Iran crisis analysis

Paul Rodgers paints a grim picture of the emerging crisis around Iran’s nucler programme in his latest monthly security briefing for Oxford Research Group.

He has also published a briefing paper on the crisis which concludes:

An attack on Iranian nuclear infrastructure would signal the start of a protracted military confrontation that would probably grow to involve Iraq, Israel and Lebanon, as well as the USA and Iran. The report concludes that a military response to the current crisis in relations with Iran is a particularly dangerous option and should not be considered further.

Alternative approaches must be sought, however difficult these may be.

There is a wide range of opinion among commentators about how a confrontation would play out. That could be dangerous in itself if each side takes the most optimistic view of its own prospects.

I have linked to some articles below which illustrate the different viewpoints:

Were the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld axis to risk launching a nuclear strike on Iran, given the geopolitical context, it would mark a point of no return in international relations. Even with sagging popularity, the White House knows this. The danger of the initial strategy of pre-emptive wars is that, as now, when someone like Iran calls the US bluff with a formidable response potential, the US is left with little option but to launch the unthinkable-nuclear first strike. (F.W. Engdahl)

The reason that the United States in particular is so agitated about Iran’s potential nuclear armament is that the spread of nuclear weapons to so-called middle countries clearly reduces the military strength of the United States. But that doesn’t mean that it threatens the peace of the world. Should we then worry about an invasion of Iran by the United States or an Israeli attack? Not really, because the U.S. does not now have the military strength to engage in such an attack, because the Iraqi regime would not support it, and because Israel can’t do it alone. So, much ado about nothing. (Immanuel Wallerstein)

Washington will assume Iran will respond with some air and missile strikes of its own. Those may occur, but Iran has far more effective ways of replying. It can shut down its own oil exports and, with mining and naval action, those of Kuwait and the Gulf States as well. It can ramp up the guerilla wars both in Iraq and in Afghanistan.

It could also do something that would come as a total surprise to Washington and cross the Iran-Iraq border with four to six divisions, simply rolling up the American army of occupation in Iraq. Syria might well join in, knowing that it is only a question of time before it is attacked anyway. We have no field army in Iraq at this point; our troops are dispersed fighting insurgents. A couple dozen Scuds on the Green Zone would decapitate our leadership (possibly to our benefit). Yes, our air power would be a problem, but only until the Iranians got in close. Bad weather could provide enough cover for that. So could the Iranian and Syrian air forces, so long as they were willing to expend themselves. Our Air Force can be counted on to fight the air battle first. (William Lind)

Judging from the rather frantic behind-the-scenes efforts of Russia and China in Iran, they seem to appreciate that the Iranian leadership is in for a big and probably deadly surprise. The Bush administration has not only handled its Iran dossier much more skillfully than Iraq, but also managed to set up Iran for a war it can neither win nor fight to a draw.

If the Iranian leaders think they can deter an attack because the US is bogged down in Iraq they are already between the jaws of a well-set trap. Though a Western war against Iran will be a big geopolitical defeat for Russia and China, they cannot but resign themselves to this outcome if they are unable to convince the Iranians to accept the Russian proposal – ie uranium enrichment in Russia. (Paul Levian, Asia Times)

Since China has scanty strategic oil reserves of about 30 days, the "nightmare scenario" itself is a powerful motivating force for China to play crisis-prevention, and yet, since it has limited influence on Iran and the other players in this dangerous crisis, it must also consider the option of sacrificing some of its shared interests with the US for the sake of safeguarding its cherished energy stakes in the Middle East.

The latter form important facets of China’s long-term ambitions as a global superpower. The real danger of deflating those ambitions by a deft US policy that would deny China one of its most important regional allies is unmistakable. (Kaveh L Afrasiabi, Asia Times)

While the Pentagon has no plans to occupy all of Iran, it has in its sights a strip of land that runs along the border with Iraq. This is Khuzestan, home to 90 percent of Iran’s oil. "The first step taken by an invading force," reported Beirut’s Daily Star, "would be to occupy Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan Province, securing the sensitive Straits of Hormuz and cutting off the Iranian military’s oil supply." On Jan. 28 the Iranian government said that it had evidence of British undercover attacks in Khuzestan, including bombings, over the past year. Will the newly emboldened Labour MPs pursue this? Will they ask what the British army based in nearby Basra – notably the SAS – will do if or when Bush begins bombing Iran? With control of the oil of Khuzestan and Iraq and, by proxy, Saudi Arabia, the US will have what Richard Nixon called "the greatest prize of all." (John Pilger)






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