Stratfor: “Mediterranean Flyover: Telegraphing an Israeli Punch?”

Summary:  Stratfor reports on another indication of an attack by Israel at Iran.  Another in a long string of feints and rumors.  Clearly Israel sends signals of some kind to Iran.  Does Iran fear an attack, or hope for one?  Would a strike at Iran strength Israel’s geopolitical position, or destroy it?  We can only guess at the answers.  See the links at the end for my guesses about these things. 

My view of the situation is simple:

  1. Israel will not attack (I very much hope this is correct).  If they intend to attack, they have chosen to forfeit tactical surprise (does anyone else believe this to be unlikely?)
  2. A meaningful strike at Iran’s atomic infrastructure is near the edge of US capabilities, and probably beyond Israel’s.
  3. Such a strike would put much of Israel’s air assets — both people and aircraft — at risk.
  4. The diplomatic blowback would be catastrophic for Israel.
  5. If it did attack as Freidman suggests, staging through Iraq’s airspace, the results might be catastrophic for Americans in Iraq — and our Iraq project.

At the end this post is a list of previous articles and other resources about possible attacks by the US or Israel at Iran.  Also note, for those who like Debkafile (or appreciate skillful info ops):

  1. Mossad Chief Empowered to Prepare Groundwork for Iran Strike“, Debkafile, 23 June 2008
  2. Israel’s air maneuver did not simulate possible Iran strike strategy“, Debkafile, 21 June 2008
  3. For more on their record, see “Does reading Debkafile make us smarter, or dumber?

Here is George Friedman’s latest analysis of the Israel – Iran situation:  “Mediterranean Flyover: Telegraphing an Israeli Punch?”, Stratfor.  23 June 2008 — Published with permission.

On June 20, The New York Times published a report saying that more than 100 Israeli aircraft carried out an exercise in early June over the eastern Mediterranean Sea and Greece. The article pointed out that the distances covered were roughly the distances from Israel to Iranian nuclear sites and that the exercise was a trial run for a large-scale air strike against Iran. On June 21, the British newspaper The Times quoted Israeli military sources as saying that the exercise was a dress rehearsal for an attack on Iran. The Jerusalem Post, in covering these events, pointedly referred to an article it had published in May saying that Israeli intelligence had changed its forecast for Iran passing a nuclear threshold — whether this was simply the ability to cause an explosion under controlled conditions or the ability to produce an actual weapon was unclear — to 2008 rather than 2009.

The New York Times article, positioned on the front page, captured the attention of everyone from oil traders to Iran, which claimed that this was entirely psychological warfare on the part of the Israelis and that Israel could not carry out such an attack. It was not clear why the Iranians thought an attack was impossible, but they were surely right in saying that the exercise was psychological warfare. The Israelis did everything they could to publicize the exercise, and American officials, who obviously knew about the exercise but had not publicized it, backed them up. What is important to note is that the fact that this was psychological warfare — and fairly effective, given the Iranian response — does not mean that Israel is not going to attack. One has nothing to do with the other. So the question of whether there is going to be an attack must be analyzed carefully.

The first issue, of course, is what might be called the “red line.” It has always been expected that once the Iranians came close to a line at which they would become a capable nuclear power, the Americans or the Israelis would act to stop them, neither being prepared to tolerate a nuclear Iran. What has never been clear is what constitutes that red line. It could simply be having produced sufficient fissionable material to build a bomb, having achieved a nuclear explosion under test conditions in Iran or having approached the point of producing a deliverable nuclear weapon.

Early this month, reports circulated that A.Q. Khan, the former head of Pakistan’s nuclear program who is accused of selling nuclear technology to such countries as Libya, North Korea and Iran, had also possessed detailed design specifications and blueprints for constructing a nuclear weapon small enough to be mounted on missiles available to North Korea and Iran. The blueprints were found on a computer owned by a Swiss businessman, but the reports pointedly said that it was not known whether these documents had been transferred to Iran or any other country. It was interesting that the existence of the blueprints in Switzerland was known to the United States — and, we assume, Israel — in 2006 but that, at this point, there was no claim that they had been transferred.

Clearly, the existence of these documents — if Iran had a copy of them — would have helped the Iranians clear some hurdles. However, as we have pointed out, there is a huge gap between having enriched uranium and having a deliverable weapon, the creation of which requires technologies totally unrelated to each other. Ruggedizing and miniaturizing a nuclear device requires specializations from materials science to advanced electronics. Therefore, having enriched uranium or even triggering an underground nuclear device still leaves you a long way from having a weapon.

