…Of Wars and Consequences.
I am always puzzled by the leadership minds that reason together, and make decisions to go to war. True, there might be, on the surface, reasons to declare wars, either to stop on-going atrocities in some corner of the world, or to prevent another from happening in another corner of this same world; conquer new territories; teach that guy “who insulted my dad” a lesson, or stop some nation from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, while retaining their own stockpile of such deadly weapons. One thing that all these great leadership minds seem to always overlook is the unintended economic, social and political consequences of their decisions. Yes, they may have factored in a narrow scope of such fallouts, but the actual, as is always the case throughout the histories of wars, seem to be far greater than the intended. Yet, they still make future decision to go to war.
This brings us to the rumors, true or false, making the international rounds that Israel has perfected plans to strike and destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities, to prevent that country from developing nuclear weapons. That Iran had repeatedly assured the world that it had no intention of developing nuclear weapons had not been able to sway either Israel or its main backer, the United States, from their intent to go to war with Iran. The rest of the world’s concern at the magnitude of consequences from such a war has not caused a pause in Israel’s preparation for such war. On its part, Iran had vowed to wipe Israel off the surface of the earth if its nuclear facilities are attacked by that country, or anyone else. That leaves the rest of us wondering if these are just two countries jaw-jawing, or seriously readying for war.
Can Israel Successfully Attack Iran?In a conventional warfare, the answer is yes and no, depending on how one looks at it. I say conventional, because Israel cannot deploy nuclear weapons in a war with Iran, after consistently denying, in spite of strong rumors and credible evidence, the existence of such weapons. The use of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons in a war with any Arab nation will put an end to the efforts of concerned UN and IAEA members to keep such weapons out of the Middle East region. Not long ago, Israel destroyed a Syrian nuclear facility under construction in the southern part of that country. That operation went without retaliation because not only could Syria not prove that Israel was responsible, she would have been forced to admit to covertly constructing a weapons-capable nuclear facility. In the case of Iran, the world has been well aware that the facility has been openly under construction since the 1990s; and that Israel has been consistent in its concerns and intention to see the project stopped due, largely, to fears that Iran would not hesitate to use nuclear weapons against Israel. In that case, if the facility comes under attack –even if from some third country – all fingers will point at Israel. No one expects Iran to waste the time lodging complains at the United Nations Security Council. An Iranian retaliation will be a forgone conclusion, but the form still remains a mystery.
With close to two thousand advanced aircraft and high-tech precision-guided bombs, Israel has the air power to carry out an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. To be successful, though, she will need the cooperation of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq, for passage through their airspace. This will definitely draw retaliation against those countries from Iran and other anti-Israel Arab countries. It is unlikely these countries will risk such a gamble. A shorter cut would be either through Turkey or Syria, and that permission will never happen. If Israeli war planes were to fly covertly across Syrian airspace to attack Iran, Syria will capitalize on that as an act of war, and seek to effect some sort of revenge on Israel for destroying its nuclear facilities. Given the current relationship between Tel Aviv and Istanbul, the likelihood of Turkey granting passage to Israeli aircraft to attack Iran is extremely remote. A violation of Turkish airspace will incur retributions, especially with the death of nine Turkish citizens in an Israeli attack on the peace flotilla still fresh in Turkish minds. That leaves two options; land and sea attacks.Israel has about seventy warships of different capabilities and missiles, and it can mount a sea-based attack off the international waters of the Persian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, or the Arabian Sea with sea-based missiles of various destructive capacities. This option, though shorter in distance, will leave its ships open to both direct and rogue attacks from Iran and terror groups operating off Yemen and Somalia; and Iran does have the capacity to destroy these ships in open seas. A land-based attack is completely untenable, for the same reasons an air strike direct from Israel is near-impossible. The use of surface –to-surface ballistic missiles, which she has in abundance, to strike Iran from within Israel leaves a great distance for those missiles to travel, thus giving Iran enough time to detect and, not only target and destroy most of them, but mount a retaliatory attack also. So, even though Israel has the military capacity to attack and destroy these nuclear facilities, getting there is a much bigger problem without the cooperation of Iran’s neighbors, or the assistance of US aircraft carriers – an unacceptable option for a very war-weary nation.
