Jan 3, 2012

Iran vs US

"Iran will not repeat its warning" Iran tells the US to keep it's aircraft carrier out of the Persian Gulf

USS Abraham Lincoln's Carrier Group
In 1943, President Franklin Roosevelt made Saudi Arabia eligible for Lend-Lease assistance by declaring the defense of Saudi Arabia of vital interest to the U.S. In 1945, King Abdel Aziz and President Roosevelt cemented the tacit oil-for-security relationship when they met aboard the USS Quincy in the Suez Canal.
Read More on the US/Saudi timeline 

Since this historic handshake, the two countries have been intertwined as customer and vendor. Saudis have oil - the blood of the modern machine of the disposable consumer culture of the West. They're our special friend who also buys F-15's from Boeing and other armaments to help defend themselves against other vendors in the region. As Saddam rolled tanks into Kuwait, and crossed into Saudi Arabia - the treaty was in force from Operation Desert Shield, and then in Desert Storm.

Religion and Democracy, or lack of it, have been played a role in the propaganda and explanations of the differences between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Iraq and also Iran. But at the end of the day, the US is married to the Kingdom.

As of this moment, the Iranians are being pinched for their development of nuclear fuel rods - which every person on the planet realizes will be crafted for a weapon. Rationally, that weapon would be used for defense, not offence -- but since religion IS a factor, rationality leaves the conversation. No one can say with 100% certainty that an Iranian weapon would only be used as a defensive determent. 

The US is the only nation to use a nuclear weapon against another nation - which makes WWII the first, and hopefully only, nuclear war. The use there was to try to get Japan to capitulate to sue for peace. Otherwise, millions of US soldiers would have died, and millions upon millions of Japanese civilians would have died defending their homeland from invasion. It has been stated by many historians that the Bomb had little to deter the Emperor and his inner circle from perusing the war. What actually ended the war, and why they went to the Americans was that the Soviets were ready to invade from the North - and the Japanese saw the  Americans to be the lesser of two demons. 

Nuclear options were discussed for public works in the States (those pesky Rocky Mountains are impeding the National Highway Program) and in Korea, and Vietnam, and every misinformed American Redneck's solution to every foreign policy issue. But more importantly the bomb was used as the proverbial Rook to block the Soviet advance on the ashes of Europe. The chess board quickly assembled to fight the next war - a South American Dictator was hailed as a friend of the US, while his neighboring Dictator there took the Communist Brand. Stockpiles on both sides were amassed to assure that one side wouldn't get the upper hand in a sneak attack. Bombers flew 24/7 on the razor edge of the boarders waiting for the go-code as Washington D.C. blew away in radioactive ash. And as testing throughout the cold war revealed more dangers of using the bomb, and the ultimate terror of the weapon was the fallout and radiation afterward. What good is this weapon if the prevailing winds are just going to blow back over us and kill us too? Nuclear Winter. Truly MAD. 

Does Iran understand the concept of MAD? It would seem that their leader, a known and vocal anti-Semite, anti-Zionist, is encouraging the end of the State of Israel and Western influence in the region whenever there's a podium and a microphone put in front of him. His solution might be taken as slightly extremist. It's like Alice Kramden smarting off to her abusive husband Ralph...

But if you were to pause, and  look at the Iranian perspective for a moment - you may feel a bit of their claustrophobia. The President just signed the NDAA (which also allows US citizens to be held without trial by the military), also targets corporations that do business with Iran's Central Bank. The US isn't just punishing Iran, they're trying to put them out of business. Iran's currency just hit a record low against the dollar. That's the hit on their pocketbook - then there's the fact that the US has just taken out Iraq, is currently engaged in Afghanistan, and has bases in countries surrounding Iran. The US doesn't want Iran to have a nuclear weapon, and the Iranians can't seem to get one fast enough. Plus, historically, the US and Iran aren't exactly friendly - there's a coup and a hostage crisis, plus all the US soldiers in Iraq that were killed because of Iranian weapons - those stand out among the many images in the highlight reel.

Norman Schwarzkopf senior, Mohammad Mossedegh,
the Shah and his wife, and Ayatollah Khomeini arriving in Teheran in 1979.
Who are the only other hold outs of the Capitalist New World Order?

There's Argentina and Hugo Chavez. An oil exporter who defies the US any chance he can. Seems like a good example. But his pull on the world stage is tempered by the quality of his crude, and his ability to get it out of the ground fast enough.

There was Libya - there was Libya. Remember that in December 2003, Libyan leader Col. Muammar Qadhafi publicly confirmed his commitment to disclose and dismantle WMD programs. Last checked, even though he made friends with the UK afterward, it still didn't end well for him.
Pakistan - which gave Libya their nuclear capabilities, has a split personality. There's clearly one foot in the Western world, while keeping the other firmly planted in the ideals of Islamization. Probably not a good role model to follow?