That’s why the leak on the nuclear blueprints is so important. From the Israeli and American point of view, those blueprints give the Iranians the knowledge of precisely how to ruggedize and miniaturize a nuclear device. But there are two problems here. First, if we were given blueprints for building a bridge, they would bring us no closer to building one. We would need experts in multiple disciplines just to understand the blueprints and thousands of trained engineers and workers to actually build the bridge. Second, the Israelis and Americans have known about the blueprints for two years. Even if they were certain that they had gotten to the Iranians — which the Israelis or Americans would certainly have announced in order to show the increased pressure at least one of them would be under to justify an attack — it is unclear how much help the blueprints would have been to the Iranians. The Jerusalem Post story implied that the Iranians were supposed to be crossing an un defined line in 2009. It is hard to imagine that they were speeded up to 2008 by a document delivered in 2006, and that the Israelis only just noticed.

In the end, the Israelis may have intelligence indicating that the blueprints did speed things up, and that the Iranians might acquire nuclear weapons in 2008. We doubt that. But given the statements Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made over the years, the Israelis have to be planning based on worst-case scenarios. What the sum total of their leaks adds up to is an attempt to communicate widely that there is an increased urgency in dealing with Iran, based on intelligence that the Iranian program is farther along than previously thought.

The problem is the fact that the Israelis are communicating. In fact, they are going out of their way to communicate. That is extremely odd. If the Israelis were intending to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities, they would want to be absolutely certain that as much of the equipment in the facilities was destroyed as possible. But the hard truth is that the heart of Iran’s capability, such as it is, does not reside in its facilities but in its scientists, engineers and technicians who collectively constitute the knowledge base of Iran’s nuclear program. Facilities can be replaced. It would take at least a generation to replace what we already regard as an insufficient cadre of expertise.

Therefore, if Israel wanted not simply to take out current facilities but to take Iran out of the nuclear game for a very long time, killing these people would have to be a major strategic goal. The Israelis would want to strike in the middle of the workday, without any warning whatever. If they strike Iran, they will be condemned widely for their actions. The additional criticism that would come from killing the workforce would not be a large price to pay for really destroying the Iranian capabilities. Unlike the Iraqi reactor strike in 1981, when the Israelis struck at night to minimize casualties, this strike against a more sophisticated program could not afford to be squeamish.

There are obviously parts of Iran’s nuclear capability that cannot be moved. There is other equipment that can be, with enough warning and with more or less difficulty, moved to unknown locations. But nothing would be easier to disperse than the heart of the program — the people. They could be moved out of harm’s way with only an hour’s notice. Therefore, providing warning that an attack was coming makes very little sense. It runs counter to basic principles of warfare. The Israelis struck the Osirak reactor in Iraq in 1981 with not the slightest hint of the attack’s imminence. That was one of the reasons it was successful. Telegraphing your punch is not very smart in these circumstances.

The Israelis have done more than raise the possibility that an attack might be launched in 2008. They have publicized how they plan to do it. Based on the number and type of aircraft involved in the exercise — more than 100 F-15 and F-16 fighter jets — one Israeli attack scenario could involve a third of Israel’s inventory of fourth-generation strike aircraft, including most of its latest-model F-15I Ra’am and F-16I Sufa fighter bombers. If Greece were the target in this exercise, then the equivalent distance would mean that the Israelis are planning to cross Jordanian airspace, transit through Iraq and strike Iran from that direction. A strike through Turkey — and there is no indication that the Turks would permit it — would take much longer.

The most complex part of the operation’s logistics would be the refueling of aircraft. They would have to be orbiting in Iraqi airspace. One of the points discussed about the Mediterranean exercise was the role of Israeli helicopters in rescuing downed flyers. Rescue helicopters would be involved, but we doubt very much they would be entering Iranian airspace from Israel. They are a lot slower than the jets, and they would have to be moving hours ahead of time. The Iranians might not spot them but the Russians would, and there is no guarantee that they wouldn’t pass it on to the Iranians. That means that the Israeli helicopters would have to move quietly into Iraq and be based there.

And that means that this would have to be a joint American-Israeli operation. The United States controls Iraqi airspace, meaning that the Americans would have to permit Israeli tankers to orbit in Iraqi airspace. The search-and-rescue helicopters would have to be based there. And we strongly suspect that rescued pilots would not be ferried back to Israel by helicopter but would either be sent to U.S. hospitals in Iraq or transferred to Israeli aircraft in Iraq.

