(Security Analyst based in Italy)
Copyright: Marco Giaconi on line
Note: This analysis was translated from Intelfutures Network (Italy).
What reaction can be envisaged to counter, or at least to confront, nuclear Iran? Let’s see. But, before all, we must ask ourselves why the Islamic Republic of Iran is looking for nuclear weapons, or even for a nuclear energy facility for domestic and civil purposes. First of all, Teheran is looking to stabilize and secure, by means of its nuclear structure, his status of a regional power in the whole area of the Persian Gulf.
Iraq is now downtrodden in a long period of internal stabilization, and cannot have any possibility to think about his new foreign policy. After this, reasonably long, time of internal stabilization, Baghdad shall emerge as the geopolitical pivot for the United States in that area, from the Red Sea to the Persian Gulf, controlling even the border areas to the north, in the line of the Russian sphere of influence.
Reaching that status, Iraq shall be able to monitor and control the commercial and military operations launched by Teheran in the Hormuz Straits and the Persian Gulf. In Afghanistan, ISAF forces have sometimes defeated or at least controlled Taliban-Salafi forces traditionally directed against Iran, aiming, on Pakistan’s behalf, at stopping the strategic projection of Iran towards the east and central Asia, which is now and moreover in the future, the geopolitical aim of Teheran.
Kuwait and the other Emirates of the Gulf are now, as Germany was in the cold war, an “economic giant but a political dwarf”. Emirates have no military muscle, possibly except with a large alliance and US support (and disrupting this alliance is a main task for Teheran today) and the very presence of US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan refrains the Emirates from tightening their relation with USA, which cannot be overstretched in that area.
In the Near Middle East, the Iranian aims are even more complicated. The area under PNA control is now divided in two pieces, the West bank (Judaea and Samaria) cannot fight, even politically, against the Jewish State, which Teheran still sees as the sole reliable western pivot in the Middle East, but the PNA is not, on the contrary, an effective ally for Iran in a final struggle against Tel Aviv. The Gaza Strip is now fully under HAMAS control, an organization that, in Teheran’s eyes, has the invaluable role of organizing the present and the future anti-Israeli forces in the whole area of Sinai and from Yemen; while HAMAS being also valuable, for Teheran, as an organizer for the future war on Israel collecting forces from the whole Persian Gulf.
And you think also of the relevant spiders’ web HAMAS has organized in the West Bank, which could, in no time, change an “armed peace” between PNA and Tel Aviv in a guerrilla, following the myth of Karameh, the battle which constructed the power and the popular appeal of FATAH and Yasser Arafat in the whole Arab world. Lebanon, even if we don’t take into account the huge Syrian control over its territory, is geographically hard to be controlled from its southern border, and the next operation IDF could launch on Lebanon could be even less easy than those mounted in July 2006 and could not probably disrupt the new Hezbollah position from Litani to Beirut. Because of all these considerations, Israel is in caught in the pincers from North to South, with its eastern border on PNA Territories not strategically secure and valuable for Tel Aviv.
In this scenario, Iranian atomic bomb against Israel is a menace firstly for its real effects on Israel, secondly it is designed to reinforce and multiply the conditioning force of the whole panoply of conventional menaces directed against the Jewish State. And this menace is a kind of a gift from Teheran to all the Arab states neighboring Israel. And a geopolitical condition too. And the European Union is not, at present times, a reliable geopolitical asset, neither for Israel nor even for the Arab states in the Near Middle East.
Up till now UE has designed its Security and Defense Policy as an operation aimed to substitute the menace by land envisaged by the Warsaw Pact in a big economical-military alliance connecting EU with the North of Eurasian landmass, Russia and China. UE has never shown some fresh new thought on Mediterranean strategy after 1991.
The old question of “two peoples-two states” solution, born after the Madrid Conference of 2002 and from the “Quartet” formed by ONU, UE, the Russian Federation and US is, frankly speaking, obsolete. Israel is not a “mono-racial state” because of the fact that it has a strong Arab minority, about 20%, and the Druze with the Bedouin tribes in the Negev can even join the IDF. The Territories of the PNA are not a state, because there is, technically and scientifically speaking, a “Palestinian” people, but there are different populations, by the end of the British mandate, have been collected, militarized and organized in the refugee camps and in border areas under Jordanian, Lebanese, Syrian or Egyptian control.
And, as we have seen before, HAMAS is sovereign in the Gaza Strip, while waiting to seize power in the West Bank, and so we must ask ourselves: which or whose Palestinian state are we dealing with? Syria, the strategic western centre for Iran, manifestly hasn’t now the will, or the interest, to stomp into action for the Golan Heights, but is still seeking, after Suleiman’s election in Lebanon, to encircle Israel from its northern border.
The European Union, moreover, has always shown a main interest in geo-economy, and has consequently been so keen to accept any pressure about its oil and gas. This means that Iran, together with the other OPEC countries, can manage very easily the “out of quotas” and the other economic blackmail so common in the post- 1973 era. US is still worried in Afghanistan and Iraq, and America cannot open a new front within or on the borders of Iran.
