Does Bombing Iran Make Sense?
As tensions rise in the Middle East surrounding Iran’s nuclear program, the calls are getting louder to engage the country militarily. Of course, the main proponent for this stance is Israel, which makes sense since they are the frequent targets of Iran’s vitriolic hyperbole.
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But, Israel cannot strike Iran without the permission of the United States. Whether that permission is implicit or explicit really does not make much difference. The United States will be blamed and will be pulled into a potential third simultaneous conflict in the region. That is something this country cannot afford. In case you haven’t noticed, we have run out of treasure a long time ago and now it’s a matter of how many precious lives we are willing to sacrifice should a conflict escalate to the point that we are at war in the Straits of Hormuz, the oil shipping channel that Iran is trying so hard to control.
At the end of the day, a nuclear Iran is not a good thing…unless you’re Iranian of course. And, that is part of the problem. Iran believes that it has the right to arm itself with any and all types of weaponry. It’s hard to argue against that assertion since that is basically the notion shared by all countries in this volatile region. All the major players, Saudi, Iran, and Israel are armed to the gills with weaponry, nuclear (in the case of Israel) and conventional alike.
As it stands today, the Iranian regime is feeling the heat of global sanctions, especially those that have tightened money flows into the country. The currency has devalued by more than 20% in recent weeks and the country, a major oil producer, is running out of gasoline…ironically, it has limited refining capacity. Internally, the population is getting restless and seeking political change. Two years ago the country’s leadership faced a severe challenge from a wide swath of the population. It quelled the protests in the streets using thugs imported from Lebanon. That was a golden opportunity for the US and others to act to bring down the regime. Nothing happened and the protests were put down violently.
Fast-forward to today and there are several scenarios, none good, which might play out in the months ahead. First, we have to remember that we are in an election year and that means hot rhetoric from the incumbent and the challengers. If we sanction an attack on Iran, something that has strong likelihood, we will be adding to the pain that we feel at the pump, overnight. Already gas prices are approaching the $4 per gallon level, a point at which economic growth becomes impacted. A nascent recovery cannot withstand prices much higher than that. The head of Shell Oil predicts that gasoline will reach $5 per gallon by the summer. Much of the increase in the price of gas and oil recently is not demand driven but the result of a war premium in the price of oil combined with reduced refining capacity for gasoline, which is actually suffering lack luster demand.
Attacking Iran will lead to a spike in global oil prices. Some predict a spike to $200 overnight. Of course, overnight spikes, while scary, tend to deflate as quickly as they happen. But, engaging a major oil producer in a war will lead to higher prices at the pump and it will stall economic growth.
The option I support, similar to the one that is supported by Ron Paul, is to allow these new tougher sanctions to work. If Israel wants to bomb Iran, it should do so on its own dime, and while we will be blamed, we cannot engage in another war for one simple reason: we CAN’T afford either the cost in treasure or in lives…or the toll on our economy.
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