The point here is that, given the exercise the Israelis carried out and the distances involved, there is no way Israel could do this without the direct cooperation of the United States. From a political standpoint in the region, it is actually easier for the United States to take out Iran’s facilities than for it to help the Israelis do so. There are many Sunni states that might formally protest but be quite pleased to see the United States do the job. But if the Israelis were to do it, Sunni states would have to be much more serious in their protestations. In having the United States play the role of handmaiden in the Israeli operation, it would appear that the basic charge against the United States — that it is the handmaiden of the Israelis — is quite true. If the Americans are going to be involved in a strike against Iran’s nuclear program, they are far better off doing it themselves than playing a supporting role to Israel.

There is something not quite right in this whole story. The sudden urgency — replete with tales of complete blueprints that might be in Iranian hands — doesn’t make sense. We may be wrong, but we have no indication that Iran is that close to producing nuclear weapons. Second, the extreme publicity given the exercise in the Mediterranean, coming from both Israel and the United States, runs counter to the logic of the mission. Third, an attack on Iran through Iraqi airspace would create a political nightmare for the United States. If this is the Israeli attack plan, the Americans would appear to be far better off doing it themselves.

There are a number of possible explanations. On the question of urgency, the Israelis might have two things in mind. One is the rumored transfer of S-300 surface-to-air missiles from Russia to Iran. This transfer has been rumored for quite a while, but by all accounts has yet to happen. The S-300 is a very capable system, depending on the variety (and it is unclear which variety is being transferred), and it would increase the cost and complexity of any airstrike against Iran. Israel may have heard that the Russians are planning to begin transferring the missiles sometime in 2008.

Second, there is obviously the U.S. presidential election. George W. Bush will be out of office in early 2009, and it is possible that Barack Obama will be replacing him. The Israelis have made no secret of their discomfort with an Obama presidency. Obviously, Israel cannot attack Iran without U.S. cooperation. The Israelis’ timetable may be moved up because they are not certain that Obama will permit an attack later on.

There are also explanations for the extreme publicity surrounding the exercise. The first might be that the Israelis have absolutely no intention of trying to stage long-range attacks but are planning some other type of attack altogether. The possibilities range from commando raids to cruise missiles fired from Israeli submarines in the Arabian Sea — or something else entirely. The Mediterranean exercise might have been designed to divert attention.

Alternatively, the Israelis could be engaged in exhausting Iranian defenders. During the first Gulf War, U.S. aircraft rushed toward the Iraqi border night after night for weeks, pulling away and landing each time. The purpose was to get the Iraqis to see these feints as routine and slow down their reactions when U.S. aircraft finally attacked. The Israelis could be engaged in a version of this, tiring out the Iranians with a series of “emergencies” so they are less responsive in the event of a real strike.

Finally, the Israelis and Americans might not be intending an attack at all. Rather, they are — as the Iranians have said — engaged in psychological warfare for political reasons. The Iranians appear to be split now between those who think that Ahmadinejad has led Iran into an extremely dangerous situation and those who think Ahmadinejad has done a fine job. The prospect of an imminent and massive attack on Iran could give his opponents ammunition against him. This would explain the Iranian government response to the reports of a possible attack — which was that such an attack was just psychological warfare and could not happen. That clearly was directed more for internal consumption than it was for the Israelis or Americans.

We tend toward this latter theory. Frankly, the Bush administration has been talking about an attack on Iran for years. It is hard for us to see that the situation has changed materially over the past months. But if it has, then either Israel or the United States would have attacked — and not with front-page spreads in The New York Times before the attack was launched. In the end, we tend toward the view that this is psychological warfare for the simple reason that you don’t launch a surprise attack of the kind necessary to take out Iran’s nuclear program with a media blitz beforehand. It just doesn’t work that way.

Copyright 2008 Strategic Forecasting, Inc.

Other posts about a war with Iran

Esp note #5:  “Will Israel comit suicide?”  See my full archive of articles about Will the US or Israel attack Iran?

  1. 4GW at work in a community near you  (19 October 2007) — Propaganda warming us up for war with Iran.
  2. War with Iran   (9 November 2007) — Why Iran is not necessarily our enemy.
  3. Is Iran dangerous, or a paper tiger?   (13 November 2007)
  4. The new NIE, another small step in the Decline of the State  (10 December 2007) — About the NIE analysis of Iran’s atomic program.
  5. Will Israel commit suicide? More rumors of a strike at Iran  (22 December 2007)
  6. Stratfor’s analysis of US reasons for invading and occupying Iraq   (4 March 2008)
  7. Will we bomb Iran, now that Admiral Fallon is gone?   (17 March 2008)
  8. More post-Fallon overheating: “6 signs the US may be headed for war in Iran”   (18 March 2008)
  9. A militant America, ready for war with Iran  (6 May 2008)
  10. Another step towards war with Iran?  (7 May 2008) — About Andrew Cockburn’s article in  Counterpunch.
  11. “War With Iran Might Be Closer Than You Think”  (13 May 2008) — About Philip Giraldi’s 9 May story in The American Conservative (see below).
  12. A new story about a possible war with Iran  (21 May 2008) — About the 20 May Jerusalem Post story, originally reported by Army Radio (see below).
  13. “As things look, Israel may well attack Iran soon”  (3 June 2008) — About the Fischer story in the 30 May Daily Star.
  14. “Attacking Iran, in order to stop its nuclear plans, will be unavoidable”   (8 June 2008)  — War-talk by a former Defense Minster of Israel.
  15. Der Spiegel: “Israeli Ministers Mull Plans for Military Strike against Iran”  (17 June 2008) — Rumors in Der Spiegel of a strike by Israel on Iran.

