President Obama would like to derive maximum electoral benefit from the timing of his decision to either attack Iran or stay the course for a peacefully negotiated resolution of the imbroglio. The world awaits his moment of truth with abated breath!
By Brig Imran Malik
Israel’s existential fears and eternal insecurities had once taken a US-led coalition on a wild goose chase seeking non-existent WMDs in Iraq. Now the same Israeli fears and insecurities are instigating the US to nip Iran’s nuclear evil in the bud!
The Threat Perception
Israel feels threatened by a nuclear Iran. Does she realistically expect Iran to unilaterally employ nuclear weapons against her and not expect immediate and severe retaliation from her and the US-led West? To what possible end would Iran commit certain hara-kiri and wreak such a deadly and destructive fate upon herself and the region? Defies logic!
Israel’s basic assessment is therefore patently unrealistic, propagandist, exploitative and speculative in nature.
The Real Strategic Implications of a “Nuclear Iran”
A nuclear Iran would actually bring in that missing element of “balance of terror” in the Greater Middle East Region’s (GMER) strategic environment – the lack of which is the basic cause of Israeli intransigence and ruthless, provocative and proactive domination!
The emergence of a competing nuclear power like Iran would threaten Israel’s hegemony/supremacy as “the” regional cop, circumscribe or rather nullify the strategic space and advantage available to her, and severely curtail her freedom of action in the GMER – a situation that the US and Israel (and in this case perhaps some Arab monarchies) fear the most and want to forestall.
The ensuing regional strategic balance and Israel’s (and US’) loss of status, power and overwhelming influence will directly impinge upon vital US-Israeli-western interests, most importantly cheap oil and easily available Arab wealth etc.
Furthermore, a nuclear Iran may just provide that final incentive for Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey etc to kick-start their own nuclear weapon programmes thus upsetting their (US-Israel) craftily contrived “strategic (im)balance” in the GMER even further – global implications of nuclear proliferation notwithstanding!
Thus the paradigms and dynamics of the geopolitical and strategic environment of the GMER stand to be altered forever, to the abiding detriment of US-Israel-western interests.
And they will not stop at anything to preserve the obtaining strategic status quo! Period.
The Peaceful Solution: The present platform of the P-5+1 and Iran working under the auspices of the UN could bring the issue to an amiable closure through non-coercive diplomacy, fair and just negotiations and agreements, non-violent means and a judicious policy of give and take. Most preferable.
War Contingency 1: Under unrelenting Israeli (and domestic Jewish lobby) pressure and propaganda, the US-NATO-Israel Combine attacks Iran. Likely.
War Contingency 2: Israel carries out a unilateral pre-emptive strike – at a time and place of its own choosing. By default the US-NATO will get sucked into the war. Most likely.
The Timing of the War
Option 1: The US/Israel/NATO Combine attacks Iran before the US/ISAF/NATO pull out completely from Afghanistan.
The risk: dissipating war effort in two theaters and losing in both! The Taliban may just hang on to their (US/NATO/ISAF) coat-tails!
Option 2: The US/NATO/Israel Combine attacks Iran after the completion of withdrawal of US/NATO/ISAF from Afghanistan.
The risk: attacks delayed to 2013-14 allowing Iran more time to further enhance and secure her nuclear programme, strengthen/harden her defences and spread out her nuclear installations!
Furthermore, President Obama would like to derive maximum electoral benefit from the timing of his decision to either attack Iran or stay the course for a peacefully negotiated resolution of the imbroglio. The world awaits his moment of truth with abated breath!
Option 1: Strategic Bombings:
These bombings alone will not destroy or even retard the Iranian nuclear programme decisively. The US-NATO-Israel Combine will then have to keep repeating the dose every two to three years – with the concomitant geopolitical and geostrategic implications.
Option 2: Amphibious/Ground/Airborne Attacks:
A massive and debilitating air campaign will create the strategic environment for the ground/amphibious attacks. Multi-pronged attacks from the Persian Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan and even Balochistan, Pakistan (Jundullah elements) will severely test Iran’s military capacity and force her to fight on multiple fronts. Simultaneously, airborne troops will be inserted to seize her various strategic/nuclear installations. Her internal front will also be subjected to powerful upheavals at the same time. Thus strategic pulls will be created in multiple directions to cause operational paralysis leading to defeat. In this case, the US-NATO-Israel Combine will require very large expeditionary forces which should be well prepared for long drawn out conventional-cum-asymmetric warfare spread over many years!
The Regional Response:
Some of Shiite Islam’s holiest places are located in Iran. Any type of attack on her will motivate/compel the region’s Shiites to rise and fight for Iran!
