with WMD proliferation is still a high priority in spite of the fiasco of the failed search in Iraq. While North Korea has long been in the frame, the new element is Washington's heavy focus on Iran. Power, it is often said, lies in the ability to set the agenda, and it is remarkable how Washington has managed to switch the world's spotlight to Iran.
The White House is already hinting at using force. Warning Iranians that "development of a nuclear weapon is not in their interests", Bush said in late July that "all options remain on the table". The Los Angleles Times subsequently reported that the CIA has briefed friendly foreign intelligence services on a contingency plan for air and missile strikes on Iranian nuclear installations.