Other articles about a war with Iran

  1. Deep Background“, Philip Giraldi, The American Conservative  (1 August 2005) — “”In Case of Emergency, Nuke Iran”
  2. The Iranian Challenge“, Trita Parsi, The Nation (1 November 2007) — “Trita Parsi outlines the steps toward a sane relationship between the US and Iran.”
  3. What Will Israel Do?“, Michael Hirsh, Newsweek(20 December 2007) — “A unilateral military strike against Iran is much more likely following the latest intel report about Tehran’s nuke program.”
  4. 6 Signs the U.S. May Be Headed for War in Iran“, US News and World Report (11 March 2008)
  5. Secret Bush “Finding” Widens War on Iran“, Andrew Cockburn, Counterpunch (2 May 2008) — “Democrats Okay Funds for Covert Ops”   
  6. War With Iran Might Be Closer Than You Think“, Philip Giraldi, The American Conservative  (9 May 2008)
  7. White House denies Iran attack report“, Jerusalem Post   (20 May 2008)
  8. As things look, Israel may well attack Iran soon“, Joschka Fischer, The Daily Star  (30 May 2008) — Fischer was Germany’s foreign minister and vice chancellor from 1998 to 2005, and led Germany’s Green Party for nearly 20 years. 

28 thoughts on “Stratfor: “Mediterranean Flyover: Telegraphing an Israeli Punch?”

  1. Even if this is all designed to bluff Iran into concessions, it may lead to war.

    If Iran stops enriching uranium, it will have backed down. If Iran continues enriching uranium, Israel and the Bush administration will have backed down unless they attack Iran.

    In August 1914 no one wanted to back down.

  2. In Oct, 2002, the US Congress authorized Pres. Bush to use military force against Saddam, if he didn’t fully comply with the nuke/WMD disarming AND documention requirements. Hans Blix in Feb. 2003 did not report that Saddam had fully complied. The US/ coalition then attacked — with plenty of warning.

    The Israeli warning now is to minimize political blowback. The urgency is to attack, or have Iran agree to stop developing nukes/ allow UN inspectors a closer look, while Bush is Pres and the Israelis feel confident of getting Iraqi airspace clearance.

    This “purloined letter” obviousness may be just the kind of hiding Israel is hoping for in the worst case attack.
    The almost-best case attack is for the US to just do the bombing destruction of Iran’s facilities.
    The (most likely far too early) best case is for some Iraqi Sunni Arab generals to begin demonizing the Iranian Shia murderers and calling them that, so that the US could support an Iraqi retaliation for terrorism attack against Iran. I’d support the US giving non-nuke cruise missiles to the Iraqis, under US veto power but to be ordered in attacks by Iraqis.
    Another likely possibility seems to be for the US to impose a blockade on Iranian shipping, but with $140/barrel, this doesn’t fly in US politics.

    There are also the wildcard Kurds, who with US support, could attempt a Kosovo-like separation from Tehran in NW Kurdish Iran, on the Iraq & Turkey border. (Turkey will NOT like that…)

    Fab Max, you don’t want Israel to attack. Do you prefer Iran to get a nuke?

    I don’t want the slo-mo genocide in Darfur to continue, but it seems that Obama-Bush “Talk” is not stopping it. I support action/ war, to stop the genocide. Do you support continued acceptance of genocide?

    If the Israelis see how the world yawns at genocide in Darfur, why shouldn’t they believe the world would yawn at Tel Aviv being nuked?
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Good questions all.

    I think the key question is not if the world would yawn at Tel Aviv being nuked, but if the folks running Iran would enjoy being nuked by Israel’s 2nd strike. As Mel Brooks said (one of the key insights of geopolitics) “It’s good being King.” Examples of national suicide are quite rare.

    Plus, technological progress makes building atomic weapons easier for every generation. Eventually everybody will have them. So the answer is no, I do not see that Iran getting nukes is the gotterdamerung that many fear.

