The Iranian and Russian Strategy: A Counter-Strategy
The Iranian regime desires to humiliate the United States and dominate the Persian Gulf and its oil reserves. The Iranians undoubtedly understand us better than we understand them. Many Iranians were educated at American universities. They are well-positioned to negotiate with the Obama administration.
The Iranians have invested many billions in their nuclear industry. This investment has only one purpose, and that is to develop nuclear weapons. The idea that the Iranians would make this investment for the purpose of generating electricity is ludicrous. Even if nuclear electricity made any sense for a country sitting on vast quantities of stranded natural gas, it doesn’t make sense for them to develop uranium enrichment technology when they can buy nuclear fuel on the open market more cheaply.
The Iranians are busy developing intercontinental ballistic missiles. These missiles are useless without nuclear warheads for the simple reason that a long-range ballistic missile with a chemical explosive warhead costs many times more than the value of the property it can destroy. Ballistic missiles often miss the programmed target by hundreds of feet. Only a nuclear warhead can overcome the cost and accuracy limitations of long-range ballistic missiles.
Once a nuclear agreement has been signed with the Iranians and the sanctions have been lifted, the Iranians will begin to test the limits of what they can get away with. They will block or delay inspections; they will work on bomb design in secret; they will purchase technology from Pakistan and North Korea. The only way to stop this activity leading to a bomb is a major attack on the Iranian nuclear infrastructure. The Obama administration won’t do this for the same reason that they haven’t done it previously. They are scared of the military and political consequences.
Iran cannot militarily defeat the U.S. We are vastly superior in capability. However, Iran can disrupt the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf. Approximately 20% of the world’s oil supply passes in tankers through the narrow Straits of Hormuz. Iran has thousands of anti-ship mines that can be laid in the straits on short notice. The Iranians can fire anti-ship missiles at tankers and at any U.S. naval vessels operating in the Gulf. Just across the Gulf from Iran is the huge Saudi oil infrastructure that is critical for exporting oil. Destroying this infrastructure will collapse Saudi oil exports.
If the U.S. attacked Iran and 20% of world oil supply were disrupted, the price of crude oil would soar to unheard of values, probably in excess of $200 per barrel (currently the price is about $60 per barrel). The price of gasoline would soar to $7 or possibly $10 a gallon in the U.S. If price controls were instituted, then we would have mile-long lines at gas stations. The Obama administration would be blamed for the disaster. Many of our allies, dependent on oil imports, would join the chorus of critics. It might seem that Iran would be taking a suicidal course in disrupting oil exports, since its own exports would also be disrupted. However, the Iranians would calculate that overwhelming political pressure, domestic and from allies, would force the U.S. to quickly find a way to end hostilities and resume oil exports. If the Saudi export infrastructure were sufficiently damaged, the price of oil might stay quite high for a long time after the flow of oil resumed.
Once the Iranians develop a nuclear arsenal, to say nothing of ICBMs, this situation becomes much worse. Attacking Iran will then be much more dangerous than it is now. American cities will be at risk, via either a smuggled bomb or a bomb delivered by missile. It will be far more dangerous for our navy to operate in the confines of the Persian Gulf. No ship is nukeproof. A single nuclear missile or torpedo can destroy a $20-billion aircraft carrier. From the point of view of the Iranians, and the oil-exporting Russians, an ideal situation is continued tension and low-level hostilities that keep the price of oil high and keep the developed world eager to appease the Iranians and Russians.
So the goal of the Iranians is to increase their influence while creating a smokescreen of appeasement and threats sufficient to prevent a serious attack. Gradually they will get control of the price of oil and become the dominant power in the area. They will milk the developed countries with high oil prices.
The Iranian regime has a long history of threatening Israel. Eventually Iran will be in a position to attack Israel without fear of interference from the major powers, possibly with nukes. In a nuclear exchange, Israel is at a disadvantage due to its small size and concentrated infrastructure, especially if there is a surprise attack with missiles. Of course, the Iranians will claim that Israel attacked first, just as Hitler claimed that Germany was attacked by the Poles in 1939. On the other hand, it is possible that the Iranians will lose interest in confronting Israel, since that path is risky, given that Israel is well-armed with nuclear weapons.
If the Israelis decided to attack the Iranian nuclear infrastructure by themselves, one can be sure that the Europeans and the Obama administration would shift the blame for the consequences to the Israelis. The Israelis might have a better political situation if they cooperated with the Gulf Arabs in the attack. In either case, it is possible that the administration and the Europeans would side with the Iranians – more appeasement to keep the oil flowing.
From the point of view of the Russians, the more trouble in the Persian Gulf, the better. Their economy is dependent on oil and natural gas exports. Thus, the Russians can be expected to continue to sell the Iranians weapons and nuclear infrastructure.
A high oil price will not benefit the Chinese. They are big oil importers, and a high price for oil will damage their economy and the economies of their export customers. The Chinese may rue the day that they sold anti-ship missiles to the Iranians.
The Russians have a long history, dating from their communist days, of inciting subversion in Western countries. The global warming/anti-fossil fuel movement in Europe and the United States is very much in the Russian economic interest. Slowing the spread of fracking technology, stopping the construction of pipelines, and using scare tactics to reduce coal usage are the goals of the Western global warming-believing greens in Europe and the U.S. There is considerable evidence that the Russians are funneling money to such environmental groups (here, here, here, and here). This is probably one of the best oil investments they could make.
Instead of acting like a paper tiger or a helpless giant, the United States should turn the tables and make the Iranian regime afraid. For example, a properly positioned and permanent deployment force of perhaps 50,000 soldiers on the Iranian border would give them something to think about. Of course, the deployment force would be justified as a defensive measure. Obviously, Iraq, the Kurds, Azerbaijan, and Kuwait would welcome such a U.S. presence. With air support, prepositioned supplies for reinforcements, and hundreds of cruise missiles, such a force could provide the means to be in Tehran in a week. The Iranian regime, not exactly popular with its own people, would then start worrying about its survival rather than worrying about how to take over the Persian Gulf oil resources. Blocking the Straits of Hormuz would become unthinkable. The Iranians would suddenly be eager to appease us, rather than demanding that we appease them. In all probability, we would never have to lift a finger to rein in Iranian imperialism.
Such a base would also be handy for a CIA station devoted to encouraging regime change in Iran. Is there an international law that says we have to treat with kid gloves a country where the supreme leader leads rallies chanting "death to America"? Rather than undertaking negotiations with an outlaw regime that is openly contemptuous of America, we should introduce a resolution at the United Nations demanding that chanting "death to America" be stopped. Pretending that the Iranians aren’t chanting "death to America" shows weakness and legitimizes Iranian hostility.