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"We may face no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran"

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Vorheriger: "Die größte Bedrohung geht vom Iran aus"Nächster: Lafontaine unter Beobachtung?
Eingeordnet in: Weblog, Weltpolitik

Bush speaks the truth about Iran: at the moment, Iran is indeed the greatest threat to US interests in the region.

Current state

The UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

The US have secured their dominion in the region with decades of geopolitical strategy. Saudi-Arabia is at least an official ally of the US, at latest since the US successfully talked them into believing that Iraq was a direct threat to them prior to Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Israel is of course an powerful ally that is mostly free to pursue her interests with the support of the US.
In the aftermath of September 11th, Afghanistan was "pacified" successfully; but much more important than Afghanistan are the military bases established around the Caspian Sea, the tip of the Golden Triangle.
As second last piece, Iraq was first starved by embargo and then taken 2003. At the moment, the US dominate most of the Golden Triangle.

IRAN

It would be justified to assume ignorance on behalf of Iran's leadership if it could not see which part of the Triangle is still missing: Iran itself, to secure its own resources as well as those of the adjacent Caspian Sea. Named a member of the "Axis of Evil", it is quite evident that Iran is more or less officially the next target.
Not to forget, Iran already has a long history of US interference with its affairs, beginning with the CIA staged "Operation Ajax" that overthrew the elected Premier Mohammed Mossadegh and reinstated the exiled Shah of Persia.

RUSSIA

Russia has had a humiliating descent in the past decade. Once a dreaded superpower next to the US, it is now subject to corruption while its empire crumbled and the US trespass unpunished into her Sphere of Interest. With the Orange Revolution in Ukraina, the eastward extension of the EU and the deployment of US troops in the Caspian Region, competing powers come menacingly close.

CHINA

China is an emerging power, the "Industrial Zone of the Planet" as I call it. Industry comes along with a thirst for oil, so it is of no surprise that China tries to secure access to sources of oil as well.

The EUROPEAN UNION

The countries of the European Union rely on oil as well. But in a world, where every power looks after herself, the Europeans on the one hand often disagree with each other, and on the other hand believe in the "transatlantic partnership" with the US. They fail to see that the US will follow their own interests first.
The main interest of the European Union lies within peace and stability. It is commercially intertwined with Russia and China (not to say: dependent), but has limited military capability and no oceans to protect her. To put the question differently: whereto can terrorists walk if necessary to exact revenge upon the "Western World"?

ISRAEL

Israel is an exception in the history of man. A small nation surrounded by enemies, doing little to try to win those enemies as friends. Her existence is mostly possible because of the support of the US, which in turn win the favor of the only truly friendly (not to say: dependent) nation in the whole region.
Israel commands considerable military powers, compared to her size, along with an inofficial nuclear armament. This gives Israel the status of a regional power.
Nevertheless Israel is no true power, as it is far to small. A single nuclear strike against Tel Aviv would practically destroy Israel.

IRAN and the "peaceful use of nuclear energy"

Iran has understood the signs. At latest when Afghanistan and Iraq fell and when it was promoted into the Axis of Evil, Iran has realized that it is supposed to be the next target. The only way to protect itself as a relatively small power is through the posession of nuclear weapons. To assume that Iran is just interested in peaceful use of energy is of course naive.

Enrichment of Uranium

Unfortunately, peaceful and military use are difficult to be seperated. Natural Uranium mostly consists of the isotope U238 and a tiny fraction of U235. Latter is needed for the controlled (Power Plant) and less-controlled (Nuclear Blast) nuclear fission. Therefore Uranium has to be enriched, a process, where the ratio of U235 is enhanced. This has to happen to some extent for nuclear plants (2-4%) and a much greater extent for nuclear weapons (more than 80%). The critical mass of U235 lies at 49 kilograms - 49 kilograms put together will produce enough neutrons out of themselves to initiate a chain reaction resulting in the typical mushroom shaped cloud.
Now it is a substantiated fear of the US is that Iran will manage to divert enough U235 from the peaceful process to build nuclear weapons.
The situation is difficult: Iran has resources of Uranium on her own soil, therefore an embargo on Uranium will fail. Also, Iran has the official right to enrich Uranium for the peaceful use of nuclear energy, as laid out in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The Other Powers

China and Russia

It is most interesting that the names of Russia and China always come up when discussing the issue. Both of them helped Iran with technology, know-how and weapons. Now Russia has offered to solve the problem by enriching Uranium outside of Iran; doing so, Iran would get the enriched Uranium it needs to fuel its nuclear power plants, without being able to divert Uranium for nuclear weapons.
The great problem is that I belive that Russia and China probably have no real problem with a nuclear armed Iran. Surely, they would have another nuclear power in their vicinity, with Pakistan and India. But Iran is no direct threat, especially because Iran's nuclear potential would be reasonably smaller than that of both powers. Contrary, as Iran would probably be thankful towards both of them.

Europe

Even Europe should have no real problem with a nuclear armed Iran, as Great Britan and France have enough nuclear power to transform the country into a "glass parking lot", if necessary. Iran, on the other hand, has no reason to attack Europe and cannot profit from an attack.

Israel

Israel has the least interest to have a nuclear capable Iran. At the moment, Israel is regional hegemonial power and can act at will, thanks to her superior powers.
With another, greater nuclear power in the region, Israels capabilities would be severely hampered. A nuclear strike cannot be survived by Israel, a fact that puts the actual use of Israel's second strike capabilities into perspective. Even without a war, Israel would practically cease to exist as a relevant power.

The United States of America

Different from what the administration of the US would like us to believe, they are not truly threatened. The destruction of an US city would be a disaster, but the US are even more capable to execute "Operation Glass Parking Lot". That aside, Iran is an enormeous threat to US interests.
With the rise of Iran to a local power, anti-US-forces in the region would gain a safe haven. It might be well possible that the whole deployment of the US would begin to crumble. The well laid out dominion of the region - an investment of decades - would be gone. The indirect consequences for the US are difficult to foresee.

Possible reactions and developments

Israel attacks Iran

A very likely solution is that Israel launches an air strike against Iran, in the same way they destroyed the nuclear plant of Saddam Hussein. Israel does not need to take arab popular support into consideration - they are already hated. The US will support the attack inofficially.

The United States attack Iran

It seems unlikely for me that the US will attack Iran themselves. Not impossible, however. The problem is, that the US have to keep a rest of peace with the other major powers. If they kill Russians and Chinese during the attack, this will be bad. Also, the international support for the US might decline completely.

A broad alliance forms

The russians, possibly the chinese, the EU and the US can negotiate a united strategy against Iran. That seems unlikely to me, as I think that at least the chinese and even the russians support Iran, following the principle that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Especially the chinese, which are still somewhat neutral in the muslim world, but need oil, would not want to attract the wrath of the islamic world easily, just to further US interest.
However it is thinkable that a very dirty bargain is struck, like giving China and Russia hegemony over Iran or even letting the chinese to deal with Taiwan at their will. Possible, but unlikely.

Conclusion

The future is interesting in a menacing way. Personally, I could live without that much excitement. I think that the US have maneuvered themselves into a loose-loose position.

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