    As for genocide in Darfur — and other failed states — I reject “do you support accepting that bad things happen” as a “false dilemma” fallacy. I am going to die and be eaten by worms. What happens if I do not accept that?

    4GW has become the dominant form of military force in our era. That means helping people without their consent — the classic failed state scenario — has become problematic to a greater degreee than in the pre-WWII colonial era. So our options are limited. That’s life, and death.

  3. You’ve got to leave everything on the table when considering Israeli military options & planning. However, it seems to me that Iran’s primary, overwhelming threat to Israel has to do with fairly open-ended, unconditional support for Hezbollah and Hamas, who turn Iranian funding & technical support into a short-range conventional rocket threat. Bombing nuclear facilities that are years away from producing a usable/deliverable weapon will do nothing to reduce Iran’s support for the bad guys next door. So it really does seem unlikely that Israel would bomb Iran, assuming (and I DO assume) they could find a way to do so.

    But there I go, off the deep end with rational analysis!

  4. I must confess I believe in the psywar-theory. It is the most likely explanation for what is going on. I would – however – like to stress that even an extensive psywar carry a substantial risk of something going awry. Remember the downing of an Iranian Airbus back in 1987? Instead of a Pearl Harbor-style attack you might have a tit-for-tat escalation into open warfare. The Soviets downed a South Korean airliner after several American air intrusions into Soviet airspace in 1983.

    I would also like to make a comment to what another wrote: Do you prefer Iran with a nuke? My answer would be of course not. But I also think just for once people should care just a little bit about history. The Soviets got the bomb back in 1949 and nothing happened. The Chinese got the nuclear bomb back in 1964 and nothing happened. Even the crazy North Koreans got the bomb in 2006 and – guess what? – nothing happened. I don’t say it will stay that way, but there is very little reason for me to see why the Iranians should be more suicidal than the Stalinists or the Maoists were. And remember: In all cases the American military seriously considered preemptive action and decided it was not worth the risk. The problem with Iran with a nuke would not be that they would use it, but rather there would suddenly be certain limits to what the Americans and the Israelis could do. Suddenly Iran would have an effective deterrence and threats would have very little effect on them. As it is right now the Americans still has some leverage over them.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I agree. These military signalling games involve risks as well as potential benefits, and that vital point is often ignored.

  5. Friedman’s analysis of the situation is thorugh, and he’s skeptical. Fabius’ observations are concise and convincing. These add up to a web of facts which rational minds (even Israeli ones) responsible for the security of their people have to take account of. So the only way we can believe in an attack on Iran is if we believe a cabal of ir-rational people in power in one or the other country is pushing it forward. I resist this thesis as simplistic.

    I have always believed that there is an old, moderate, conservative establishment behind the scenes in the United States which would see the Bush regime as dangerous, and try to reign it in. However, I have to admit, there’s been scant evidence of this. There’s also scant evidence that anyone in the “opposition” party recognizes the folly of widening our current war.

    I truly don’t understand Israeli psychology — their belief that they can terrify their neighbors into co-existence. As for contemporary America, its leaders and its people, we’ve already made it once into Barbara Tuchman’s March of Folly. I don’t suppose she’d want to write another chapter, just for us.

  6. “I truly don’t understand Israeli psychology — their belief that they can terrify their neighbors into co-existence.”

    They *say* they want to terrify their neighbors into coexistence in public.

    In private, they (at least some of them) say they want to terrify their neighbors into packing up and leaving altogether so that they can expand their borders.

  7. What people should really fear is the possibility of nuclear states like Pakistan becoming another of them failed states, (i.e.: “irrational” leaders having access to WMD) instead of worrying about the Iranians getting WMD.

    FM,I agree with you & Robert Peterson.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I absolutely agree! Of course, we can almost nothing to influence the internal dynamics of Pakistan.

  8. “There is something not quite right in this whole story.”

    At the end of the day, while I don’t disagree with the Stratfor analysis, that specific sentence resonates the most true with me.

    I still think it is Iran, not everyone else in the discussion, who suddenly has few tactical and strategic options as soon as the talking stops and shooting starts. I believe the Stratfor analysis has determined this as well, which is why they see a peaceful conclusion right as things get to the breaking point.

    Before the shooting starts, Israel’s concern is blow back from taking military action. However, after the shooting starts, Iran’s primary concern becomes blow back from taking military action. If they hit the wrong target, that suicidal tendency most rational people DON’T believe Iran has all of sudden proves rational people incorrect.

