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And, as stated in several comments above, if the U.S. Navy takes severe damage, tactical nukes will be used to cover their retreat. Same goes for a drastic change in the security situation for the U.S. troops in Iraq. Then it won't be "first use", however much it will still be outrageous and, long term, self-defeating.
However, I don't think that we're quite there yet. It's possible that the Condi faction is running delaying tactics in a sense. Make it seem like they're applying pressure, which will take some amount of time to be deemed inadequate.
And here's an even greater leap into the hypothetical, based on a question: What does China use to pay Iran for oil? If it's U.S. dollars, which they have in great abundance, then blocking financial deals back into the Western financial world might create quite an obstacle to use of those dollars. I don't know about you, but, if I'm a farmer in South Africa, selling grain to Iran, I'm not particularly interested in dollars as payment nowadays. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are not likely to launder dollars for Iran, either. Maybe these new sanctions are actually based on RealPolitik calculations, rather than the adolescent dreams of our supreme Narcissist-in-chief.
But it is also possible that they haven't got the right weapons yet...
"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
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