The GMER will be radicalized and fractured on sectarian lines with mainly Shiite and other anti US-Israel groups coalescing together to support Iran across all political boundaries! Shiite populations in Iraq, Syria, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Lebanon, India and so on will pressurize their own Governments to support Iran. If their Governments dither then the resultant sectarian strife will give rise to schisms and unleash powerful domestic forces that will destabilize the GMER across the entire spectrum! A new far more radicalized GMER based on sectarian groupings may thus emerge during and as an unintended consequence of such a war.
Iran’s Possible Response
The center of gravity of Iran’s response will rest in safeguarding its nuclear programme. They are likely to adopt a largely indirect approach. They will exploit their inherent advantage of operating on interior lines as opposed to the much longer exterior lines for the attackers.
In a multipronged strategy they will aim to disrupt the production and supply of oil from the GMER to the world at the outbreak of hostilities and to prolong it sufficiently to generate extremely palpable and tangible negative effects on the global economy. Concurrently they will mobilise all regional and global Shiite populations (and anti US-Israel groups) into a regional-global Jihad to support their war effort by all possible means – physical, material, cyber, intellectual, informational, financial and economical. The longer these global effects last the stronger will be their geopolitical/geo-economic dynamics and the pressures they generate on the US-NATO-Israel Combine. These pressures could decisively upset their operational plans, in particular their time and space dimensions!
The Iranian Armed Forces will engage hostile naval platforms in the Persian Gulf and will also attempt to block/mine the Straits of Hormuz (SOH) at the earliest in battle, snuffing out 20-30% of the world’s oil supplies.
Simultaneously, non-state actors/Shiite elements will start operating in the heart of the GMER – in particular Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, the Arabian Peninsula, Iraq, GCC countries et al. They will primarily target oil infrastructure – refineries, ports, terminals, oil and gas-fields, oil and gas pipelines running all across the GMER aiming to hamper the production and transportation of oil. Most ominously, Shiite and anti US-Israel groups operating in oil rich NE Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait etc may cause considerable losses/delays. Thus global oil supplies will get disrupted not only at the SOH but also at the sources of production, pipelines, transportation terminals etc all across the GMER! The impact would rise exponentially with time devastating the global economy!
Furthermore, predominantly Shiite and other anti US-NATO-Israel groups in Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan etc would rise in support of Iran. Many would want to join the “Jihad in Iran” against the US-NATO-Israel aggressors there! There will be a mass movement of religiously inspired pro-Iran Shiites and other anti US-NATO-Israel factions pouring into Iran from all over in particular from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Even the remnants of the Taliban including Arab, Uzbek, Tajik, Afghan, Pakistani and others may decide that their hatred of the US-NATO-Israel Combine outweighs all other considerations including sectarian ones and join in!
Déjà vu! Quite like the Mujahideen who gravitated to Afghanistan-Pakistan in the 1980s to fight the “godless USSR”- this time around warriors will congregate to fight “the Great Satan and his disciples” in Iran, the GMER and the world at large! This “Jihad in Iran” will have the potential of eventually morphing into a massive conflagration sucking in peoples from all across the GMER and the world into a global cauldron of fire. WW III???
The root cause of all such wars in the making is essentially the inequitable international order and its ruthless imposition by the militarily stronger elements of the international community. This results in lopsided and imbalanced strategic environments as in the GMER. The non-resolution of geopolitical sores like Palestine and Kashmir as opposed to the rapid resolutions of the East Timor and Sudan issues distinctly highlight the injustice of the international order. Oil? Gas? Religion?
And this situation is further exacerbated by the unjust, unfair and blatantly discriminatory global nuclear regimes and international fora that deal with them. Be it the NPT, FMCT, CTBT, NSG, CD et al – they all aim to perpetuate the supremacy of a chosen few (P-5)and their allies (most noticeably Israel and India). This must be undone/rectified.
Other options could include (ideally) declaring the GMER a Non-Nuclear Weapons Region for ALL states without exception. Or enforcing a viable and verifiable Strategic Restraint Regime in the GMER. Or creating an internationally supervised and controlled viable Anti-Ballistic Missile Defense Shield in the GMER to counter missile attacks from both (Iran and Israel) and all others. China and Russia may not agree to the last proposal for obvious reasons.
There is also a need to demonstrate more sagacity, patience, diplomacy and negotiating skills by the P-5+1, Israel and Iran to come to a win-win peaceful solution. An attack will not only provide the Iranians with that additional resolve to go nuclear but will also generate the “Jihad in Iran”- that may threaten to spiral uncontrollably into extra-regional or even global dimensions!