  9. “Gozer the Traveler. He will come in one of the pre-chosen forms. During the rectification of the Vuldrini, the traveler came as a large and moving Torg! Then, during the third reconciliation of the last of the McKetrick supplicants, they chose a new form for him: that of a giant Slor! Many Shuvs and Zuuls knew what it was to be roasted in the depths of the Slor that day, I can tell you!”

    Dr. Egon Spengler, in “Ghostbusters”
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    Fabius Maximus replies: The comment this responds to has been deleted as spam. This is so good I leave it for future generations to ponder. However, this was said by Louis Tully — not Dr. Spengler.

  10. “How can 6,116,533 people of Israel endanger 668,627,978 Arabs?”

    With U.S.-subsidized machine guns and nuclear weapons, that’s how. How stupid do you think we are?
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Judasnoose replies here to some spam, which was since deleted.

  11. Here’s another thought:

    Iran heavily subsidizes its gasoline domestically but it doesn’t have enough refining capacity so it imports gasoline. If someone rachets up war expectations and therefore the oil price, the Iranian budget gets strained more and more as oil prices rise (no paradox). If I wanted the current Iranian government to fall from domestic tensions, that’s what I would do.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: That’s diabolical.

    In this sense, the Saudi Princes destroyed the USSR. By opening their taps and crushing the price of oil in the mid-1980’s, they bankrupted the USSR.

  12. FM : “That’s diabolical. In this sense, the Saudi Princes destroyed the USSR. By opening their taps and crushing the price of oil in the mid-1980’s, they bankrupted the USSR.”

    Festiciousness aside, I would be sceptical pinning the fall of the Soviets on any one single catalyst.
    Does military mis-adventure in Afganistan ring any bells,,,?

    I’m sad and fearfull to admit that In it’s currently pecarious condition, Excallating world oil (re; gasoline & Heating oil) prices IMFO threaten to collaphs the US economy perhaps and likely long before others.

  13. Since Oil prices, supply and demmand, and consumption are on everybody’s mind these days, check this out: “The US military Oil Consumption“, published at INI (26 Feb 2006):

    “The US Department of Defense (DoD) is the largest oil consuming government body in the US and in the world. “Military fuel consumption makes the Department of Defense the single largest consumer of petroleum in the U.S” [1] “Military fuel consumption for aircraft, ships, ground vehicles and facilities makes the DoD the single largest consumer of petroleum in the U.S” [2]

    “According to the US Defense Energy Support Center Fact Book 2004, in Fiscal Year 2004, the US military fuel consumption increased to 144 million barrels. This is about 40 million barrels more than the average peacetime military usage. By the way, 144 million barrels makes 395 000 barrels per day, almost as much as daily energy consumption of Greece.

    “The US military is the biggest purchaser of oil in the world.”

  14. “The US military is the biggest purchaser of oil in the world.”
    Very true, but we, physically, don’t get more than 20% from the ME. Most US oil comes from Western Hemisphere sources(like Mexico, Canada, etc) and that trend is likely to continue(if Barnett’s cited studies on the issue are correct). I’m unsure as to what the point is with this?

    I’m not sure I agree with the whole ‘red line’ idea. Why? Look, having a nuc weap in 2009 is not the same thing as having one in 1989(THAAD, AEGIS/SM3ER combo, etc). There’s cheaper means of cajoling ‘good’ behavior out of Iran than an attack. The number of nations in the region filing with the IAEA about a nuclear program was insane this year. Little nations like UAE were throwing in with the idea of having a nuclear program, and I give only three guesses as to why they want nuclear power(and if you say to have deterence against Iran…). I just don’t see Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon as the end of the world or that serious a threat to stability in the region. There’s ways of handling them or countering them that fall well short of military intervention(like econ manipulation, using the tactics of the CW era of arming dissident groups, etc).

    Heh. THe US could, theoretically, sell Israel SSBNs instead of deactivating them or converting to SSGN as a means of providing counter-strike capability to give the Iranians pause.

    Why the belief that an nuclear armed Iranian state is ‘Game over, man! Game over!’?

  15. ““The US military is the biggest purchaser of oil in the world.””
    “I’m unsure as to what the point is with this?”

    Thanks for the reply, Ry.

    Being an alternate resident of the US & Can I’m acutely aware of the oil supply situation. Canada operates the Alberta oil sands project, in addition to off shore drilling on the east coast, and soon also the Gulf of the St.lawerence.

    Main suppliers to the US are:
    Canada
    Suadi Arabia
    Mexico
    Venusealla (troubled relationship with the current Washington regiem)
    Nigeria (big trouble there too)

    Look at it this way, economics 101, supply and demmand. Oil no matter where it comes from, gets pegged at the international level, currently, and perhaps increasingly teniously traded in USD.