Suppose There Is War?While the world is not expecting any military strike on Iran, either by Israel or the US, the possibility, as these two countries have been saying, cannot be ruled out. One thing is obvious, an Israeli attack on Iran, supported by the US or not, will attract negative reactions from Arab nations both friends and foe, It will be seen as another attack on Muslims, regardless of what the relationships are between Iran and its neighbors. The Muslim community will view such an attack as one more effort by the “Zionists” and the great “evil empire” to destroy them; and the world would, without doubt, experience a wave of terrorism and riots against western embassies and diplomatic missions, business and cultural interests in many countries around the world. Rogue elements, like Hezbollah, Hamas, Al-Shabab, and whatever Muslim groups out there will jump on the bandwagon to exert a proverbial pound of flesh from Israel, US, and their allies. Even friendly governments in Egypt, Iraq and Jordan will likely come under so much pressure from their citizens that they will be forced to take some kind of action –even token- to register their opposition. In the end, an attack designed to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons could spiral into a multi-front international melee, involving Hezbollah, elements of the Syrian security forces, Shiites in Iraq and Lebanon, Al-Qaeda, and the ever-present Hamas. There is just so much problem the rest of the world could stomach, and, given the state of the world’s economy, no nation is ready for a conflict of such proportion. Granted, Israel, with the help of the US, could succeed in beating back all these forces, but the length of time and what would be left of it as a nation afterwards is another thing to consider.
Effects on the world EconomyThe immediate impact of an Israeli-Iranian conflict will be felt at the gas pumps and grocery stores by innocent citizens who are thousands of miles away in developed countries of Europe and the Americas. With an expected drop in oil supply comes increase in prices per barrel of crude and gallons of fuel, which will spill over to price increases in everything else –from transportation (air, land and sea) to food prices, resulting in loss of purchasing power by many families which, ultimately, increases world poverty rate, resulting in increased social unrest and possible fall of governments. Though Iran may not succeed in completely blocking the shipping lanes of the Persian Gulf used by most of the Arab nations to transport crude, an extended disruption will be enough to do serious economic damage to the rest of the world. To protect and defend against terrorist fallout from such a war, nations will be forced to divert funds meant for social services and economic development to security and sustaining another global conflict; citizens will face increased erosion of their freedoms and rights on the streets, at airports and border crossings-a throwback to early post 9/11 years. Businesses will be forced to either cut staff strength or close completely due to economic uncertainty, or lack of necessary supplies to keep their plants running. Internal political conflicts are sure to increase in the developed nations, where citizens are already sapped to their last drop of energy and will by an increasingly worsening economy. Arab governments like Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon who might elect to sit on the sidelines will expect to witness an increase in Arab spring-like uprising within their borders. In the end, political heads will roll in most of the democratic countries of the world, regardless of which side one is on. Eventually, the rest of the world will pay a much higher price than the two countries directly involved in the conflict.
What are the Alternatives to War?Sanctions and dialogue. These are the only alternatives that will succeed with very limited negative impact on the world economy. War-mongers, especially nations and businesses that stand to benefit from increased arms trade, will tell you that sanctions does not work. This depends on whether it is targeted or indiscriminate. Sanctions directly applied against a particular target, in this case, everything connected to Iran’s nuclear facilities, will seriously affect progress at the plant, possibly resulting in its inability to reach its intended objective. True, some consultants and scientists in some countries will lose revenue and jobs, including some with ties to Western companies, but the end-result will be an Iran without nuclear weapons and a world with more relaxed and calmer nerves –until the next Arab or African nation wants to acquire the dreaded weapons. Now, an indiscriminate sanction is a different thing altogether; the intent is to disrupt the target country’s economy, and force it leadership to rethink its policies; unfortunately, in an intertwined world economy, such sanctions have been known to hurt businesses in both the sanctioning and sanctioned countries. That is why, today, many industrialized nations are reluctant to subscribe to it. With unemployment at record highs in the United States and Europe, the prospect of increased job losses due to sanctions that severely limit the ability of companies in those parts of the world to do business in other countries is no longer an acceptable political option.
Concerned nations, not just the big six, and the IAEA should not only sit down with Iran, but listen to them; not talk at and give orders to them as if they are little children (we tried that with North Korea and look where it got us). Iran, on its part, should make efforts to sit with Israel, directly or through an impartial third party, and assure them of their safety and security; after all, the Jewish nation has come to stay, whether one likes it or not. Further, the Iranian government should tamper their utterances directed against Israel, because those are the basis for Israeli fears and concerns. In reality, a nuclear-armed Iran will not use its weapons against anyone, because that will effectively cause it to cease to exist as a nation. The leadership is not that stupid. Iran’s ultimate intent is prove to the world that it can produce nuclear weapons, just like Israel, Pakistan, India, and the Western nations that are trying to stop it from happening. Though most western-aligned Arab nations are openly against such a move, they are known to be secretly wishing that Iran, an Arab nation, will succeed in its quest.
ConclusionWith two wars still raging in Iraq and Afghanistan, turmoil in many Middle East countries of Syria, Egypt and Libya, and European economies imploding, the world does not need another war front in any part of the world for any reason. There is not enough reason for Israel or the United State to launch, or encourage the launching of, a military strike against Iran; just as there is no justification for Iran keeping its nuclear program a secret, if it is intended for what she told the world it is. The war of words on both sides is caused by fear and concern for threats emanating from both sides. It is time for world leaders to work collaboratively to put a stop to this, before someone plunges this world into a Third World War.