Logic out the window at the White House
By Gwynne Dyer
Mail" -- -- The biggest pitfall in predicting the
behavior of radical groups like the inner circle of the Bush
administration is that you keep telling yourself that they would
never actually do whatever it is they’re talking about. Surely they
must realize that acting like that would cause a disaster. Then they
go right ahead and do it.
“(The Iranians) must know everything is on the table and they must
understand what that means,” U.S. ambassador to the United Nations
John Bolton told a group of visiting British politicians last week.
“We can hit different points along the line. You only have to take
out one part of their nuclear operation to take the whole thing
down.” In other words, he was calmly proposing an illegal attack on
a sovereign state, possibly involving nuclear weapons.
Bolton knew his words would be leaked, so maybe it was just
deliberate posturing to raise the pressure on Iran. But on Sunday,
addressing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in
Washington, Bolton repeated the threat: “The longer we wait to
confront the threat Iran poses, the harder and more intractable it
will become to solve… We must be prepared to rely on comprehensive
solutions and use all the tools at our disposal to stop the threat…”
He may really mean it -- and no one in the White House has told him
to shut up.
With the U.S. army already mired in Iraq, the Bush administration
lacks the ground strength to invade Iran, a far larger country. The
National Security Strategy statement of September 2002 declared a
new doctrine of “preemptive” wars in which the U.S. would launch
unprovoked attacks against countries that it feared might hurt it in
the future, and in January 2003 that doctrine was elaborated into
the military strategy of “full spectrum global strike.”
The “full spectrum” referred specifically to the use of nuclear
weapons to destroy hardened targets that ordinary weapons cannot
reach. Earth-penetrating “mini-nukes” were an integral part of
Conplan 8022-02, a presidential directive signed by Bush at the same
time that covered attacks on countries allegedly posing an
“imminent” nuclear threat in which no American ground troops would
be used. Indeed, the responsibility for carrying out Conplan 8022
was given to Strategic Command (Stratcom) in Omaha, a military
command that had previously dealt only with nuclear weapons.
Last May, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld issued an “Interim
Global Strike Alert Order” putting Stratcom on high military
readiness 24 hours a day. Logic says there is no “imminent” danger
of Iranian nuclear weapons: last year’s U.S. National Intelligence
Estimate put the time needed for Iran to develop such weapons at ten
years. But experience says that this administration can talk itself
into a “preemptive” attack on a country that really does not pose
any threat at all.
So what happens if they talk themselves into unleashing Conplan 8022
on Iran? Thousands of people would die, of course, and the surviving
70 million Iranians would be very cross, but how could they strike
back at the United States? Iran has no nuclear weapons, no weapons
of any sort that could reach America. Given the huge American
technological lead, it can’t even do much damage to U.S. forces in
the Persian Gulf region. But it does have two powerful weapons: its
Shia faith, and oil.
Iran is currently playing a long game in Iraq, encouraging the Shia
religious parties to cooperate with the American political project
so that a Shia-dominated government in Baghdad will turn Iraq into a
reliable ally of Iran once the Americans go home. But if Tehran
encouraged the Shia militias to attack American troops in Iraq, U.S.
casualties would soar. The whole American position there could
become untenable in months.
Iran would probably not try to close the Strait of Hormuz, the
choke-point through which most of the Persian Gulf’s oil exports
pass, for U.S. forces could easily dominate or even seize the
sparsely populated Iranian coast on the north side. But it would
certainly halt its own oil exports, currently close to 4 million
barrels a day, and in today’s tight oil market that would likely
drive the oil price up to $130-$150 a barrel. Moreover, Tehran could
keep the exports turned off for months, since recent oil prices,
already high by historical standards, have enabled it to build up a
large cash reserve. (Iran earned $45 billion from oil exports last
year, twice the average in 2001-03.)
So a “preemptive” American attack on Iran would ignite a general
insurrection against the American presence in Shia-dominated areas
of Iraq and trigger a global economic crisis. The use of nuclear
weapons would cross a firebreak that the world has maintained ever
since 1945, and convince most other great powers that the United
States is a rogue state that must be contained. All this to deal
with a threat that is no more real or “imminent” than the one posed
by Iraq in 2003.
No American policy-maker in his right mind would contemplate
unleashing such a disaster for so little reason. Unfortunately, that
does not guarantee that it won’t happen.
Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles
are published in 45 countries.
Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2005
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