    Supply and demmand, worldwide, and so, the USA vis a vie the military activity has for the last several years been going through an inordinate amount of oil, more than it would have otherwize, obviously, in support of the ongoing military operations.

    So in that very real sense, and as a significant contributing factor, Call the current price of gas at the pump another extra “bonus” (big sarc) we’re getting from the endless war(s).

  16. Follow up… If you think about how every country, except those with specific Government subsidies pays world oil prices, plus thier own manicial taxes further imposed you can readily deduce how all this exaserbates the overall situation, vis-a-vie supply and demand and cost increases at the pump, and when the oil truck arrives to top up the tank later this year.

    US military experiences big hike in fuel prices“, AP, 27 July 2008:

    “Iraq owns some of the largest oil reservoirs in the world, although Baghdad has been unable to exploit much of the resource since the 2003 invasion because of high levels of violence and sectarian feuds over how to divide the revenues.”

    It’s a mighty vicous cycle, you can see how it feeds on itself. One reason oil prices are high is because we’re fighting protracted wars, denying an important source on the world stage, and at the same time, using an increasingly limited comodity, like there’s no tomorrow, in perpetuity of that very ill conceived activity.

    Next factor in deficit spending, the devaluation of the US currency, and well, you do the math. It’s mind boggling !

  17. Fabius Maximus: That’s diabolical.

    Maximillian: I’m sad and fearfull to admit that In it’s currently pecarious condition, Excallating world oil (re; gasoline & Heating oil) prices IMFO threaten to collaphs the US economy perhaps and likely long before others.

    Note this “Iran out of gas“, John Mauldin, Thoughts from the Frontline (30 June 2007) that states:

    Gasoline costs about $.34 cents a gallon in Iran, or 9 cents a liter. You can fill up your Honda Civic for $4.49. In the US it costs almost $40 (The price has risen since the chart below was made). In neighboring Turkey it costs almost $95. Look at the two charts below from the recent Foreign Policy Magazine. Notice that Iran is spending 38% of its national budget (almost 15% of GDP!) on gasoline subsidies!

    That was written in June 2007 when oil was about $70/barrel. At 38% of its national budget in 2007, $140 oil would hurt Iran a lot more than it would hurt America.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Iran has the potential to be a great power, but that requires policy decisions much better than they’ve made so far.

  18. “$140 oil would hurt Iran a lot more than it would hurt America.”

    I remain unconvinced, moreover why do YOU give a proverbial rats @## about Iran? last time I checked, the US uses, and depends on more petrolium based products than any other county on earth. MaX
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    Fabius Maximus replies: We use more than any other nation. That is not quite the same thing as depending more on oil than anyone else.

  19. REPLY THE THE judasnoose COMMENT # 1O: OH MY GOD I FEEL SO SORRY FOR THE ARAB OIL PRODUCING COUNTRIES THEY ARE SO POOR THAT THEY CANT EVEN FEED THEIR PEOPLE BREAD.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I agree, we should have pity for people impoverished by failure to govern themselves properly. There but for the grace of God go we… (to paraphrase the words of John Bradford).

  20. “Do you prefer Iran with a nuke? My answer would be of course not. But I also think just for once people should care just a little bit about history. The Soviets got the bomb back in 1949 and nothing happened.”

    I tend to agree, and in the popular consensus of history the one and only country to ever have used Nuclear weapons offensively, is; ____ _______ _______ __ __________. Any number of civilain reactor equipped technical advanced countries that don’t allready, could throw together a “device” if needed, if wanted in probably 30 – 60 days, maybe a lot less. Nobody is freaking out over Switzerkland, Germany, Sweeden, Canada, Australia, etc,,.

    Another reason I suspect this latest hostility towards Iran is largely bogus, and parroted ad-nauseum by the same who made the bogus claim for Iraq in justification of this botched protracted and increasingly ruiniously costly occupation. Interesting co-incedence how those who advocate such, seem to grow increasingly wealthy.

    As for the average poor schmuck, Get over it. M

  21. “OH MY GOD I FEEL SO SORRY”
    No you don’t.

    “we should have pity for people impoverished by failure to govern themselves properly.”
    Like Americans?

