The Strait of Hormuz, sometimes called “the most strategic place on the planet”
I do not have secret inside information about the US or Israel’s intentions toward Iran, or of Ahmadinejad’s plans. But anybody can look at certain basic facts and draw conclusions.
If you think the US economy is struggling now, imagine if Iran took steps to interfere with the transit of oil in the Strait of Hormuz, through which 40% of all seaborne oil traffic passes! And Iran is doing its best to make sure that the US understands that they have the ability to do this.
Right now the US, Russia, China, France, the U.K. and Germany are engaging in ‘carrot and stick’ negotiations with Iran to try to get a suspension of nuclear enrichment. The carrots are “economic, technological, and political” and supposedly include everything Iran would need to build a peaceful nuclear program. The deadline for accepting the carrot has officially passed and now there is talk of ‘painful sanctions’.
Iran is temporizing, the six nations are threatening. Iran will hold out for an absolutely ridiculous price — the West is no match for them in negotiations — and while Iran may agree to some kind of suspension of their weapons program, it will never actually permanently dismantle it, and will never permit truly adequate inspections. Possibly they will not agree to a deal until they have enough enriched uranium squirreled away for a bomb or three. The strategy will be to delay, delay, and delay some more. Time is on their side.
Meanwhile, the US — either before or after the election — simply can’t afford the cost of a military solution that leaves Iran the ability to attack ships, mine the straits, etc. This will be the case whether McCain, Obama or Teddy Roosevelt’s ghost is elected.
What about Israel? An Israeli attack on Iran would have exactly the same consequences for the West’s oil supply as an American one. Even if an Israeli government would dare launch an attack against American wishes, it would have to be done without American tactical support which would make it even more difficult.
There is only one case in which I can imagine Israel striking Iran. That would be if Iran had a nuclear weapon and was actually preparing to use it against Israel. I don’t think this is presently the case (or there would have already been an Israeli attack).
I think that Ahmadinejad understands all of the above and prefers to threaten Israel via Hamas and Hezbollah. In my opinion, these are a greater danger for Israel today than the Iranian nuclear program.
Update [1410 PDT]: It just occurred to me that maybe I have the whole thing backwards.
Maybe the present negotiations are less about preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons than about determining how much the West needs to pay Iran — in strategic concessions as well as money — to keep them from cutting our oil jugular?