Hasn't it been amazing the number of bad news items released since election day? The world can go back to sucking again now that preferred puppet Obama was re-elected. Focused on economics and finance for so long, I've let the whole Iran-Israel showdown slip from analysis. I love foreign policy, so let's take a look at this one. Israel has started a missile exchange with Hamas in Gaza where both sides are firing at each other with the Israelis far more successful in their launches due to better equipment and math skills. What does this all have to do with Iran? Part of this relies on your view of who is pushing the situtation in Gaza. I'll be operating under two assumptions: 1. the powers that be do not want Iran to have nuclear capabilities and 2. Obama, despite being a weakling that the Chinese like due to his weakness, personally does not want to see Iran have nukes. Let's roll!
The key players are Israel and Iran. Israel has the US in its corner, while Iran has China and Russia. Iran has pieces to play with in the Muslim terrorist networks of the Middle East as well as Palestinian organizations. What started this week's fracas? Gaza has been launching rockets for months into Israel. Why would Israel go hard now? The Iranians announced new enrichment numbers that broadcast their rising capabilities. The US election is over; uncertainty is removed. Israeli pols know the C-in-C of the US military. There were also reports months ago that the POTUS would send bunker buster bombs to Israel after the election. The Israelis also know that an attack of Iran would elicit response from Iran's pieces close to Israel. Taking out Hamas capabilities before an attack on Iran makes sense like beating up a small time ally of the bully you're approaching to beat down. They don't want to have a gun aimed at their back when they hit Iran. Israel also gets the chance to test the Iron Dome system versus a barrage of missiles in a short span of time. God forbid the Iranians sneak nuke material onto a smaller Grad style rocket with a 5 kiloton or 10 kiloton payload that could wipe out a dense city. Supposedly, Iran sent Fajer 5 missiles to Gaza, which have a longer range than the Grad rockets.
Israel can continue striking Hamas targets until they have destroyed or crippled all known missile sites or caches. A blockade would prevent further missiles from reaching Gaza, but the israelis would have to monitor the Gaza/Egypt border. It's not long. Would they send troops to Gaza for street fighting? I doubt it, as it seems they want to remove the offensive weapon capabilities of Hamas. Let the militants come out of Gaza for a fight. They won't so, keep them bottled up in Gaza forever waiting for an urban land battle. With that threat removed and bunker buster bombs delivered now that the election is over, what is stopping them from going after Iranian facilities? We saw how the Israelis took out the Iraqi facilities in the '80s and Syrian facilities a short while ago. The Israelis also recently bombed sites in Eastern Africa, which some called a dry run for a strike on Iran due to the distance involved. They have the capabilities.
Israel has one real problem: can they do it alone. With bunker buster bombs, I think they can do it alone provided they are fully committed. All statements from Israeli politicians convey a sense that they will not let an Iranian nuke happen; small blogger like me sees that as commitment. They do seem to hedge their bets by saying they'll need help. I consider that their need for cover, planning for the fallout from the international community. My prediction is that Israel strikes Iran on their own and destroys nuclear and related facilities. If I had to estimate what route they take, it would be the route through Saudi Arabia (suspicions are that KSA has given the nod on going through their airspace). Had they done this in winter 2008-2009, they could have gone through Iraq (much shorter) and oil price reaction would have been muffled due to oil crash of that period.
Will this destroy Iran as a nation? No. Will it anger a nation that saw their nuclear program as a source of pride? Yes. Will this rally the Iranian people around the theocracy? Yes. Iran has economic problems, demographic problems, and with gentle prodding could be toppled. This series of airstrikes would leave civilians unharmed but hurt national pride. They'd rally around the flag. It would embolden the leadership to strike back in some form. Statements from Iran make it clear they will consider a strike by Israel as condoned by the US and coordinated with the US. Retaliation will probably take the form of closing the straits of Hormuz. Not too hard to do when it's your backyard. The US also has multiple, huge Naval targets for the Iranians to go after. There are thousands of US troops in Afganistan that make tempting targets. Whatever route they take, suddenly the US is involved, and will economically be hurting with oil prices through the roof. Iran's goal will be inflicting damage that has high visual and emotional impact.
