BBC News – Analysis: How would Iran respond to an Israeli attack?.
Here is my definitive “consequences of a military strike on Iran” commentary. Believe it or not, military action against Iran has become a distinct possibility – understanding why is at least arguably important, even if most (all) geopolitical events take place outside our sphere of action. Nevertheless, you might as well know that now is a good time to buy oil futures. I’ve briefly outlined the kinds of things that might take place if Israel, or less likely, the United States, engaged in a military strike on Iran. This article explores the immediate potential for blowback and considers a few of the longer-term implications of a strike. I don’t feel much need to summarize the article in-depth, it’s worth reading if you’re interested. Suffice to say that Iran’s options would be limited: they lack a military capable of hitting back, and would therefore rely on proxies such as Hezbollah or possibly Hamas to make their displeasure known (that might spiral into a regional war – it is, as it so often is, hard to say). They would also undoubtedly step up their covert operations against Israeli and American targets. But the more long-term, consequential, and damning results of an attack (assuming there isn’t a regional war) would fall into three categories: oil, nukes, and more nukes.
Oil would greatly increase in price after an attack on Iran. This would happen regardless of what the Iranians did immediately after the fact, simply because the uncertainty would cause a massive influx of speculation for oil futures. If the Iranians made no significant moves, the oil price would go down, but would remain high due to the increased geopolitical tension. If the Iranians chose to shut off their oil from the world market (a double-edged sword to be sure), lobbed rockets at Saudi oil fields, and/or -most destructively – attempted (with presumable short-term success) to block off the Strait of Hormuz, thus bottling up oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, the price would skyrocket, and almost assuredly send the world into a recession. If either of the latter two options were pursued, the United States would be forced to retaliate against Iran, which would create more instability.
As for the nukes and more nukes, it’s really quite simple. This entire dispute is centered on Iran’s nuclear energy program, which Israel and the West suspect of having a military component. In point of fact, if you ask the current Israeli government, they’ll tell you that they don’t even care if Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, because simply by pursuing uranium enrichment they are opening the door to the possibility of nuclear weapons. As of now, no one but the Iranians know if the nuclear program has a definite military component. Probably the Iranians aren’t actively pursing nukes, but are simply hedging their bets. A military strike would change that. The Iranians would then definitely attempt to acquire nuclear weapons. And nothing short of full-scale invasion would be able to stop them. That’s the nukes part. The more nukes part is that once the Iranians start a mad dash for weapons of mass destruction, there’s every likelihood that Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey would want their own nukes. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty would be in shambles. Russia and China would feel compelled to assert their own interests more forcefully. The world would get a whole lot colder.
So what should the United States do about this? What will it do? The best course of action is probably containment, drawing a red-line on military applications of Iranian nuclear technology that America may or may not be serious about upholding, and offering a nuclear shield to all countries in the region, while quietly trying to implement a nuclear weapons free-zone in the Middle East – which would require the Israelis to give up theirs, an unlikely prospect. The likely course of action? Um. It’s a little – you guessed it – hard to say. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu seems serious about wanting a military strike, and it’s rather unfeasible for Obama not to tacitly back him, or even implement the strike himself, now that he’s essentially promised that his policy is not containment. The Israelis are worried about Iran’s program entering a “zone of immunity” in which a strike would be incapable of meaningfully setting back the program. So there’s a brief window of time for diplomacy to work before the bombs start falling. Unfortunately, not many people expect this latest round of talks to work. Obama may wiggle out of performing the strike, and Netanyahu’s government could fall apart or back down, in which case the “best course of action” would probably be pursued, but assuming that that doesn’t happen, and that there is a strike? One has to hope that the Iranians don’t lose their heads, with the threat of American retaliation keeping them from attacking oil fields or blocking the Strait. Ultimately containment would have to be the order of the day, because there’s little chance that Obama is willing to invade Iran, and I have trouble imagining that a President Romney would invade either.
A military strike would only delay the inevitable, and would have had a hand in the inevitable part of the equation. It’s a rather sorry state of affairs. But you know what? I don’t think anybody on “our” side really wants war (with the possible exception of some of Netanyahu’s coalition partners). I don’t think Khamenei is stupid. And hey! Maybe Russia and/or China will decide that global stability is worth twisting the Ayatollah’s arm. You never know.
Sigh. At least there’s the new iPad.