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27 August 2010


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The only thing missing from this analysis is domestic U.S. economic woes. At some point might not U.S. elites determine that the only way out of a douple-dip recession (plus deflation) is war?

John Waring

Of course the Iranians are going to zig and zag, and zag and zig, again and again. What needs to be on the table is not war but our willingness to trade our something big for their something big. We have been engaging in preliminaries. Real negotiations have yet to begin. When I see the real horses we are willing to trade, not the nags we've been parading, then I'll know we are starting to get serious.

Carl O.

So, does this mean that John Bolton will finally be locked up in that padded cell that has been waiting for him for who knows how long?

Cold War Zoomie

"At some point might not U.S. elites determine that the only way out of a douple-dip recession (plus deflation) is war?"

This idea that wars are good for the economy is a stale hold-over from WWII. Yes, the economy boomed during WWII because the whole country was dedicated to the defense industry. The entire manufacturing base virtually re-tooled over night. There was strict rationing of common user goods to ensure the war machine did not go without.

Modern wars are only good for the existing defense industries, not the economy as a whole. The last 9 years pretty much proves that.

Norbert N, Salamon

It is a fallacy to presume that war has economic advantage for the attacker, for modern warfare depends on using ever scarcer natural resources for the sole purpose of the destruction of said products [bombs, planes, vehicles, bullets, mines, missiles, predators, reapears, etc].

Building for war, as by the USA millitary industrial Cabal, uses alloy materials and rare earth metals [all imported] to manufacture war making toys, thus denying same for need of infrastructure [bridges, alternative energy sources etc]. Moreover, the extremely large spending on DEFENCE??? prohibits the nation on financing public goods [observe: cuts in firehalls, police, libraries, schools, deteriating infrastructure - from bridges to sewers, from water mains to dams, from canals to roads ad infinitum].

The one thing that the elites can not afford in any new war is the destruction of oil/gas producing/transporting/refining installations, as such would cause NEVER ENDING DEPRESSION - with consequential revolt of the masses.

Medicine Man

They should lock Bolton in there with Ahmadinejad. They'd have lots to talk about, those two.

I'm rather curious to see how Iran is going to behave in the coming year. If they are as clever as people have been speculating, they will know when to come to the table. If not, if they are actually naive or foolish, they'll keep trying to slow play their usual diplomatic push-pull routine for too long.

I think Harper's right; there will be plenty of blame to go around if this situation evolves into a shooting war.


The war option as a panacea for/distraction from economic woes is a real concern.

All the more so as quite apart from the human cost which will be horrific, it will only exacerbate said economic woes and accelerate the decline of US power and influence as have the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

R Whitman

Harper, are your intelligence/national security officials drinking the Kool-Aid? Are there alternate points of view allowed in official thinking?

Iran has been 1-2 years away from having a nuclear weapon, supposedly. I think their behavior is much more consistent with a country that already has some nuclear weapons but have not announced the fact, similar to the Israeli game.

On another matter, I tend to agree with John Waring above. If we want the Iranians to give up their enrichment program which is a core national project, we have to offer them something commesurate. We actually have nothing to offer them at this time.

Medicine Man

I agree with NN Salamon that leaders in the West would have to be badly misguided to think that a war in Iran would be good for business at this point. If you accept that leaders on this side of the pond have a strong interest in remaining credible/in power, and have even a moderately good grasp on the global economic condition, then it looks unlikely that they will roll the dice on some big military gambit in Iran; at least not without some kind of larger provocation to provide political cover.

What worries me a little bit more is the possibility that the Iranian leadership may actually view provoking a war as a means to remain credible/in power. While I don't have any evidence to suggest they are thinking along these lines, the idea isn't outlandish or without precedent.


In economic terms, a treaty of relations and mutual understanding between the US and Iran would provide the stimulus for a global jumpstart. There are more power plants that need built, eletrical lines laid and energy fields upgraded.

As for the IRI chess players, Grand Master Ali Khameini sacrificed his legitmacy for an inept and pompous administrator last summer. Consequences still to be determined.



Will America be satisfied if Iran obtains breakout capability?

