Gary Sick writes: Imagine that you wake up tomorrow morning and discover that during the night. Israeli planes had conducted a bombing raid on Iran. How would your world have changed?
Apart from the sensational headlines and breathless reports, the initial change might not be very significant. You would probably want to know whether the United States approved or assisted in the attack on Iran’s nuclear sites. In fact, it doesn’t really matter. Just about everyone in the world will assume that the U.S. was complicit, regardless of what Washington says.
Let’s assume that Israel notified the Obama administration about the same time the planes were taking off, if only to ensure that U.S. aircraft and missiles in the Persian Gulf region would not interfere with the bombers and refueling aircraft as they passed over one or more Arab countries. But for Iran and just about everyone else, the fact that most of the Israeli aircraft and bombs were made in the U.S. would be all they needed to know.
On that first morning, the U.N. Security Council would convene in emergency session to consider a resolution denouncing the Israeli raid. If the United States vetoed the resolution, that would remove any lingering doubt of U.S. complicity.
Perhaps more significant, however, would be European support of the resolution. This would signal the beginning of the collapse of the sanctions coalition against Iran that had been so laboriously assembled over the past several years. Both the Europeans and the Americans had operated on the tacit belief that crippling sanctions were an alternative to war. With the outbreak of war, that assumption would no longer be valid.
What would Iran do? Everyone would be poised for a massive military response. They might be surprised.
Iran would almost certainly give the required 90 days notice of its intention to quit the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and terminate inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iranian officials would not necessarily announce that they intended to proceed with development of a nuclear weapon, but they would certainly make clear that as a nonnuclear state that had been attacked by another state with nuclear weapons, that was a decision that was entirely up to them. All enriched uranium stocks would be removed from IAEA seal, and all monitoring cameras would be removed.
A different twist would be introduced if Iran had succeeded in shooting down one or more of the Israeli planes. One or more Israeli pilots in Iranian hands would sharply increase the risk of further escalation by either the United States or Israel.
Of more general significance, the markets would realize that some two million barrels a day of Iranian oil were now removed from the world market for an indeterminate period of time, and the price of oil would jump. The head of the IMF has suggested that an immediate increase of 20% to 30% could be expected.