The American public might need some coaxing. Similar to Obama economically screwing the people most likely to riot but they don't riot because he's beige and down with them, Obama being a savior for the left will help quell any anti-war lefties out there. Don't believe me, just ask yourself about the anti-war protests for the Afgan war that was escalated under his watch. There have been none. The left learned in '68 that it's wise to not protest your guy fighting a war. They will fall in line. We're all Romans now. Recall that when Bush invaded Iraq, the press screamed about 'why not Iran?", but once Iraq was dealt with, the press then switched on their approach to Iran. What can change public opinion? We might have to have a "Remember the Maine" style event, which even the Israelis have hinted at the need for a Pearl Harbor type event. The Chinese made fun of our POTUS candidates trying to one up one another for Israel, so it's not the elites that need the coaxing, but the American public.
This is why I view the Israelis as making the airstrike alone. First, they hit Iran. Second, Iran either closes with Hormuz hurting the economic picture or going after US Naval assets. Third, the US public can be sold on the idea of hitting back at Iran when this was just between Israel and Iran. If we aided the initial airstrikes, we'd be culpable and any retaliation by Iran would make us look ineffective or weak. How fast would Americans turn on Obama's decision if he sent US planes to aid an Israeli attack, then Americans saw a destroyer or carrier sinking due to Iranian attacks? After an Israeli airstrike, assesments could be made on how effective they were. As the Iranians retaliated, US forces could determine what would be needed to finish the job. With Americans shocked over Iranians attacking the US when it was the Israelis who hit them, there would be a groundswell for retribution... even as the American public overlooked the entirely one sided way we've been going about things for years. The US would then reduce the Iranian nuclear facilities, refining facilities and military facilities to dust. The US, with the American public cheering along, would rush head long into this will little thought given to the long term implications, unintended consequences or economic hardships that it would endure. Iraq is over, Afghanistan will be 'done' by 2014, so what's next for the machine? Need a new war to keep the state going.
This is all fine and dandy if we lived in a world without Russia or China. How would Russia or China react? Iran is their client state. Iran is buddies with both, and a useful oil ally for the Russians. Russia would benefit from the surge in oil prices. China would be hurt by such a surge and such a disruption to one of their suppliers. Do China and Russia need to militarily attack the US in any form? Nope. They can just stop buying treasuries or worse, dump treasuries. Would the Russians feel more of a need to jump in than the Chinese? Would the Chinese want to stay out and just watch the US go further down the road to ruin? I can see Russia offering far more assistance than China, and part of this is that Russia is the supplier of military hardware for many nations. A successful strike on Iran's nuke sites would make Russian equipment look bad. Russia would gladly supply Iran as any struggle would keep oil prices high (helping Russia) while providing a military hardware client for Russia's military industrial firms.
As I stated earlier here and in prior posts, the time to hit Iran's nuke sites was Nov 2008-Jan 2009. Fewer sites were underground then, they were not as well along in their program, Iraqi airspace was available, the US had plenty of aircraft to support an Israeli strike, the US economically was in a different spot, oil prices had crashed, and "bad guy" Bush was in charge. An all out blitz could have worked if also followed up by talks between the newly elected Pres. Obama ("good guy") and the Iranians. One solution could have been to offer the Iranians the potential for thorium nuclear power, which is better than what they are trying now but does not have the nuke weapon materials as a by product. If the Iranians were perfectly peaceful, they'd use thorium. We know there are ulterior motives. It would be a shame for another Pakistan to develop with Iran since Iran is openly hostile to the US whereas Pakistan has a weird relationship with us. I don't blame the Iranians for their quest for nukes, as I would want nukes if I were a nation not aligned with the US. There can be solutions, but does anyone believe the powers that be really want to try them?
As a citizen of the USA, I am completely disgusted by this entire process. It feels like we're being dragged into a fight that Israel wants far more than the USA for a threat that is far greater for Israel than for the USA. Europe would be far more threatened by a nuclear Iran, yet they seem to be sleepwalking. Would the USA, with its military power and arsenal of nuclear weapons, be afraid of a nation with one or two warheads? We shouldn't be. We aren't afraid of nuclear Pakistan, yet they sheltered Bin Laden for years and move nukes around in vans and trucks. We aren't afraid of India who has nukes, and we treat the other Asian nuclear power, China, incredibly nice despite being a competitor and antagonistic to American interests. The US has an awful, volatile foreign policy. We have a military that is far more powerful and competent than our civilian leaders. This Iranian issue feels more and more like the scuffle that an empire has when it is near the end. Nothing is clear, we are already overextended, it is their backyard, we are in an economic depression and our financiers are aligned with the other side. I'll pray for you and yours since we're going to need it.