Politics, Foreign Policy, Current Events and Occasional Outbursts Lacking Couth

Wary of the Island we run afoul of the Shoal

Both a conversation over at Tdaxp (open thread is an excellent element that both brings a dynamic, open forum of discussion and, should I garnish a large enough readership, will be shamelessly stolen and implemented here) and a post yesterday at John Robb's blog have (hang in there, the sentence ends soon) delivered to me a final kick to express an idea that's been bobbing around for a while now. Thanks to John Robb, Tdaxp and PurpleSlog (lol, love that name) for advertent and inadvertent help in condensing this from nebulous cognition to, er, nebulous script.

I first entertained this idea about a year ago during a discussion with a long time friend. Over some excellent foreign and domestic beers in a Boston pub we'd been tossing around ideas, bantering, arguing and generally misbehaving in the civilized fashion that two not quite inebriated, self-inflated knuckleheads can. The subject had turned from the Israeli/Palestinian conflict to that of Iran as Hezbollah shouldered it's way into the conversation and I decided that one big threat not considered by most was the Israeli reaction to Iran's growing regional presence. While the thought wasn't new to the world (I should be so lucky) it was new to me...

Of the planetary faction that even begins to pay attention to global affairs (much less try to understand them) there seems to be distinct groups (and yes I'm generalizing) that, whatever their experience, reasoning, intellectual integrity or otherwise fall into two types.

Type 1. The US will (in some cases should) mount a military operation against Iran as a Roman-esque form of preemption effectively eradicating Persian acquisition of nuclear weapons.

Type 2. The US will (in some cases should) follow a diplomatic path (through Europe, by some accounts) to stave off the realization of a nuclear armed Persia. In effect, the western powers along with their eastern "malcontents" will "manage" the Persian nuclear program through a carrot and stick process implemented under a UN guise (just to globalize the process as fair and just.)

Some that adhere to the type one ideology nearly hyperventilate in their rush to espouse how fast the regime could develop nukes (the same folks that label Iran the "mother" of all terror,) virtually take over the region and present a global threat. An apocalyptic vision of Manhattan reduced to radioactive ash.

Others rub their collective hands together and vehemently assert (almost wish) that the US President will blunder into another mid-east conflict and consequently destroy America, the mere concept of puppies (or anything else cute) and even collapse the known universe in the name of corporate profiteering. Big brother meets Adam Smith on a methamphetamine bender with a dash of Stalin just to spice things up.

The type two's take the more dovish approach. No problem exceeds the mighty effect of international diplomacy. Through patience, global "management" and sound, constructive discourse the whole radioactive conundrum will find it's way to a solution. The pen, moving lip and actuating vocal cords are mightier than the warhead, so to speak.

Before you can think "Yep, good. So far you've prattled on about beer in Boston and delivered a tasty morsel of meandering conjecture," allow me to present my point.

For all the constructive and destructive discourse regarding Iran, all sides seem to be missing the emergency. Not a global 12th Imam induced threat, not a direct national security risk or proxy-terrorist attack (give it a fucking rest with the "suitcase" nuke bullshit already) not even another "lust for oil, line Haliburton's pockets" hollow talking point .

The real emergency is, and I'll quote Mr. Robb here:

Israel's strategic countdown clock is rapidly winding down...

The big push from the west and acquiescence from Iran's strange hydrocarbon induced bedfellows isn't the result of a "global" security alert at the idea of a nuclear armed "rogue" nation, rather a very real threat of complete regional collapse and subsequent global economic turmoil. As Iranian anti-Israeli rhetoric has mounted (fueled by the comfort of US boots slagging through the thick mud of Iraq) to a feverish pitch, the possibility (or reality) of Israeli preemption blows both of the above "type" scenarios off the map of reason when it comes to the importance of mitigating Iran.

The immediate concern is not Iranian warheads or terrorist suitcase bombs. These concerns make for very effective hypothetical debate, frenetic punditry and might even translate into some of the more spectacular cable news segway graphics but they are not even remotely paramount to the current Persian nuke crisis.

Along with the all too recent psychological "defeat" at the hands of Hezbollah and in consideration of the very real likelihood of a Hamas coup in the Palestinian territory the addition of a possible Iranian nuclear threat might well serve a flashpoint in which the Israelis react (much in the same fashion of this past summer) in a rash, kneejerk measure: Military intervention in Iran.

Conventional wisdom would hold that the Israelis would replicate their Osiris excursion and target Irans nuclear centers. Makes sense... Sort of... Well, not really.

No doubt the Iranians have taken measures to protect their nuclear program against conventional strikes from both Israel and the US, cheerfully encasing their nuclear assets underground and with concrete fortification. Suddenly an Osiris like mitigation is a difficult and uncertain deterrence. The objective maintains a certain element of possible failure whether partial or whole. There must be a better approach...

How much of Iran's oil infrastructure is buried within concrete bunkers? I'll hazard a guess: None.

Yes. An Israeli strike would make a hell of a lot more sense targeted not in an Osiris fashion, but at in economic crippling hammering of Irans oil infrastructure. Collapse the regime (and the country) midswing of it's proliferation and produce (from an Israeli standpoint) a neat and happy ending to yet another aggressor.


The regional fallout (especially given both Iraq's condition and the sectarian divide that seems to be creeping beyond it's borders) of such a conflict will have global ramifications. One can, in a satirical and facetious manner, imagine a letter:

"Dearest Hu,
How's the wife and kids? Good to see relations with Shinzo and virtual ownership of the US economy are going swimmingly. Aren't those Yanks a hoot? Aside from massive insurrections in Lebanon and along our Palestinian border things are going quite fine here. The Sunni natives seem quite restless but their leadership is sound and Wahhabist radicalism is so 2001.
Just writing to apologize for that little matter of you losing 15% of your oil imports in little more than three days. This along with international pressure in Sudan cannot present an easy time for you. My prayers are with you.

Ehud Olmert."

The emergency here isn't so much the long term problem of Iranian nuclear proliferation. It is the very real effect of short term Israeli preemption. To some this is not news. What's disconcerting is that so many have overlooked it.