NEWS & ANALYSIS & EDITOR’S COMMENT: Let’s push up the price of oil

Pentagon official warns of Israeli attack on Iran

Senior Pentagon officials are concerned that Israel could carry out an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities before the end of the year, an action that would have enormous security and economic repercussions for the United States and the rest of the world.

A senior defense official told ABC News there is an “increasing likelihood” that Israel will carry out such an attack, a move that likely would prompt Iranian retaliation against, not just Israel, but against the United States as well. [complete article]

Israel-Iran: Attack or feint

An Israeli strike is fraught with potential pitfalls and by no means guaranteed of striking a major blow to the Iranian nuclear program, which would likely require multiple raids and risk a major military escalation. (See US, Iran: Empty threats, by Kamal Nazer Yasin for ISN Security Watch.).

Any attack would also impact deleteriously on Israel’s improved position vis-à-vis western nations, the University of Haifa’s Dr Soli Shahvar told ISN Security Watch.

Referring to Iran, Kam said, “They have better air defenses than they had before, though the more sophisticated system [S-300] is probably not operational. […] Russia did supply Iran with a new, much better system [29 Tor M-1 systems].”

Russian officials relate that the S-300 surface-to-air missile is capable of intercepting aircraft at up to 27,000m and at an operating distance of 145km and believe it is superior to the Israeli-deployed US Patriot. Israeli defense analysts have confirmed that Iranian receipt of the system would make it far more difficult for the Israeli air force to attack Iranian targets. Russian supply of the system is far from assured. [complete article]

Tehran puts on a show of strength

Psychological warfare is on the rise. This weekend, a senior Iranian general, Mir-Faisal Bagherzadeh, said his country was digging 320,000 graves for American soldiers scheduled to fight in Iran. “In implementation of the Geneva Conventions, the necessary measures are being taken to provide for the burial of enemy soldiers. We have plans to dig 15,000 to 20,000 graves for each of the border provinces, or a total of 320,000,” he said, pointing out that some of them would be mass graves, if necessary. This was “to reduce the suffering of the families of the fallen in any attack against, and prevent the repetition of the long and bitter experience of the Vietnam War”.

These may sound like big words – similar to those barked by Saddam Hussein and his information minister Mohammad Said al-Sahhaf in 2003 – but they carry real impact on the psychology of American troops. Iraq – with its weak army and corrupted regime – was impossible to chew for the Americans. Nobody can imagine how difficult a war would be against 65 million Iranians, with a well-trained, well-armed military indoctrinated with Shi’ite Islam and a strong sense of purpose against the “great Satan”.

In addition to building the graves – which has actually started – the Iranians have several actions they could resort to if war were declared between now and the end of President George W Bush’s tenure at the White House in January.

They can incite the Shi’ites of nations where there are US military bases; Saudi Arabia (33%), Kuwait (36%), Bahrain (80%). They can incite the Kurds of Turkey and create problems with the Shi’ites of Yemen. They can unleash hell in Iraq through proxies like the Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr and the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council. The Shi’ites of these countries have strong bonds to Iran and would listen and respond, if duty calls, and if the Americans or Israel went to war against Tehran. [complete article]

Editor’s Comment

The US will not allow Iran to hamper oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz, said the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet commander, responding to earlier threats by the leader of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

They will not close it. They will not be allowed to close it,” said Vice-Adm. Kevin J. Cosgriff of the strait, one of the world’s most vital waterways for the shipping of hydrocarbons.

Vice Admiral Cosgriff said what a naval commander gets paid for saying. But even as he spoke, many in the oil markets, rather than being reassured, must have been remembering “Millennium Challenge 2002.” As that exercise demonstrated, protecting the Strait of Hormuz is easier said than done.

As for red lines, I suspect the one that vexes Israel more than any other, is one that is treated as unspeakable, lest by being spoken the idea acquires wider currency: that the world (including Israel) could learn to live with a nuclear Iran.

If and when the debate turns in that direction, then the game will have been lost and a new balance of power will eventually emerge — one within which Israel will be required to make accommodations rather than continuing to assume the position of being exceptional.

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2 thoughts on “NEWS & ANALYSIS & EDITOR’S COMMENT: Let’s push up the price of oil

  1. G Hazeltine

    A little more on the issues raised by Millennium Challenge 2002:

    A longer article on the Millennium Challenge exercise:

    Some information on various anti-ship missiles, some, or their variants, known to be deployed by the Iranians, perhaps in large numbers:

    Why in the confined waters of the Gulf being prepared for an attack by these missiles might not matter. See page six of the following:

    A long and well sourced paper on the history and current scope of Iranian asymmetric naval warfare doctrine and capabilities, from the Marshall Center:

    The US failed utterly to find, much less destroy Iraq’s scud missiles. The Israelis failed utterly to suppress Hezbollah’s rocket fire in 2006. The Iranians are known to manufacture the Noor missile, a possibly upgraded version of the C-802, with a range sufficient to turn most of the Gulf into a kill zone, and have had years prepare for conflict in the Gulf. There is little reason to suppose that their capabilities will be any more susceptible to countermeasures than Iraq’s scuds or Hezbollah’s rockets. If they are not suppressed the consequences to US naval forces in the Gulf will be very grave. Add to this the small boats, the mines, and other Iranian capabilities – and the clear lessons of the Millennium Challenge exercise – one wonders why the threat to the large number of American warships stationed in the Persian Gulf receives so little attention.

  2. Yigal Arens

    With all the attack threats, implied and overt, that Israel has been issuing against Iran, wouldn’t Iran be justified in preemptively attacking Israel? I mean, it makes no sense for Iran to just sit around and wait until Israel was good and ready to bomb them. They may consider it better to set the time for a conflict with Israel when *they* find it convenient.

    A doctrine of preemptive war works both ways…

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