Thursday, March 16, 2006

Will Bush Nuke Iran?

Bush is apparently preparing to destroy nuclear targets in Iran with airstrikes, including using nuclear bombs. Invading Iran is impossible because the U.S. army and marines are tied up in Iraq fighting an insurgency among five million Sunnis. Iran has a population of about 67 million. Since an invasion won't work, the idea, it seems, is to destroy potential nuclear sites from the air. The U.S. can probably do this. The Israeli's did it to Iraq some time ago, and the U.S. has unrivaled air and sea power.

However, one of the key facilities is 75 ft. underground, too deep for conventional weapons, so the plan is to nuke Iran. The Bush administration denies this, but they denied planning for the invasion of Iraq when such planning was in full swing. It's hard to believe them now. Furthermore, nuking Iran is exactly the sort of disastrous mistake the Bush administration is fond of -- taking a bad situation and making it much worse by expanding the war. To try to stop this idiocy, send email to comments@whitehouse.gov.

There are some serious consequences to a nuclear stike on Iran. First, we will be at war with Iran and the nuclear gloves will be off. Iran has plenty of materials for dirty bombs and excellent contacts in the suicide terrorist business. We should expect to lose at least a couple of cities. The price of oil will go through the roof, of course. Finally, Iran is allied with the largest political parties in Iraq and can make southern Iraq very hot, too hot to get supplies through. Our army in Iraq may have to withdraw through Turkey. Second, the world will be aghast that we nuked a country that never attacked us. Expect a world wide boycott of US good leading to serious economic problems. It's even possible that foreign banks will stop funding our deficit, which will rapidly bankrupt the federal government.

Before launching any attack, much less a nuclear one, it might be a good idea to look at a map. Iran is perfectly positioned to make Iraq and Afganistan much, much more difficult for the U.S. and perhaps even cut off oil from the Mid-East.

Most of America's ground forces are tied up in Iraq fighting an insurgency in the Sunni Triangle. The Sunni Triangle has a population of perhaps five million. Further to the south, about 15 million Shia muslims have been fairly quiet. Iran is the center of the Shia branch of Islam and borders the Shia portion of Iraq. Furthermore, the most influential Shia muslim is the Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani. Sistani was born in Iran and many candidates in the slate he supports have close ties to Iran. Furthermore, religious Shia's have won the last two Iraqi elections and control the government.

If the U.S. attacks Iran, it is extremely likely that the Shia of Iraq will rise up against the occupation. Iran will almost certainly support them over the long and porous border between the two countries. We are having a lot of trouble with five million Sunnis with no overt state support, how are we going to fare when 15 million Shias join them with heavy Iranian backing?

The Republicans seem to think that if they bomb Iran, the Iranian people will rise up against their oppressive religious leaders. I suppose it's possible, but in all of history no people have ever been bombed into regime change. It has always required ground forces. Furthermore, the immediate reaction of most peoples when bombed is to rally around thier leaders, even unpopular incompetant ones. Note that in Iraq the Republicans believed that they would face little opposition, and at first that seemed to be true. Saddam's army simply evaporated. Today, however, we face a determined, capable, and effective insurgency and our control of the Sunni Triangle doesn't exist.

Then there's Afganistan. Iran helped the U.S. take over Afganistan. Iran had no love for the Taliban and was in a position to help because Iran and Afganistan have a long, poorly controlled common border. This same border is perfect for supplying an insurgency. To date, it does not appear that Iran has helped the Afan insurgents much in spite of friction with the U.S. If we attack Iran, that will certainly change. We should assume that Afganistan will become much more difficult to control requiring far more U.S. troops.

Most of the oil from the Mid-East passes through the Persian Gulf. Persia is basically another word for Iran. Iran borders the Persian Gulf for hundreds of miles. Tankers taking oil from the gulf must pass through the Strait of Hormuz at the end of the Persian Gulf. About 90% of Persian Gulf oil takes this route. The Straight of Hormuz is quite narrow. Iranians are quite clever. There's a good chance they'll find a way to close the strait if they find themselves at war with the U.S.

The Republicans are thinking about going to war with Iran even though America is already at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Great generals divide their enemies and destroy them one piece at a time. Hilter lost the Second World War by taking on Russia before finishing Britian off. Even if you think the war on al Qaeda can be won by invading various countries, the Republicans were stupid to attack Iraq before finishing the job in Afganistan. Attacking Iran before winning in Iraq and Afganistan is even stupider.

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