Attack on Iran will make oil prices soar

US defence secretary Leon Panetta has warned that a military strike against Iran could have ‘unitended consequences’ after Tehran threatened that an attack on its nuclear sites would be met with ‘iron fists.’  Tensions over Iran’s nuclear programme ratcheted up last week ahead of a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which indicated that Iran had pursued nuclear weaponry prior to 2003 and perhaps even mastered the technology for building ‘The Bomb.’

The largely sober report was hyped as a ‘smoking gun’ by Israel and its neoconservative allies in the US and the west with the objective of providing justification for an Israeli military operation against key Iranian nuclear facilities. Panetta’s remarks put the war party in its place and introduced a certain amount of common sense  into the debate over how to deal with an Iran determined to carry on with its nuclear programme, which, Tehran claims, is meant to provide medical isotopes and fuel for power plants. 

All-out war

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and defence minister Ehud Barak, the champions of the war party, calculate that the US would be compelled to mount all out war with Iran in order to protect Israel if Tel Aviv carries out a limited first strike on Iranian nuclear facilities using scores of US-supplied war planes and US-manufactured ‘bunker-busters.’ This would draw the US into an all-out war.  Washington would not only have to target nuclear installations but also hit Iranian army, air and naval bases, civilian infrastructure, defence industries, and political sites associated with the clerical regime to knock out command-and-control.

The US would also be compelled to take such action to prevent Iran from retaliating by hitting US facilities and western interests in the Gulf, Iraq, and the world over.Even if the US were to promptly destroy most of Iran’s military machine and disable its government, Iran’s Lebanese ally Hizbollah would fire rockets into Israeli towns and cities while the US and its allies would face attacks by pro-Iranian elements in West Asia, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Whatever they think of Iran and its theocracy, most Arabs and Muslims could see yet another Israeli-driven US onslaught on a Muslim country as a ‘jihad’ against the Arab and Muslim worlds.

During a conflict, Iranian oil production would cease, leaving customers like India and China in the lurch. Iran could easily disrupt shipments of Gulf oil through the narrow straight of Hormuz, the passage for 40 per cent of the world’s traded oil. President Barack Obama is certainly not prepared to be propelled into an Israeli-initiated war against Iran.

He has pledged to withdraw US troops from Iraq by year’s end and to begin pulling his forces out of Afghanistan next summer.

An attack on Iran in coming months could ultimately prompt Tehran to use its expertise to manufacture a few nuclear devices to provide deterrence from later Israeli/western military intervention. As the case of North Korea revealed, nuclear weapons are effective deterrents without being deployed.

Iraq was invaded and conquered because it did not have such weapons while Pakistan can count on its arsenal of bombs to deter strikes from India and western powers eager to wipe out ‘jihadis.’ Panetta, who made a strong case for boosting sanctions on Iran, may have decided to speak out now because Netanyahu and Barak have not given clear assurances that Tel Aviv would coordinate with Washington if it intends to make a first strike on Iran. The Israeli establishment, mindful of the consequences of conflict with Iran, is not united behind the war party.

A leading Israeli brokerage house, Clal finance, has said that that the costs of a war and disruption of global trade would be too high to be acceptable to the international community which, eventually, would learn to cope with an Iranian ‘Bomb.’ The firm’s chief executive, Amir Kahanovich asserted, ‘Unfortunately, it appears that a nuclear Iran is the most reasonable scenario.’ Israel’s military and intelligence chiefs also oppose military action.

Deputy premier Moshe Yaalon, a former army chief-of-staff, and Interior Minister Eli Yishai have come out firmly against war. In a bid to warn the public of potential dangers from the government’s adventurous duo, cabinet debate on the issue was leaked to the press by former Mossad (foreign intelligence) chief Meir Dagan and former Shin Bet (domestic intelligence) head Yuval Diskin. A second former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy observed,  ‘An attack on Iran could affect not only Israel, but the entire region for 100 years.’

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