The Coming “Moment of Truth” with Iran

The latest in a long line of Iranian provocations was this week’s test-firing of nine ballistic missiles, with coincidental statements by one of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's spokesmen for the Revolutionary Guard. The statement indicated that Tel Aviv, U.S. ships in the Gulf and U.S. interests around the world will be “burned down” if “the first bullet” is fired against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Late word is that Iran has fired more ballistic missiles on day 3 of “The Great Prophet III” war games.

What could be more apparent than the coming showdown with Iran? The question is, will it come before or after Iran has the ability to employ nuclear weapons?

Discussion of military action against Iran is surfacing throughout the international media. Not only is Iran test firing yet more of its missiles, but boasting that they have thousands more “ready to launch.” Some of these missiles are capable of reaching Israel and designed to carry nuclear warheads. One analyst went so far as to say they were “otherwise worthless.”

Israel is in a real predicament. In the event of military hostilities with Iran, Israel would likely come under fire from at least three fronts, maybe four if Syria were to get involved. Hezbollah has reportedly been furiously adding to its rocket stockpiles in southern Lebanon and now has three times more than they had when the last skirmish broke out in the summer of 2006.

The U.S. is in something of a predicament as well. Regardless as to whether Israel or U.S. assets are used against Iran’s nuclear facilities, the U.S. will definitely be involved if Iran strikes back. We are pledged to act in Israel’s defense, regardless.

The head of OPEC has warned that oil prices would see an “unlimited increase” if Iran’s 4 million barrels per day contribution to world exports should be interrupted. In addition, Iran has warned that it would shut down Persian Gulf shipping lanes if attacked in a threat that is contradicted by the U.S. Pentagon. Consider the following quote from a current article in the Washington Post. “Peter Zimmerman, a nuclear physicist who was formerly chief scientist for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the accuracy of the missile (capable of hitting Israel) was poor and could miss its target altogether. A missile with a nuclear warhead, by contrast, would not need to be accurate since it would destroy an area far beyond its range of accuracy.”

The upshot seems to be that Iran will not have the capability of “burning down Tel Aviv” unless it is able to complete its work and actually utilize a nuclear warhead.

Nevertheless, the fallout from an attack on Iran may well be considerable. It may mean dramatic increases at the pump. Hopefully that would be temporary if our leaders here in the U.S. can bring themselves to allow more domestic resources to be brought on line.

There is still talk, even current statements from President George W. Bush, of solving the Iranian conundrum through diplomacy. But Iran has been aggressively defiant at every opportunity. And there is recognition at high levels that Iran’s religious leaders have an apocalyptic view of their role in the grand scheme of things that does not lend itself to a peaceful resolution.

Arab regimes in the Middle East are wary of Iran and its quest for regional power, and there is concern that any military move by Israel or the U.S. might spark an uprising by Shia minorities in Sunni ruled Arab countries.

The whole tangled scenario is a major subject of political posturing in both Israel and in the U.S. Former Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz is cited in today’s Jerusalem Post as saying that any attack against Iran should be undertaken by an international force lead by the United States. “At the moment of truth, America will be with us.” But the still politically active Peretz also allowed for the possibility that Israel might have to go it alone.

Either way, the Iran situation reigns as the most dangerous current threat to the Middle East, and to the world’s economy. It seems clear that there will be no clean way out of this problem, particularly given Iran’s angrily defiant posture. The situation has vexed the Middle East, Europe and the U.S. for years now. At length, Iran dealt with the UN’s nuclear regulatory body in apparent good faith, until they were caught in repeated bald face lies regarding their enrichment work. Most analysts suspect that Iran is now very near to completing work on their nuclear weapons program. The “moment of truth” cannot be far off.

Mark Armstrong

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Further reading:
Our Commentary
Israel Goes on Offensive   –by Mark Armstrong   (06/29/06) 
Alone in a World of Enemies   –by Mark Armstrong   (07/29/06)  
Grave Escalation –by Mark Armstrong  (03/05/08) 
War Fever Grips the Middle East   –by Mark Armstrong  
Nuclear Program of Iran
Shahab-3 long range missile
Range of the Shahab-3 long-range missile

Left: Amir Peretz
Center: Shahab-3 long-range missile
Right: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei