Tuesday, July 01, 2008

More On Iran

On the heels of the Seymour Hersch article that I wrote about yesterday, ABC News has published a report from a "senior defense official" (my guess is that it's probably Robert Gates, the Secretary of Defense) that Israel is likely to attack Iran's nuclear facilities. The attack could come sometime within the next 15 months, possibly even before the end of this year. The Telegraph newspaper in the UK had a similar article, citing our former UN ambassador John Bolton. He said it would probably come after the election, but before the new president is sworn in. Bolton may be an asshole, but he's a well-connected asshole and he's no dummy.

It doesn't really matter whether George Bush or Ehud Olmert launches the attack. The end result would be the same. Let's step through it.
- An American or Israeli attack is launched against Iranian nuclear facilities. Some, but not all, of the facilities would be destroyed. The Iranian program would be set back months, if not years, but not ended. (Remember that the US intelligence community issued a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) last December that said the Iranians stopped their program back in 2003, but didn't dismantle it. In other words, the attack would be against a program that isn't doing anything anyway.)
- The Iranians are a proud and nationalistic people, pretty much like us. And like us, they have an idiot in the front office who would love nothing more than to get involved in a war. The Iranian idiot is Ahmadinajad, whose approval ratings are on par with George Bush's. But to the Iranians, Ahmadinajad is their idiot, so any attack on him is an attack on all. So they'll rally around the flag, just like we did after 9/11. An attack on Iran will instantly give Ahmadinajad all the credibility with his own people that he currently doesn't have. And he'll use it.
- The Iranians could lob a few ineffectual missiles at Israel. Some might even hit it somewhere. More importantly, they'll shut off the Straits of Hormuz, through which approximately 20% of the world's oil supply moves. How? By launching a few attacks by aircraft, surface vessels, and surface-to-surface missiles. All they have to do is hit one or two tankers, maybe sink one, and no tanker owner will send his ship through there. Plus, it'll create an ecological disaster that would make the Exxon Valdez look like a kid spilled his Coke.
- Our Navy is permanently operating in the Persian Gulf just for this contingency. So the ships will get underway and try to keep the Straits open. But it will take time to knock out the Iranian capabilities and then convince the oil shippers that it's safe to go back in the pond. Months.
- Meanwhile, what do you think will happen to the price of oil when 20% of the world's supply is suddenly unavailable? We've seen wild price swings on minor things like a militia attack on a Nigerian oil rig. Right now oil is at $143/barrel; it could easily double or triple, meaning gas would be $8-$12 per frickin' gallon.
- Now picture what happens to the US economy with gas prices that high. People quit driving. (Great for the environment, not so good for the pocketbook of your average Joe). Trucking firms don't operate. Airlines scale back their flight schedules to almost nothing, or else go out of business entirely. With transportation costs skyrocketing, everybody else has to raise their prices to pay for it. Wages can't rise nearly as fast, so people will cut back their spending to just the basics. So tourism will come to an abrupt end. Goodbye ski resorts, beach towns, art towns, artists, Disneyworld, and much of the economy of every state in the Union. There are already rumors that GM might go bankrupt due to the drop in demand for its SUV's and trucks; if nobody can even buy their small cars, then they'll definitely go under. There won't be a ripple effect, there will be a tsunami of small, medium, and large companies closing their doors and throwing people out of work. Recession, hell, it sounds like a depression to me.
- And if the US goes into a recession/depression, so will the rest of the world. China's economy is built on providing cheap stuff to US consumers, so if we're not buying, they're in a world of hurt. Europe's economy is closely linked to the US's and is based in large part on oil as well, so their economic troubles will mirror ours. The "developing nations" won't have markets to sell to, so they'll suffer too.
- We've already seen riots around the world recently related to sudden spikes in food prices. What do you think will happen when all prices spike, while income doesn't?

I don' think this is a worst-case scenario. I think it's a realistic one. In fact, it probably understates the consequences, since there are always factors that nobody foresees.

And all this to get the Iranians to stop a program that they already stopped in 2003.

Take action now. Write your senators and congressmen. Letters to the editor. Picket. Whatever. We can't afford for this to happen.

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