There's Castro's Cuba - left adrift after the fall of Pax USSR, but holding out against the US more out of spite after the bitter divorce. The US helps to keep a chokehold on Cuba, from the rest of the world. The US seems to look at Cuba as the lost child who needs to be taught a lesson. A potential Vegas in the Caribbean, and the site of a massive US failure in the Bay of Pigs which led up to, and almost ignited a second nuclear war. There's still a lot of resentment there. But Cuba isn't so much keeping the US out as the US isn't sending it's love (or dollars) in.

So instead, the Iranians look to North Korea as the only nation effectively keeping everyone else out of their affairs -- they, probably incorrectly, see a nuclear North Korea as the tool that they're using to keep the West out. I caution that the reality of why there has been a lack of intervention in North Korea would be because to do so would result in the greatest and hardest human assistance program in the history of the world. As Colin Powell said of Iraq, "You break it, you fix it." And the US hasn't the political will, let alone the capital, to rebuild North Korea. I would venture that neither does South Korea, Japan and Taiwan combined wouldn't be able to fix a Humpty Dumpty as broken as North Korea. China certainly allows it, as they don't want to be burden of reconstruction - and they (probably) secretly enjoy having an unstable madman with a gun threatening the region. Some might even suggest that China is stirring that hornets nest. At the bare minimum, they're not discouraging their unstable toddler to the South. The rest of the world 'deals with it' as if the toddler is already in their favorite restaurant and hopefully will he'll go home soon.

If the Cold War was not over, and the Soviets were threatening US Carriers in the Straights of Hormuz, I'd be checking my bunker to make sure it was ready for the inevitable flash over my city. Not to diminish the danger of this current situation - however, it seems to be a flinching contest to get all parties back to the table. I sincerely hope this is the end game. If their game is to show force and make Mr. Obama and the West come to the table on 'equal' terms - because they have a weapon, and are unafraid of the consequences, their stature in the region and the world is instantly elevated, and worse, validated. Perhaps they fear that the political winds in Iowa are blowing against a more favored negotiator in Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama? Perhaps they feel that a foreign victory for the current political leaders would be more favorable than a Republican alternative? Much like how the Japanese viewed the Americans over the Russians?

History doesn't repeat. It hiccups.

Maybe the US can find a radical solution - rather than fight another war in the Gulf, take a pause and admit that it has a problem. Realize and announce that it has a dependence on oil - both foreign and domestic, that has gotten us to this ridiculous point. Otherwise, we're all just going to keep hiccuping. 

1 comment:

Mark said...

Could Iran close the Strait of Hormuz? Maybe, but, in my view, (1) not for very long and (2) at a huge cost to - Iran. Energy markets would spike, but only until it becomes clear that there are alternative routes for oil to flow (see the map above). See here:

On average, 14 crude oil tankers per day passed through the Strait in 2011, with a corresponding amount of empty tankers entering to pick up new cargos. More than 85 percent of these crude oil exports went to Asian markets, with Japan, India, South Korea, and China representing the largest destinations.

At its narrowest point, the Strait is 21 miles wide, but the width of the shipping lane in either direction is only two miles, separated by a two-mile buffer zone. The Strait is deep and wide enough to handle the world's largest crude oil tankers, with about two-thirds of oil shipments carried by tankers in excess of 150,000 deadweight tons.

Closure of the Strait of Hormuz would require the use of longer alternate routes at increased transportation costs. Alternate routes include the 745 mile long Petroline, also known as the East-West Pipeline, across Saudi Arabia from Abqaiq to the Red Sea. The East-West Pipeline has a nameplate capacity of about 5 million bbl/d. The Abqaiq-Yanbu natural gas liquids pipeline, which runs parallel to the Petroline to the Red Sea, has a 290,000-bbl/d capacity. Additional oil could also be pumped north via the Iraq-Turkey pipeline to the port of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean Sea, but volumes have been limited by the closure of the Strategic pipeline linking north and south Iraq.

The United Arab Emirates is also completing the 1.5 million bbl/d Abu Dhabi Crude Oil Pipeline pipeline that will cross the emirate of Abu Dhabi and end at the port of Fujairah just south of the Strait. Other alternate routes could include the deactivated 1.65-million bbl/d Iraqi Pipeline across Saudi Arabia (IPSA), and the deactivated 0.5 million-bbl/d Tapline to Lebanon.

China might be the most affected country if the Strait of Hormuz is closed.

An interesting piece from Arab News by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim, "Strait of Hormuz and Iranian threats":
Every five years, the Iranians would threaten the whole world that they would close the Strait of Hormuz. They never did. They simply can’t do it and they are not capable of doing it even if they wanted to do it.

That the Iranians feel the need to rattle swords right now may be due to the shambles of their already weak economy and the internal political fallout from the drive to develop nuclear weapons. In the meantime, they gain some benefit from increasing oil prices caused by their threats.