Monday, September 04, 2006

Blockade Iran.

I can't count how many times I've heard the "overextended military" lament. Is the U.S. Navy overextended? Is the U.S. Air Force overextended? Aren't they part of the "military"?

This leads me to the conclusion that the most viable military option against Iran is not a "shock and awe" style campaign against a widely-distributed and only partially-known nuclear infrastructure. The fact that this infrastructure is likely very hardened, requiring tactical nuclear bunker buster technology to penetrate, is even more of a contra-indication to this type of warfare.

Blockade would be an act of war, but I doubt there is much the mullahs could do about it militarily. Their navy is likely to be destroyed in detail in the event of hostilities, even if they resort to "swarming" tactics. Please. Their air force is also likely to evaporate.

Blockade would necessitate dominance of the Caspian Sea, and this would be enhanced by securing basing or overflight rights in Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. Efforts along these lines are likely to attract the attention of Russia, not likely to go along.

Consequences of blockade on world oil markets include a predictable surge in price per barrel (duh), which can be mitigated in part by a seizure of some of Iran's oil assets and by bringing the Iraqi oil industry online as soon as possible. Indeed, in the face of blockade the mullahs are unlikely to realize any profit (no blockade is 100% effective) from the skyrocketing oil prices, but the Iraqis and other middle east regimes certainly would. Such potential windfalls may dampen criticism from these middle east regimes, especially the ones alarmed by the sudden dominance of Iran.


Blogger Dave Justus said...

That is a possible solution, but it isn't quite as simple as that.

While Iran almost certainly couldn't defeat our blockade, they could probably close off the Persian Gulf, blockading Iraq and Saudi as well. Under those circumstances, it wouldn't be a surge in the price of oil, it would be a massive increase. The effect on the world economy would be huge.

Beyond that, it is expected that Iran could greatly increase its insurgent campaign in Iraq, endangering our goals there and almost certainly making it impossible for Iraq to increase, or even maintain its oil production.

In the event of a major disruption of oil supplies, other powers would almost have to get involved. China would find the situation unacceptable. What they would, or could do, is hard to say, but it would get complicated at the very least.

None of this means that your solution isn't the best one. It may well be, but we do well to acknowledge that any action against Iran (including non-action) will have signifigant costs.

9/05/2006 11:47:00 AM  
Blogger K. Pablo said...

I agree that a blockade would cause a major surge in oil prices and that this would cause a lot of -- er, unpopularity for the U.S. on the world stage. I disagree that the Iranian Navy could shut off the Persian Gulf. Their Navy and Air Force are likely to get annihilated early, leaving only mining and "asymmetric naval warfare" as their options.

Part of the benefits of pursuing such a strategy include the possibility of drawing out their conventional forces for the type of warfare we are known to excel at. The strategy would also exacerbate pre-existing weaknesses in the Iranian economy, and deprive their nuclear program of resources (unless they wanted to pursue it anyway in the manner of Kim Jong Il).

Sadr and Badr militias are also likely to come out in open warfare in the event of a blockade. This can be viewed as an opportunity to complete the operations in Najaf and Sadr City, much like Fallujah had to be re-addressed.

Russia and China are likely to scream bloody murder, but are they willing to go to war over it? If so, what is the nature of their intervention likely to be? If we occupy Iran's Caspian coastline or interdict it, Turkmenistan gets to reap some natural gas profits. China might have to (or threaten to) precipitously sell off U.S. Treasuries, but would that be a wise move in an inflationary market?

Dave, it all boils down to whether we are serious or not about denying the current Iranian regime nuclear weapons. If we impose a blockade, we can also lift the blockade once our conditions are satisfied.

9/05/2006 12:49:00 PM  
Blogger Dave Schuler said...

I first floated this idea almost a year ago. I mentioned it again here. I repeated it more emphatically here.

9/06/2006 08:54:00 PM  
Blogger Dave Justus said...

I think that the economic consequences would be greater than unpopularity on the world stage. We are probably talking about a fairly signifigant worldwide recession at the least. That will hurt us directly.

AS for the ability of Iran to shut down the strait of Hormuz, I think you overestimate the difficulty of the task. Mines and land to sea missiles would be more than sufficient. Oil tankers are big targets and have no defense against such attacks. All you need to do is to damage a few and keep in unclear whether you can damage more or not. Israel's recent expirience in Lebanon might give one pause as to the effectiveness of air power alone in destroying missile assets.

There is also of course the question of whether or not this course of action would work. My guess is that Iran could, and would, endure the economic pain longer than we could. Putting up a blockade that didn't stop Iran, and having it fail would be disasterous.

As to what Russia and China (and Europe for that matter) would do I don't know. Severe disruptions to their economy would require some action thoough, and I doubt it would benefit us any.

I think the issue is a bit more complicated than our we serious enough or not. Being serious but inneffective isn't very useful. Being serious but harming other efforts more than we gain also isn't useful.

We could of course, be extremely serious and simply destroy Iran with nuclear bombardment. That would be both serious and effective at the narrow goal of preventing Iranian nuclear weapons. It would also, I am convinced, be a horrible mistake for both moral and practacle reasons.

I expect that you don't advocate such action either, I merely use it as an example that 'serious' alone isn't a good enough reason.

I don't think that there is a simple answer for Iran. A blockade may end up being the best choice, but it won't be at all painless. Other avenues should be explored first, because if we can achieve or objectives with less pain, and do less damage to other efforts that would obviously be preferable.

9/07/2006 12:33:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Though this might well be a good idea, I too, find it hard to believe in its efficiency. Instead of arguing against it, though, I'd like to propose a different tactic.

Why not have a joint(NATO-U.S.-G.B.-Israel)military force simply force Iran's hand? We must take the responsibility of taking nuclear capability out of Iran's hand's ASAP. Not only the wellbeing of Israel or America rest on this decision. The future of mankind as we know it is in jeopardy right now right here.

A blockade, though possibly a viable option would not prevent Iran from creating nuclear missiles which it would undoubtedly fire at Israel as soon as these would(G-d forbid) be constructed. Why all the waiting. We MUST stop Iran now before it's too late and I'm afraid Israel, once again, will have to go the road alone. What's especially troubling is Israel's current leadership which, I believe, is too weak to do anything about Iran.

9/12/2006 07:36:00 AM  
Blogger 1138 said...

I think if checked you will find the Air Force and Navey over extended yes - the Marines are a very important part of the Navy and the Tactical and Supply services in Iraq & Afganistan have had a detrimental effect on the status of the Air Force.

Your proposal is lazy and short sighted.
A nation having the resources required to produce nuclear power (and Iran has most of what it needs) cannot in the end be stopped from developing those resources if it is determined.

The more serious threat is North Korea, which with very little prodding would be willing to (and may have already) sell Iran and others Nuclear "kits".

Provoke Iran by force at the peril of finding out.
The Iranian war machine displays of the last few month are a clear enough message that they won't pull an Iraq and fold when challenged.

9/27/2006 02:31:00 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

1138: What, if anything, do you suggest to do about the very real and present danger of a nuclear Iran??? As an Israeli, not only I but my entire country is in danger of becoming extinct, mind you.

9/27/2006 05:18:00 PM  

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