Some statements move from ending with a question mark to a period to an exclamation point. We used to say, “War with Iran?” Now it’s time to say “War with Iran.” The exclamation point will come into usage once the actual attacks begin.
Iran has no allies that aren’t using it as a bargaining chip. If the USA makes the right concessions, Iran can be diplomatically isolated. Therefore, a war can happen. I’m not going to get in too deep about what the US would have to do to get Russia and China to step away from Iran, but the US would do what it takes to make that happen.
The communiques from Washington are increasingly stern: the ones from Israel non-existent. When official statements become blunter, fewer in number, and more like ultimatums, war is imminent. It’s a fact of diplomacy: any student of history can see how communications deteriorate in the buildup to war. When both sides anticipate conflict, both sides shut down the presses as they gear up for conflict. When only one side makes ready for war, the other carries on with florid prose. Iran expects war: witness their recent statement that the products of their enrichment plant “will blind the eyes of their enemies.” Hardly florid prose. That kind of talk constitutes fightin’ words.
With neither side offering hope of a diplomatic solution, war will come to Iran. Israel makes no secret of its desire to bomb Iran’s facilities and needs say nothing about how it can use a nuclear option – it has from 100 to 200 nuclear weapons. To be sure, if Israel uses a nuclear option, it’ll have to overcome a few legislative hurdles to continue receiving US military aid. With the current administration and tensions, those hurdles would be overcome. However, the more serious impact would be that Israel would open itself up to justifiable nuclear retaliation. The US contemplated a nuclear option against Vietnam, but decided against it because of that consideration. Our forces in Vietnam were concentrated and therefore vulnerable to a strike. Israel is even more concentrated and even more vulnerable to a single nuclear weapon. A detonation in Tel Aviv could create a firestorm that would engulf everything from Ashdod to Netanya on Israel’s Mediterranean coast. A strike on Haifa would destroy the rest of Israel’s coastal strip and a little bit of Lebanon. That would wipe out most of Israel’s population in an instantaneous holocaust. Israel would have to move very carefully so as not to trigger something like that happening.
But Israel also doesn’t want to see an unprovoked nuclear attacked wiping out their nation: that’s why Israel doesn’t want Iran to have nuclear capabilities. Frankly, I don’t want to see Israel or any nation face a nuclear attack. My opinion on disarmament, however, will have to wait for another article. Would war with Iran end the threat to Israel?
No, it won’t. It’ll end the threat from Iran, but not from the rest of Israel’s enemies, which it would have to deal with in turn. But for the short run, war with Iran would leave it like Iraq: broken and desperate to build back up.
For its own defense, Iran would have to fight asymmetrically. That means more than just terrorists and suicide bombers. Iran would have to mine the Straits of Hormuz, where one-third of all the world’s oil passes. Shutting down the Straits of Hormuz would devastate the global economy more than a few bombed-out cities. A huge chunk of the USA’s oil passes by Hormuz, so the USA must take that into account when planning a war with Iran. It would have to secure the Persian Gulf before Iran had a chance to disrupt shipping severely. We’d still see a huge spike in oil prices, no matter what, as there’s no way for the Gulf to escape completely unscathed in a war with Iran. US forces could move in to secure the Gulf and clear mines, but prolonged conflict would keep a risk premium on crude oil from the region.
Which then begs the question of what the war’s impact on the US economy would be. If the intention is to avoid deflation, then a war will work very tidily to boost demand. We’ll just have to go deeper in debt to do so, and therein lies the rub. We’re already worried about where the money to fund everything else will come from: how will be borrow for another war on top of all that? If we just print money to pay for everything, we’d be doing what Serbia did in its war with Bosnia and wind up courting inflation rates approaching Zimbabwe levels. That’s one way of avoiding deflation, I suppose…
But we’re heading for war. I’m pretty sure about that. Israel may act unilaterally to draw us in or we may go in first to keep the heat off Israel, but war will happen. Iran has to decide between mining Hormuz early and drawing the attack or receiving the attack first and possibly losing the opportunity to shut down the Straits of Hormuz. My guess is that Iran would draw the foul so that it can preserve world support for the long haul. Shipping would be messed up enough as is with a war in the region, but if it’s due to the US action, then the US would have to take the blame for wrecking the world economy.
We’re done with the question mark and we’re at the period. It’s a matter of time before we get to the exclamation point.