Iran: Prospects and Consequences

By IndepthAfrica
In Andrei AKULOV
Jan 10th, 2012
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By Andrei AKULOV

Iran’s nuclear program is a burning issue in the world’s most volatile region. It’s widely believed in the West Tehran is planning to go nuclear, Iran’s leadership says its goal is nuclear energy for purely peaceful purposes. In November, 2011, United Nations weapons inspectors released a report containing new evidence corroborating Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear device and the project may still be under way.

The United States and its allies took measures to cut Iran off international financing system. The coordinated sanctions aim at the Iranian banking system, including its central bank. Besides, the USA imposed sanctions on companies involved in Iran’s nuclear industry, as well as on its petrochemical and oil industries, adding to existing measure in order to weaken the Iranian government’s ability to refine gasoline or invest in its petroleum industry.

Right now the situation is getting tense to the boiling point. It should be admitted the recent ransacking of the British embassy in Teheran didn’t improve Iran’s international standing. It’s not Israel only but the USA, Great Britain and France with others to follow or to be affected that the dangerous whirlpool of events sucks in. They all view a military strike as a possibility. The Israeli and US top officials say there is no way it could be avoided if Iran made no changes to its nuclear policy. The aggravation of the situation takes place against the backdrop of the most wild scale naval exercises recently conducted by the Iranian navy in the Persian Gulf testing new missiles and warning the Hormuz Strait sealing off is viewed as a possible emergency measure. Though Moscow is trying to clear the air, the war mongers are hard to stop and be made think about consequences. In recent weeks, the US media outlets have given much space to “no options off the table” statements by Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

The West and Israel believe that the Iranian leadership long ago set itself the goal of building nuclear weapons, and are adamant insisting on harsh, crippling sanctions, including an embargo on Iranian oil exports and bank transactions, while refusing to stop seeing a potential strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities as an option. By no means there is an international consensus on harsh sanctions against Iran. For example, India, Japan and South Korea need to buy Iranian oil, and Greece does not support the idea of sanctions either, preventing their approval in the EU. Russia and China are not convinced toughening sanctions is an effective way to solve the problem. With all this in mind – is it really a military strike that is in store?

Who may attack Iran:

The United States and its traditional allies are increasingly worried about a nuclear Iran ever since President Bush declared that Iran was part of an “Axis of Evil”. It is believed that the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States has lowered, but not eliminated, the possibility of a war between Iran and the U.S;

Israel has a long history of conflict with the Muslim world. Not once the current president of Iran has indicated that he does not believe Israel should exist at all (something Russia has strongly condemned). Israelis are worried that Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is seeking to acquire nuclear weapons in order to destroy Israel;

Turkey and conservative Arab nations, such as Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf States view Iran as a threat. In case of Turkey Iran is seen as a rival on the way to leadership in the Muslim world vying for clout in Iraq, Syria and other parts of the region. While it is very unlikely that any of the Arab nations would attack Iran, they may very well aid and abet any attack by Israel supported by the West. Historically Persian Iran has been in conflict with the Arab nations. This is partly due to the fact that Iran is dominated by the Shiite branch of Islam, while most Arab nations have Sunni Muslims constituting the majority of population.

PROSPECTS

Possible scenarios:

– a preventive short time air strike targeting all major facilities of nuclear and military infrastructure. It may end the nuclear program and make government change possible;

– a prolonged (a continuation of the first strike) air offensive targeting all state control and industrial infrastructure;

– an operation going beyond air offensive, strategically important land areas and vital infrastructure objects seized by land forces.
Any scenario can be started by Israel on its own.

The likely first strike targets:

The first strike targets are: uranium enrichment plants, especially near Natanz, Iran’s main enrichment facility, the Esfahan uranium conversion facility, nuclear research and development locations in Tehran, near Arak, and the new Bushehr nuclear power plant, factories making auxiliary equipment, especially centrifuges, missiles sites, physics, engineering, electronics and related university and research facilities. Overall, the strategy would be to destroy Iran’s nuclear and missile capabilities and prevent attempts to resuscitate them. The end result would be an attack with a very broad effect, causing widespread casualties. It should be noted the strike preparation is likely to be detected by Israel attacks taking preemptive measures to prevent the Hezbollah in Lebanon to retaliate.

CONSEQUENCES TO FORESEE

The bombing of Iran’s nuclear facilities using conventional weapons would contribute to unleashing a Chernobyl-Fukushima like fall out – a nuclear nightmare with unpredictable results.

If attacked, Iran will also respond by withdrawing from Non Proliferation Treaty.

Iran may conduct a full retaliation against Israel and its perceived allies. Under this scenario, Iran would attempt to strike Israel and US bases in the Persian Gulf, Turkey, and Afghanistan with long-range missiles. Iran has the capability and allies to respond and it has made clear that it would. Iranian conventional war assets include short- and medium-range missiles; strike aircraft; missile-equipped naval combatants and small boats; naval mine-laying ships; regular army and Revolutionary Guards special forces. It possesses air and coastal defense systems. These conventional capabilities pose a deterrent to anyone in a conflict in the area of the Strait of Hormuz, the Persian Gulf and along its borders. The long range missile systems like the Shahab-3 and Sejjl allow Iran to strike targets throughout the Middle East, including U.S. forces based in the region. Iran could also strike through its proxies, encouraging Hezbollah to attack targets in northern Israel and supporting Afghan insurgents targeting NATO troops in Afghanistan. Terrorist attacks against Western targets in the Gulf are to be kept in mind. Iran has influence over Shiite militants in the region. They could certainly attempt to create havoc in Iraq, something they already proved some time ago. How safe would Americans be in the Gulf, especially Bahrain, home of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, a predominantly Shia island? Iran would attempt to block the Strait of Hormuz as it displayed during the recent exercises, thereby threatening nearly 20 percent of the world’s oil supply, and spurring yet another economic crisis. Such action by Iran could precipitate a full-blown regional conflict.

