The Western world and NATO have a decision to make in the coming years, said a blogger on the Middle East, who acknowledged the potential for a boiling world fervor with Iran.
Juan Cole, professor of history at the University of Michigan and writer for the blog Informed Comment, which at the height of the Iraq war received one million hits a month, gave a public lecture titled "Can the U.S. avoid war with Iran?" Monday at the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History, hosted by the Center for Middle East Studies.
Cole, who routinely advises government agencies like the Central Intelligence Agency and the U.S. Department of State, said tensions between the United States and Iran over rumors of the Middle Eastern country's move to develop nuclear weapons could escalate into warfare.
Ideological conflicts—credited to leaders differences in how to lead "the good life"—and competition for sphere of influence in the politics of Iraq and Afghanistan—compared to a love triangle—further escalate tensions, he said.
Cole, however, doesn't think Iran actually is trying to develop an atomic bomb, adding that the United States, however, doesn't have enough access to the country to nix the idea completely. But he said Iran hasn't aggressively invaded another country since 1775.
"We couldn't even say that of our own country," Cole said.
Instead, he thinks the country is vying for nuclear latency, also known as the Japan option, meaning Iran would have the capability of making nuclear weapons but wouldn't build one.
This fear of Iran's ability to unleash a "mushroom cloud" would affect how countries negotiate with Iran, he said.
"So they don't want Iran to have nuclear latency, either," Cole said of the international community. "That would change everything. That would change the equation."
If the world does decided to wage war against Iran, Cole said it would have to overthrow the regime and install a new one opposed to creating nukes.
"That's a tall order. I don't know if it can be done," he said.
Houston Benson, OU criminology student who serves in the Navy, said Cole's lecture diluted the Iran nuclear weapons scare to fear mongering, adding that it will take patience and concessions from both sides to negotiate a truce.
"The idea that the regime is suddenly going to drop atomic bombs isn't realistic," Cole said. "But I could be overruled in 2012 by Sarah Palin."