In this essay I take a look at some scenarios that could arise following the successful development of the Iranian nuclear program, after which I think the reasons why so many countries are attempting to destabilise the Middle Eastern regime will be obvious.
Iran and Israel are hated enemies. Certain mullahs in Tehran believe that it is their sacred duty to destroy Israel and nuclear weapons will make that all the more easier. For many years their desire has been the destruction of their neighbour but war has never fully broken out due to the complete dominance of the Israeli military. Nuclear weapons would void this imbalance, as with just several nuclear payloads detonated at strategic targets around Israel, Iran could cripple their enemy.
But the mullahs are still power hungry men, they understand that any form of outright attack on Israel would bring about the immediate and unsympathetic annihilation of Iran; not exactly the outcome they desire.
OK, so a deliberate attack on Israel seems incredibly unlikely, but that doesn’t rule out the possibility of an accidental attack.
The situation between Israel and Iran is at level of paranoia comparable to the Cold War, but as Dennis Ross, who until recently served as President Barack Obama’s Iran point man on the National Security Council, stated “this is not the Cold War. In this situation we don’t have any communications channels. Iran and Israel have zero communications.” Zero communications leaves more room for imagination, and imagination can be a dangerous thing.
Iran and Israel will base decisions on information that is not necessarily complete. And we all know that is how bad decisions are often made. Worse is that the Iranian government are under pressure due to economic difficulties exaggerated by sanctions imposed by the EU and US. They will be paranoid and edgy, already expecting an attack, and therefore they will read the worst into incomplete intelligence. Bruce Blair, the co-founder of the nuclear disarmament group Global Zero and an expert on nuclear strategy, suggested that this “cognitive bias” makes it more likely that pre-emptive strikes will be made based on misinterpreted information.
The experts agree that a Middle East in which Iran has nuclear weapons would be dangerously unstable and prone to warp-speed escalation.
Jeffrey Goldburg of Bloomberg gave one possible scenario from which nuclear war could accidentally manifest: “Hezbollah, Iran’s Lebanese proxy, launches a cross-border attack into Israel, or kills a sizable number of Israeli civilians with conventional rockets. Israel responds by invading southern Lebanon, and promises, as it has in the past, to destroy Hezbollah. Iran, coming to the defence of its proxy, warns Israel to cease hostilities, and leaves open the question of what it will do if Israel refuses to heed its demand.”
There are of course many other scenarios that could lead to a similar conclusion. The problem is that with nuclear war the side who strikes first has a significant advantage as they have the ability to cripple the opposition and avoid retaliation. Any form of military manoeuvre could have the other side wondering if it is harmless, or sign of an imminent threat. Unfortunately as I’ve said, the cost of getting this wrong could be devastating.
Blair told Bloomberg, “A confrontation that brings the two nuclear-armed states to a boiling point would likely lead them to raise the launch- readiness of their forces - mating warheads to delivery vehicles and preparing to fire on short notice … Missiles put on hair-trigger alert also obviously increase the danger of their launch and release on false warning of attack -- false indications that the other side has initiated an attack.”
So to me it seems obvious that Iran must be denied nuclear weapons, but military strikes against their nuclear facilities are not the answer. “The liabilities of pre-emptive attack on Iran’s nuclear program vastly outweigh the benefits,” Blair said. “But certainly Iran’s program must be stopped before it reaches fruition with a nuclear weapons delivery capability.”
The current approach of the steadily debilitating sanctions is beginning to work and combined with an intense cyberwar the overall cost may prove to be enough to dissuade Tehran from continuing with its nuclear enrichment program.
By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com