Will Israel?


I don't think America will risk war with Iran because the rise in oil prices will cause the American economy to finally go bust.

Admiral Mullen agrees with me:

Mullen: National Debt Is ‘Top’ National Security Threat

"Speaking today in Detroit, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen took on the rare task of declaring what he believed was the “top” threat to America’s national security going forward. It wasn’t Iran, it wasn’t North Korea, it wasn’t even some ill-defined group of factions called “terrorism.” It was the national debt."

If America doesn't want a war with Iran, Israel won't be allowed a war with Iran.

Iran is not the Likud's chief existential threat. A peace treaty with the Palestinians is. (And the whole Iran brouhaha is a smokescreen to let them avoid going to the table).

Because the fuel which keeps the Likud juggernaut screaming down the street is fear, and without fear, with a peace treaty, the Likud grinds to a halt and goes up in smoke.


Apologies for the use of bold in the above post. I still haven't mastered the art of tagging.

William R. Cumming

Question for PL? How stable is the regime in Iran over a year out from suppression of street violence throughout major Iranian cities by opposition forces? IMO that whole effort allowed the threats to the regime to be quelled by superior force. Much as Stalin and Hitler taught the world how to control a nation-state through actual and implied violence al have learned the tricks including in the US polity. The decision to give the last full measure against an authoritarian leadership or a dictatorship with superior resources seems to limit those with the willingness to do so. What I find interesting is the willingness to self-sacrifice against the West by the followers of radical ISLAM. Reading an interesting book by Israeli psychologist Ariel Merari published this year entitled "Driven To Death"! Iran converted to ISLAM in part through the use of suicidal "Assassains" did it not? Its subjection to MONGOL overlords was not really based on religion but superior military tactics and strategies was it not?

Is there an unbiased account of Iranian/Persian history or did the Greeks forever poison the views of the West towards Persia by the legacy and legends of Thermopolye [sic]? I understand SARAKAN was the world's largest city in 1200 C.E. is that true? Is there in fact a "peak" oil situation looming for Iran? How many Chinese now are in Iran and what are they doing? Who is Iran's largest trading partners? Have US sanctions had any impacts on Iranian culture as well as economics? Is there an Iranian Section at the State Departement or CIA? How many first generation Iranians are now US citizens? Is the underlying distrust of the "Persian Empire" by Arabia still in place or as co-religionists has that diminished in the last Century? What is the actual conventional military capability of Iran? Could they close the Straits of HORMEZ? What would other neighbors of IRAN do if it launched war against ISRAEL or vice versa? Hey I buy my Persian Rugs from a former member (enlisted)of the Iranian Air Force. I guess no embargo?

Patrick Lang


Iranian political stability? I don't see any signs that it is cracking and you can be sure... pl


Nick, agog:

War = $100 a barrel oil, i.e. $4+ a gallon gas in the US. How is that going to prevent a recession?

As to national debt, where was this out cry in year one of the Bush tax cuts? Five tax cuts over the past 9 years, 45 years worth of tax cuts. What requirement for investment in the USA was made a part of those cuts? NONE. Perhaps ending that $1Trillion war off budget war and a whole slew of DOD budget busters would be more beneficial to those so concerned, now that there is no longer a Republican in the White House, with the national Debt. At 2.5% nominal interst that a structural problem, not an immediate threat. But then perhaps the great God Ayn Rand has forbidden raising taxes to the same rate they were when Bush took office?

Of course this is just in time for the Democratic and Republican Party State Conventions in Michigan. Not that the JCS would ever get involved with domestic politics.



Thanks for a very concise, balanced, and well-reasoned summary (imho) of the circumstances surrounding this N-way Mexican standoff between the US, Iran, Israel, and the rest of the world in its various factional and regional aspects. More than anything else, I agree with your synthesis that this is all about an incremental while fundamental shift in the balance of power in the region that Israel will have to live with (and is having great difficulty doing so... both in strategic terms which I can understand and ideologically on metaphysical grounds which I frankly cannot accept... but that's my personal view with ain't worth the pixels its written in).


