If Iran was going to engage in as risky an operation as to attempt to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington, it wouldn’t use a flaky used-car salesman as its lead operative and it wouldn’t outsource the attack to some unknown hit men from a Mexican drug cartel. Anyone who knows anything about how Iran operates finds such a scenario highly implausible.
On the other hand, if someone else wanted to frame Iran, since they wouldn’t be able to enlist the kind of Iranian team capable of carrying out such an attack, they might well end up recruiting the very cast of characters who are alleged to have been involved. Indeed, if the object of the exercise was that the plot be exposed rather than carried out, then unwitting amateurs would be perfect for the job.
Given that informants for the US Drug Enforcement Agency played a pivotal role, suspicion about who might have been directing this operation has to fall on Washington. Are we talking about a false flag operation and a pretext for war?
The intemperate response from the Obama administration over the last few days might suggest that escalating tension with Iran has at this juncture passed a critical point and that the American public and the rest of the world is being warned that war may be on the horizon.
The drums of war have been beating for so long — mostly from Israel — that in some quarters the question has not been if a war will start, but when.
Has Obama now boarded the war train? I seriously doubt it.
Firstly, I think his innate timidity would make him very reluctant to start his own full-scale war — least of all a war that would likely be more devastating than all the wars of the preceding decade. Shock-and-awe was the style for his predecessor — this is a president who prefers assassinations.
Secondly, the American appetite for war has already been well and truly drained. Economic pain has promoted a grim realism in which most people recognize that another war is really the last thing this country needs. Launching a war against Iran would be like pounding the last nails into our own coffin.
So, if Washington was really behind this bombing plot and it wasn’t trying to start a war, how would it stand to benefit?
Here’s how: by driving down the price of oil.
Why make the Saudis the target of the attack? Because they would then feel compelled to retaliate and since they cannot threaten Iran militarily, they will rely on the only weapon they have: increasing oil production.
The consequent drop in oil prices will hurt Iran much more than Saudi Arabia and if by the summer of 2012, gas prices in the US have dropped below $3 a gallon, Americans will travel more and perhaps regain a bit of economic optimism — good news for Obama as he tries to close the deal in securing his second term.
At the same time, the attack-Iran hawks who love to talk war but who are actually happy with anything that undermines the regime in Tehran, will be pleased to see Iran suffer.
Andrew Scott Cooper writes: The alleged Iranian plot to blow up Saudi Arabia’s ambassador in Washington made for blazing headlines even as it obscured a deeper truth: Iran and Saudi Arabia have been engaged in a different sort of war of attrition over the past few decades, with economics, not explosives, the weapon of choice. Both regimes are keenly aware that although bullets may kill, they can’t bankrupt: only a sudden collapse in oil revenue can do that.
Skeptics who find it implausible that the oil markets can be harnessed as a weapon, and that oil can be turned into a financial super bomb to destabilize a national economy, should heed the words of a leading member of the Saudi royal family. Prince Turki al-Faisal, previously his country’s head of intelligence and ambassador to Washington, has long enjoyed a reputation for frank talk. Three and a half months ago, he delivered an address to a select group of NATO officials at an air base deep in the heart of the British countryside. In his remarks, the prince fired a shot across the bows of the Iranian regime.
This past year, the Saudi royal family was caught off-guard by the Arab Spring uprisings and badly shaken by the overthrow of old friends and allies in Egypt and Tunisia. The Saudis blame their neighbor Iran for inciting and stoking the troubles as part of a sinister plot to divide, weaken, and eventually topple the region’s conservative Sunni monarchies. Prince Turki made it clear that after six months of being on the defensive, the Saudi royal family had rallied and was about to fight its corner by unleashing the most powerful weapon in its arsenal: the kingdom’s massive oil reserves.
The Islamic Republic of Iran, jeered Prince Turki, was “dysfunctional,” a “paper tiger,” though one with “steel claws” whose survival depended on its ability to cash in on high oil prices “to maintain a level of economic prosperity that is just enough to pacify its people.” The implication was that Iran’s reliance on a single revenue stream to prop up a sclerotic political structure had left the regime in Tehran vulnerable to sabotage.
The Saudis, continued Prince Turki, were quite prepared to use their swing power as the world’s biggest oil producer to “squeeze” the Iranian economy. They could presumably do this by opening the spigots to flood the market with cheap oil, enough cheap oil indeed to force prices down and deprive Iran’s rulers of billions of dollars in government revenue necessary to buy social tranquility at home. Flooding the market is economic warfare on a grand scale, the oil industry’s equivalent of dropping the bomb on a rival. The prince’s threat sounds like a diabolical plot best suited for a novel–holding the world economy to ransom by manipulating commodity prices to settle scores with a neighbor–until you realize it’s been done before.