It won't be the end of the world if Israel strikes Iran

Whatever view we take of a nuclear-armed Iran and Israel’s right to self-defence, the alarmist argument constantly invoked – fear of a wider conflagration – simply isn’t credible

Two men with decisions to make

Tensions are running high after the IAEA reported that Iran’s hard-line regime, far from buckling under the pressure of sanctions, has actually stepped up its weapons-grade nuclear enrichment program.

With talks between the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Tehran producing “no concrete results” since January, and Tehran closing in on a nuclear weapons capability, reports from Israel suggest Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government has finally lost patience with the failed diplomatic process and is “determined” to strike Iran’s nuclear sites before November’s U.S. election.

If or when military action might take place is not our chief concern here. However, the rush of Western politicians and commentators spreading alarm of apocalyptic consequences should Israel believe it has no choice but to adopt the military option is. Any assertion that the only fall-out from military action to end Iran’s nuclear ambitions would be “wider conflagration across the Middle East”, even World War III, is demonstrably bunkum.

 “The summer has an ominous feel, like August 1914”, says Michael Burleigh, author of Blood and Rage: A Cultural History of Terrorism, in the Daily Mail.

Writer and journalist Max Hastings states that an attack would lead to “open-ended conflict” between Iran and the West. Hastings warns that if the Iranians mined the Straits of Hormuz, the West would enter “a long dark tunnel”.

Last of all, failed former UK Tory Party leader Michael Howard asserts: “The only thing worse than the prospect of an Iran with nuclear weapons would be the consequences of using force to stop them”.

What all have in common is an illusory sense of how an enfeebled Iranian economy could wage a meaningful campaign against “the West”, and how taking the military option leaves Israel with no right to self-defence.

Okay, so let’s look at the political realities.

The fact is that Shia Iran is an isolated and ailing economy with no friends other than Syria in the predominantly Sunni Middle East region. We need to bear in mind that, historically, there is no love lost between Shia and Sunni Islam. We need only look at the murderous conflict between the two in Iraq.

In response to an attack against Iran’s enrichment facilities, young hotheads would certainly take to the streets to burn Israeli and US flags and effigies to call for jihad. Their leaders, from Riyadh to Cairo to Amman would, however, quietly be breathing a sigh of relief that someone had finally ended Iranian nuclear regional ambitions that could well see a nuclear-armed Iran targeting them, not just Israel.

As the Pentagon’s Wiki-leaks emails revealed only too clearly, Iran’s neighbours, deeply suspicious of Tehran’s ideological regional ambitions (and not just as regards Israel), have privately been urging a U.S. military resolution of the Iranian nuclear program for years.

Moreover, Russia may have helped build Iran’s nuclear facility at Bushehr but, as we reported in Has Russia Sold Out Iran for a Stake in Israeli Gas?, for all its public bluster, Moscow appears already to have sold its partners down the Moskva. In short, in the event of a strike on its nuclear facilities, Iran would stand alone.

Equally, as we have shown elsewhere, fears of an attack creating an oil scarcity, should Iran’s global contribution be interrupted, are entirely groundless.

While any interruption in Iran’s energy exports and the effect of a regional conflict would temporarily spike world oil prices, sanctions have already effected a significant reduction in Iranian energy exports.

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