How far a decade can go politically without going too far at all. Ten years ago, a Republican president and a Labour prime minister mobilized the Anglo-American alliance for an invasion of Iraq. Now, a Democratic administration has been rebuffed by the Conservative UK government (in coalition with the Liberal Democrats) in an attempt to secure a plan for invading Iran. As noted on Reason 24/7, the British government has been advised by its attorney general that complying with American requests to use U.S. bases on the British territorial possession of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean and British bases in Cyprus in plans to strike Iran would violate international law, because Iran does not yet pose a clear and present danger. From The Guardian:
"The UK would be in breach of international law if it facilitated what amounted to a pre-emptive strike on Iran," said a senior Whitehall source. "It is explicit. The government has been using this to push back against the Americans."
Sources said the US had yet to make a formal request to the British government, and that they did not believe an acceleration towards conflict was imminent or more likely. The discussions so far had been to scope out the British position, they said.
"But I think the US has been surprised that ministers have been reluctant to provide assurances about this kind of upfront assistance," said one source. "They'd expect resistance from senior Liberal Democrats, but it's Tories as well. That has come as a bit of a surprise."
A contingent of British naval ships remain in the Persian Gulf, but the British continue to point to diplomacy:
A Foreign Office spokesman said: "As we continue to make clear, the government does not believe military action against Iran is the right course of action at this time, although no option is off the table. We believe that the twin-track approach of pressure through sanctions, which are having an impact, and engagement with Iran is the best way to resolve the nuclear issue. We are not going to speculate about scenarios in which military action would be legal. That would depend on the circumstances at the time."
Nobody wants a war (or "another Iraq," as Romney put it at the debate) but it'll stay quite on the table for all sides.