I have a frequent nightmare: In the year 2011, with the full support and complicity of their shadow ally, Russia, the Islamofacist regime in Tehran announces that they have developed a deliverable nuclear weapon(s). That any attempt by any nation to dismantle their program through military force or draconian economic sanctions will be viewed as an overt act of war. That they will view any such act of war as justification enough to deploy a nuclear weapon against Israel…regardless of what nation is behind the initial response.
They will cite classic anti-Semitic mantra, such as the myth that international Jewry controls the Western powers, etc. as their reasoning for labeling Israel the chief culprit by default. More to the point, when push comes to shove they know that President Obama harbors no love of the Jewish state (as his harsh treatment of Netanyahu shows) and will have no stomach for a war to protect it.
[Meanwhile the Russians let it be known through diplomatic back-channels that relations between Tehran and Moscow have recently thawed and any retaliatory military strike against Iran for its actions against Israel could be viewed as an attack on Russia.]
The West, assuming it is even motivated to respond at all, is now put in a precarious position for a now-nuclear Iran looms over the Strait of Hormuz like a Colussus. This narrow sea lane is by far the world’s most important oil chokepoint due to its daily flow of 16.5-17 million barrels, or roughly 40 percent of all seaborne oils (20 percent of oil traded worldwide). At its narrowest point the channel is only 21 miles wide.
Now Obama will have a choice to make. Will he commit the US Navy to keep the strait open, call the Russian bluff and risk a world war? Or will he back down and seek a “diplomatic” solution. Regardless, even temporarily closing off the Persian Gulf would cause an economically devastating spike in the price of oil and a sympathy rally in all commodities.
This would be just fine for the commodity-rich Russia. With 79 billion barrels of proven reserves they hover above a vast reservoir of untapped crude oil. And let us not overlook natural gas. In fact, according to the EIA, Russia holds the world’s largest natural gas reserves, with 1,680 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), which is nearly twice the reserves in the next largest country which is, guess who, Iran. In 2006 Russia was not only the world’s largest natural gas producer (23.2 Tcf), but also the world’s largest exporter (6.6 Tcf). Russian government forecasts expect gas production to total 31.1 Tcf by 2030. Europe is highly dependent on Russian natural gas through the state-controlled Transneft pipelines they could close with the turn of a nozzle. The EU imports almost half of its natural gas and 30 percent of its oil from Russia. Eastern Europe consumes even higher percentages of Russian gas.
[As my dream moves along, I envision too that as a precursor to Iran’s announcement we see a sustained rally in oil futures before the eventual spike as Tehran will have given their new friends an ample heads-up allowing the barons of Moscow to go long futures as a hedge against what is coming and even profit from the appreciation should their cash business be temporarily dislocated from supply disruptions.]
The fact is the Russians have a vested interest in a nuclear Iran. It is good for business and certainly will greatly diminish the power and influence of the already hard-pressed USA. So even as Russian president Dmitry Medvedev offers lip-service to “limited” sanctions to an ever more bewildered Obama foreign policy team, the true powers in Russia–Putin and the band of hybrid statist/capitalist billionaire oligarchs–will never support effective economic measures that will hurt Iran enough to curb its nuclear ambitions. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” is the old saying. And the Russians certainly do not look to as us partners…at best competitors, at worst impediments to their desires for expansion that date back into the dimmest past of the ancient tsars. Self-interest is the guiding principle among European nation-states. It always has been and always will be–“rock star” president notwithstanding.
[Meanwhile, as my nightmare unfolds, in another sea channel, the Chinese–who already have strong economic ties with Iran–coincidentally decide to launch a repeat of their bellicose 1996 naval exercises in the Formosa Strait almost within sight of the Taiwanese coast. What will the USA do? How will we treat this act of aggression half way across the world committed by the nation whose military might is formidable and even more prickly, holds much of our national debt and the value of our currency in a death grip?]
The America of my dream is thus weak and quite vulnerable. But this premonition need not come to pass. The first step towards thwarting this one potential future is for the Obama administration to do a re-“reset” in foreign relations and get a grip on who are our friends, who are our enemies, and start treating each accordingly. If Obama truly believes his own rhetoric that a nuclear Iran is “unacceptable” then he must see that we have with Israel a common and imperative goal to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. If that means that he must give Israel tacit approval for a military strike with a quiet assurance that we will have their back regardless of what inevitable “condemnation” resolution come downs the UN pipeline then so be it. This is real world stuff here and the future of millions could be at stake. Hyperbole? Part of being a leader is having the capacity to imagine the unimaginable. 9/11 gave us a clue what a few hard-core Islamic zealots with box-cutters and no scruples can do. Just imagine this crowd with a nuke. Again, “unacceptable” means just that: we cannot accept it.
What Obama must accept is that our interests and those of much of the world are not aligned on this matter…either economically or politically. And thus must he find in himself the same “courage” that he conjured up to push through an unpopular healthcare bill at home because he, ahem, knew best, and this time do what is best for the world, whether that world knows it or not.
The fact is that the notion of a “global community” is a myth. Nations are what nations are. And a clue as to how they will conduct their affairs can usually be discerned by picking up a history book and thumbing through a page or two.
Iran is the geopolitical illustration of Newton’s first law of motion which offers that an object in motion will stay in motion on the same course until acted upon. It seems that in his desire to turn inward and create an economic utopia within our borders, Barack Obama is unwilling to accept that the world outside remains a very hazardous place. And there are many in that world who view the imminent decline of American power not as a symbol of a newfound global harmony, but rather an opportunity for mischief. If he stays on his relentless course of statism at home and post-American dogma abroad, Mr. Obama will end up irrevocably weakening this nation with unsustainable domestic activism and an utter misapprehension about the rough and tumble neighborhood in which his happy-faced diplomats are trying to navigate. He may very well get a new world order, that “change” of which he spoke so forcefully in his campaign. But I think the reality will not be so pleasant as his fantasy optimism would have him “hope.”