Iran has multiple nuclear installations spread across the country, many of them fortified and underground. By and large different sources say there are about 30 Iranian nuclear facilities. No matter how effective an Israeli strike is, Iran would eventually be able to rebuild its program. Therefore, an Israeli strike will only delay an Iranian bomb, but not ultimately prevent it from being developed.

An attack would also trigger an Iranian arms build-up, which would not necessarily be confined to conventional weapons. An attack against it may convince Iran that a nuclear weapon is the only effective deterrent. So it would redouble its effort instead of refusing to go on with the program. Internally, Iran’s regime will be strengthened, with its military expanded and its determination to develop nuclear weapons intensified. All this is valid supposing Iran is not crushed by the impending aggression.

An attack means a spike in world oil prices. It will hurt everyone It will hamper China’s economic development – a locomotive spurring other countries to overcome the present downfall or, at best, stagnation. Thus the global economy will be negatively affected. It will also affect China’s foreign policy making it intensify its international efforts to ensure sufficient minerals supplies vying with the West for global influence.

An Iran sponsored terrorist act on the US soil will scare investors when the times are rough. Will the US intern all Iranian nationals or Shiite Muslims in the United States like it happened with the Japanese along the Pacific coast in 1942?

An Israeli attack would probably strengthen the regime that doesn’t recognize Israel’s right to exist. It would also dash any hopes that Iran will implement any internal progressive political reform in the near future.

The United States would be drawn into providing the manpower, and bearing the huge cost for keeping safe the passage at the time of financial woes and military budget cuts.

In the countries of the Persian Gulf where the traditional autocratic authority is disintegrating, the radicalization may follow. It may bring to power elements prepared to act forcefully against Western interests in the region. In states such as Iran, Lebanon, Qatar, Kuwait, the UAE, and Pakistan with some tradition of reformist political figures favoring normalization of relations between the Islamic world and the West, those actors would be completely pushed aside for the foreseeable future.

Last but not least. Suppose the war mongers are successful, there is a regime change in Iran. The world is plunged into economic troubles. Are there any estimates how much aid the new government will need and who will provide it? Who’s taxpayers will have to shoulder it? And for how long? Will the new government be able to establish good relations with the countries minorities, like the Azeri, the Kurds, ethnic groups in Belugistan? Will it not engender new hotbeds?

This is a very short list of consequences to face in case of military strike against Iran. So you’d better look before you leap.

RUSSIA

Moscow is deeply opposed to any military action against the Islamic republic of Iran, though it has supported UN Security Council sanctions against Tehran. “This would be a very serious mistake fraught with unpredictable consequences,” said Sergey Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, addressing reporters in Moscow in November 2011. “Military intervention only leads to a multiple rise in casualties and human suffering.” – emphasized the Minister in response to the war drumbeat coming from Israel. January 5, 2012 Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev during a telephone conversation that Tehran backed Moscow’s diplomatic efforts to settle the dispute over Iranian nuclear program. “Medvedev noted with satisfaction the Iranian president’s positive assessment of the Russian initiative, a plan of gradual restoration of trust to the Iranian nuclear program,” the Kremlin’s spokesman said, adding that both leaders had agreed to continue talks on this issue. Russia stresses the fact there is no reliable evidence a military component makes part of the present Iran’s nuclear program. Iran’s authorities have not yet fully settled on a course of building nuclear weapons, though Russia is worried by Iran’s efforts to create a complete closed nuclear fuel cycle, including uranium enrichment and the extraction of plutonium from nuclear fuel waste. Still, there is a room for talks and a hope it could lead to mutual understanding and agreements.

Iran is a close neighbour, a country with which Russia has a very long, relationship going deep back into history, an important economic partner, particularly in the Caspian along with three other Caspian littoral states. Naturally Russia is not indifferent to what happens in Iran and the neighboring region. So it seeks to settle differences with Iran through dialogue and engagement not introducing “tough sanctions” that make common people suffer but being useless or, even, counterproductive for the non-proliferation regime. A military strike would be a grave mistake – this Russian stance has been repeated many a time.

SUM UP

There is very important thing the Western media somehow misses. The most likely would be aggressor is Israel – a nuclear state that has never joined the Non-Proliferation Treaty Iran is a member of. But somehow the Western politicians don’t say it poses a threat to the world. An evident discrepancy.

No IAEA, or any other report, nor any intelligence agency has ever produced hard evidence to go on concerning presence of military component in the Iran’s nuclear program it says is destined for peaceful purposes. Iran never said no to its cooperation with the IAEA experts. What is posing a threat to world stability is asserting the preemptive right to use force against any perceived threat. In the case in question a full-scale war is possible, and its consequences could be unpredictable. Let’s remember the recent history. The Iraq war started upon the assumption Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction it didn’t have. So much blood shed, so much damage done. We all know Iraq is a huge problem today. I’m afraid some hot heads in politics never learn the lessons.

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