Let me respond to the very insightful comments and questions that have come up so far. First, on the economy: I fully concur that the economy is in disasterous shape, that we are simultaneously seeing a continuing loss of jobs, particularly in the productive sector of the economy, which is also collapsing (auto, aerospace, construction); and a monetary inflation running into potential hyperinflation (Bernanke at Jackson Hole on Friday announced he'd continue with the helicopter money if new banking crises erupt, as they are certain to) very rapidly. This is a collapse function, not a cyclical phenomenon. An oil shock, and other consequences of a new Persian Gulf war would surely drive the economy off the cliff altogether.

But that message has not been heard at the White House, it appears. The Prsesident keeps listening to Summers and Geithner, and in their world, the recovery is underway and is accelerating. These fools are comfortable with terms like "jobless recovery."

So I am not so certain that the balanced view reflected by Admiral Mullen is quite so solid at the White House.

I also do agree that we have to be willing to do something big, in return for a big gesture by the Iranians. Back in 2001-2002, right up until Bush's "axis of evil" speech, Iran was cooperating with us on Afghanistan, and verifiably so. Khamenei was in power then, as he is now. So the possibilites are certainly there. It has been proposed by a friend of mine, a retired flag officer, that there should be a regional development conference on Afghanistan, involving the U.S., Russia, China, India, Iran, Pakistan, to devise a regional economic cooperation and security strategy to end the conflict there. This is what the Iraq Study Group proposed, just before Cheney and company trumped that effort with the "surged." It is a sane, traditional American foreign policy orientation, and it has the added advantage of promoting largescale economic cooperation, something the world desperately needs.

There is no doubt that war is more disasterous in the context of the current global economic catastrophe, than it would be under other, less stressful situations. So war avoidance, by imaginative diplomatic/economic means, is the urgent order of the day.

What I tried to present was a straightforward summary, from a dozen discussions in the past few weeks, of what the current state of play is vis. U.S.-Israel-Iran conflict. I still stick with my summary on that account, but I'm happy that the discussion in response took on such a productive track of problem-solving and search for the bigger picture.

Stanley Henning

WAIT A MINUTE! What is all the apparent urgency to preempt Iranian attainment of nuclear capability when we have taken a "see no evil" approach to Pakistan, India and Israel. Let's face it - Iran is as concerned about Israel as Israel is of Iran. Yes, the current "President" of Iran is a jerk, and Israel? Let's stand back a bit and analyze this with OUR interests in mind for once!

FB Ali


Hope this stops the boldtype. It's getting a bit hard on my poor eyes!


Hope this ends the bold. Test Test.



Looks like the Boldface hang up is on the typepad side.

Douglas Weber

I think President Obama has enough problems without starting a war with Iran and I suspect he will do his best to resolve the situation without bombing anyone. At the same time, I suspect not bombing Iran will upset the hard line conservatives to get Obama impeached. We're likely to see a Republican controlled House and what the conservatives want they generally get from the rest of the party. I'd been trying to figure out what Obama would be impeached for - I bet this will be it.


The Obama regime is not interested in Iranian regime change, huh? Has it cancelled the $400 million destabilisation programme established by Bush? And military options are still on the table? What happens after they are used? The Iranians will welcome the US with roses and open arms? The Iranians will say 'our bad, please take our oil'?


Iran never pretended to have a nuclear weapon, as it does not need one. It can achieve the same objectives making sure it´s foes knows they can enrich uranium up to 20 per cent. So, they won´t have to afford the same political (or even military) costs of having a bomb, but they will enjoy almost the same benefits. After all, a nuclear bomb is a political weapon. That´s how they may have planned it.
Iranians have the will to go along with the civil nuclear program at any cost, because it´s a matter of national pride, but they are very concern about the isolation that their companies are starting to face because of UN sanctions. They need both things, muscle and a wealthy economy, because leadership is very expensive and there are things that religion can´t buy. The real problem here is that the global powers are still not sure to legitimate a fact: Iran is (almost) a regional power. Once the US gets ready to accept that, an agreement will be a matter of weeks. If it happens, Iran and the US will work to improve their relationship, opening the door to other agreements.

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