  22. REPLY TO MAXIMILIAN COMMENT # 20

    DURING IRAN AND IRAQ WAR BACK IN EARLY 1980S IRANIAN MULLAHS GOVERNMENT WILL HANG NECKLACES WITH KEYS ON IT TO THOUSAND OF IRANIAN CHILDREN AND BRAIN WASHED THEIR PARENTS TO SEND THEIR CHILDREN ON THE WAR FRONT TO DETONATE THE MINES THAT THE IRAQIS PLACED IN THE DESERT AGAINST IRANIAN OFFENSIVE ONCE THIS KIDS WALK ON THE MINES THE MINES WILL BLOW UP AND KILL THIS KIDS, SO THIS WAY THE IRANIAN TROOPS WERE ABLE TO ADVANCE TOWARD THEIR TARGET. THE MULLAHS TOLD THIS KIDS ONCE YOU DIE YOU WILL ENTER THE HEAVEN YOU WILL SEE THE DOOR OF HEAVEN USE THIS KEY ON YOUR NECKLACE TO OPEN THE DOOR OF THE HEAVEN.

    NOW YOU TELL ME ANY COUNTRY THAT DOES SUCH SADISTIC BEHAVIOR YOU THINK IS SAFE FOR THE WORLD TO LET THEM HAVE NUCLEAR BOMB
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    Fabius Maximus replies to all parties in this discussion: This has gone far off-topic. Please, comments must refer to this specific post. This is not an open discussion thread about the Middle East. Stern measures will be taken if necessary, per the FM comment policy.

  23. THERE IS NO WAY THAT ISRAEL WILL ATTACK IRAN. IT WILL BE USA THAT WILL CARRY THE RAID ON IRAN. PENTAGON HAVE BEEN CONTEMPLATING ON IRAN RAID FOR PAST FEW YEARS..

    RUSSIAN ARE NOT AT ALL HAPPY TO SEE US TROOPS IN IRAN WHICH IS ON THE BORDER OF RUSSIA. ALSO RUSSIA IS NOT SO HAPPY THAT NATO AND USA ARE PRESSURING THE FORMER SOVIET BALTIC NATION TO JOIN NATO AND THE MISSLE SHIELDS. GET READY FOR A BIG WAR BETWEEN RUSSIA AND NATO.

    ACCORDING Nina Khrushcheva, author of Imagining Nabokov: Russia Between Art and Politics, teaches international affairs at The New School and is senior fellow at the World Policy Institute in New York.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Prof Khrushcheva’s articles are posted at Project Syndicate. Can you provide a reference to your comment? A quick Google shows no comments by her on this subject.

  24. Preparing the Battlefield, by Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker (7 July 2008) — “The Bush Administration steps up its secret moves against Iran.”
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    Fabius Maximus replies: An interesting article, as always with Hersh. Of course, he has been predicting war with Iran for a long time now — incorrectly so.

  25. ACCORDING DEBKA FILE RIGHT BEFORE THE START OF US IRAQ WAR SADDAM MOVED ALL HIS CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS TO SYRIA. PART OF THESE WEAPONS HAS BEEN HANDED TO HEZBOLLAH CELLS IN EUROPE AND USA. IS OF MY OPINION THAT THE SECOND USA AMERICA ATTACKS IRAN THESE TERRORIST SECRET CELLS WILL INSTALL THE CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS ON THE LITTLE PLANES THAT SPRAYS PESTICIDES ON THE FARMS ,THEY WILL FLY ON LOW ALTITUDE ON MAJOR AMERICAN AND EUROPEANS CITIES AND SPRAY THE WEAPONS ON THE AIR CAUSING MILLIONS OF CASUALTIES, A BIG CONCERN.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Ah, Debkafile. I wrote a little review of their work: “Does reading Debkafile make us smarter, or dumber?

    Also, text in all CAPS is very difficult to read.

  26. Some interesting Alternative perspective and critical analysis on the US/Isreali/Iran scenario.

    From “Does Iran Have Bush Over a Barrel?“, by Jim Lobe, AntiWar.com (1 July 2008) — Excerpt:

    “Indeed, even without an attack, continuing tension involving Iran’s nuclear program will almost certainly contribute to a continued rise in oil prices to as high as $170 a barrel in the coming weeks and months, OPEC’s president, Chakib Khelil, said during a conference in Madrid.”

    For background: List of Oil Exporters, CIA World Factbook

    More alternative analysis. Read, think, grow and learn. Build your own snowmobiles.
    * “The myth of ‘weapons-grade’ enrichment“, By Kaveh L Afrasiabi, Asia Times (24 June 2008)
    * “The US military Oil Consumption“, posted at INI (26 February 2006)
    * “The Pentagon as Global Gas-Guzzler“, Michael Klare, posted at TomDispatch (14 June 2007)
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Afrasiabi’s article discusses an important — even vital — topic: what is the threat posed by Iran’s atomic infrastructure? The media often glosses over this point (habit, perhaps, after the run-up to the Iraq War). There is little public evidence that Iran will have the bomb anytime soon.

    That the Pentagon burns oil seems a bit of trivia too me, an example of our fascination with large numbers rather than anything of significance.

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