A story by the journalist Seymour M. Hersh published in
the current issue of The New Yorker, asserts that the Pentagon presented the
White House with an option of attacking Iran’s underground nuclear
facilities and says that it has not ruled out using tactical nuclear weapons.

Well if you believe that Mr Hersh has his facts right and that President George
Bush will bomb Iran in the next year, hop on to the internet and get set at
Intrade.com. This betting exchange which operates on political, economic and
current affairs, puts the chance of the USA and/or Israel launching “an overt
air strike against Iran” at 26.8%. That’s another way of saying that for an
outlay of $26.80 you can collect $100 if the bombing take place – giving a
potential profit of $73.20.

Not that Mr Hersh’s story has so far been hugely
persuasive. On Sunday the Intrade probability of an “overt air strike” was 25.9%
and that is down from a high point of 42.9% back in December last year. The
increase of less than one percentage point suggests that those who bet on
matters like this are doubtful that an attempt to destroy Iran’s
nuclear research facilities is imminent.

That view accords with that of Bush administration
officials who The Washington Post reports as playing down prospects for military
action, calling the reports “ill-informed,” but stopping short of an outright
denial.

Likelihood of US/Israel Bombing
Iran
Before

31 March
2007

Prices quoted at Intrade

The press might be writing as if there’s an increased
chance of the US and/or Israel bombing Iran but the market
suggests that the chances of that happening are less than they were at the end
of last year.

Peter Fray

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