"80% chance of war with Iran"
In a week that all our attention has been turned on the clash of cultures stirred up by the publishing of Danish Mohammed cartoons, the Iran nuclear crisis has been fermenting. The IAEA has voted to report Iran to the UN security council and in response Iran has withdrawn all cooperation with the IAEA.
The Financial Times today publishes a sobering editorial:
There is probably, at best, no more than a one-in-five chance of the stand-off between Iran and the international community being resolved without conflict.
Why conflict - not just, say, protracted sanctions?
[Iran] believes its oil and gas riches will win allies among energy-hungry giants such as China and India, and probably dissuade the US from any action that might drive oil prices higher. And if not, then decades of US embargos have taught Iran artful dodges, and it has access to entrepots such as Dubai just across the Gulf.
The forces on both sides of this conflict are already well entrenched. In the Eastern corner you have Iran .. "not just confident but provocatively cocky". This is also not just the musing of some isolated, madman as President Ahmadi-Nejad is portrayed in some sections of the media:
Confrontation suits the current Iranian regime, which is ultimately based less on religious zeal than on vested interests built up after the 1979 Islamic revolution ... Iranians across the political spectrum support their country's right to both technology and deterrence - making the nuclear controversy a God-given issue around which to rally the nation.
Further, Iran has not forgotten its past conflicts with the west:
Iran .. is scarred by a century of foreign meddling in its politics, including the Anglo-American-organised coup against the nationalist Mossadegh government in 1953. In the 1980s, the US in practice condoned Iraq's invasion of Iran, and through Arab allies helped arm and finance Saddam Hussein as he rained rockets on its cities and chemicals on its troops.
In the Western corner America, a country not known getting over grudges (look at Cuba):
The US can neither forgive nor forget the seizure of their Tehran embassy in 1979 and subsequent 444-day hostage crisis, much less the 1983 attacks in Beirut by Iran-backed suicide bombers that destroyed the US embassy and killed 241 marines, after which American troops withdrew in disarray.
So the FT suggests a deal:
It should accept the Russian offer [to enrich uranium for them]...then Iran should be offered a longer-term deal that addresses its security concerns and treats it as a regional power... some sort of US security guarantee (not to invade, say) and international underwriting of regional security arrangements binding Iran, Iraq and the Gulf states led by Saudi Arabia into co-operation.
Sorry Mr. FT Editor but you must be joking. If America is going to give any credible security guarantee, Bush will have to sack Cheney first and then withdraw from Iraq. And on top of everything the Middle East will be simmering from Denmark's blunderbus approach to international relations for a long time. Any attack on Iran now will boil over into a wholescale routing of all Western interests in the Middle East. And Iran knows it all too well.
If you were ever wondering why the whole of the Britsh press were not behaving in their usual jingoistic manner and republishing the Mohammed cartoons together with bagfuls of insults. You now know why.