These are all good strategically assets for Teheran. But why, finally, Iran is clearly looking for the nuclear bomb of its own? For many reasons:
a) to maximize his role among the OPEC cartel and diminish at its minimum its national oil market, hugely subsidized,
b) to fill the power vacuum in the whole area from the Middle East to the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean; while the US is busy with Iraq and Afghanistan and the Arab (Sunni) states of the Gulf and the Arabian peninsula are under the effective menace of jihad,
c) to control completely the whole Persian Gulf, in order to determine the future of Saudi Arabia (Riyadh is near to the Gulf) of Oman, and to gain a strategic supervision on Pakistan (another Sunni country) till the North of India and the southern borders of China.
d) to manage directly the interconnection between Iran and the Mediterranean, while nuclear weapons are directed from Syria in the direction of Cyprus, Turkey and Greece. Don’t forget that Ahmadinedjad, in his political and militant past has been busy in Anatolia and in the Mediterranean site of Turkey.
e) to annihilate Israel in order to seal up definitively all the Greater Middle East from US and, partly, EU influence.
f) to direct from Teheran an OPEC line of attack against UE and American countries depending on OPEC oil, in order to gain a large transfer of funds from the West to the east until OPEC oil is declining steadily and cannot face the Russian and central Asian competition and run the prices,
g) So the West, in the meantime, before the oil reaches its peak in the Arabian areas, should held a rapid and huge economic recovery in Iran and other friendly OPEC countries, while Saudi Arabia, the “friend” of the West, is already internationalized and is not effectively interested in a “crush strategy” against the oil-addicted West.
So, How to manage Iranian nuclear menace? Let’s see some general hypotheses:
1) Don’t care if Iran has already or not made its nuclear bomb. It’s a useless question. Iran has already, as many nuclear countries using uranium or plutonium technology for civilian purposes, the technology to build a large number of “dirty bombs”. They can be technologically naïve, but they hurt very hard. And it could disrupt definitively Israel, an area densely populated, with borders full of enemies, with no effective strategic area of protection and recovery from an attack, diminished till a dimension of a Swiss Kanton. The silly “land for peace” policy has reduced Israel to the geopolitical dimension of its near enemies, and even less. “Land for Peace” has also created point of strategic penetration and influence (southern Litani, the northern borders of the Gaza Strip, the area between the Jordan River and Israel) and, finally, this “land for peace” has reduced to nil the absorption of the first nuclear strike on the Israeli territory. The old strategy used to win the “Yom Kippur war”, or even the “Six day war” cannot be replied today. Launching a primitive “dirty bomb” on Israel is strategically equivalent, in its effects, to launching an up-to-date nuclear bomb.
2) An action “OSIRAK”-Type (Operation Opera, in Israeli code) can be rational and useful, but probably could not solve the main problem, unless Tel Aviv is sure to rely upon a radical transformation of Iranian political landscape. Nuclear facilities in Iranian territory are many, and a single but coordinated raid could not be enough. And if air raids are many and in different time and space, the probability of a strong reaction by Iranian armies and politico-military groups could be effective and reach vital targets in Israeli territory.
3) destabilization operations ordered by President G.W. Bush in some areas in the Iranian territory using Baluchi, Kurdish, Azeri Turkmeni, and Georgian minorities may be superposed to other operations already launched by other countries, but it could be of no use while many nuclear facilities are built in areas with Shi’a and Iranian majorities, and are reasonably very well protected. So, if you want a “regime change” in Iran, you can play the many non-Sh’ia and Arabian minorities against the government of Teheran, but if you want to cut every nuclear menace coming from Iran, this is the longest and probably wrong way.
4) The European Union has a different vision on the Iranian issue from the US, and neither the US or EU has the power, as a lone rider or a single geopolitical actor, to retaliate on nuclear level or even conventionally on Iran if Teheran would decide to launch its bomb, either dirty or technologically smart on Tel Aviv. No one, in Europe or even in America is going “to die for Jerusalem”, provided Jerusalem be Jewish. Besides, OSINT and other intelligence sources differ greatly on Iranian nuclear attitudes, both in USA and in Israel, and even in many European states. If Iran launches a bomb, intelligence sources can be easily doctored, provided that the USA has no real HUMINT web in Iran, except in the minorities’ areas.
5) And finally, the real question is not when and if Iran gets its nuclear devices, but how Teheran shall use them? Iran, we think, is not committed to a kind of nuclear management we were used in the old days of the cold war. Teheran’s atomic bomb is not a diplomatic-political menace, but a simple instrument; there is nothing in Teheran’s behavior that can remind us of the “chicken game” between USA and the Soviet Union. There is no equality of power, there is no conventional confrontation and stalemate, for Teheran the nuclear weapon is an instrument that must be used at the right moment in the right place. Iran shall use its bomb, whatever technology could be used, if: a) shall be effectively menaced in the Hormuz Straits, b) shall feel a relevant conventional pressure on its borders, especially from the North and the East, c) shall feel a pressure, either military or economical or geopolitical, from the countries of the East Mediterranean.
6) So stated, what to do? A relevant military pressure, with a simultaneous destruction from the air of the main nuclear sites in Iran, could be useful, of course, but whoever does the job must rely effectively on a stable support, in intelligence and in the overt political arena, from both the US and the UE. There could be also an effective support from the Russian federation, and some interest, provided that the oilfields bought by China in Iran are secured.
7) If the Russian Federation could be induced, by a new configuration of the OPEC cartel, to release its ties with Iran, this opportunity could lead to the operational isolation of Teheran. If China could be induced not to expand its mainline on the Iranian oil market and extraction fields, this could also lead to the “perfect storm” against the Iranian nuclear and military facilities.
8) And if the Iranian nuclear system could be managed by a multilateral organization composed by countries like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Greece, the Emirates, Egypt and other countries with the role of “observators” (the EU, mainly) the military potential of Teheran’s facilities could be deactivated while permitting to Iran to use nuclear civilian energy to boost its economy.