Dispatches From The Edge
February 22, 2012
Wars are fought because some people decide it is in their
interests to fight them. World War I was not started over
the Archduke Ferdinand's assassination, nor was it triggered
by the alliance system. An "incident" may set the stage for
war, but no one keeps shooting unless they think it's a good
idea. The Great War started because the countries involved
decided they would profit by it, delusional as that
It is useful to keep this idea in mind when trying to figure
out if there will be a war with
interests of the protagonists, and are they important enough
for those nations to take the fateful step into the chaos of battle?
First off, because oil and gas are involved, a war would
have global ramifications.
percent of its oil, and
supplier to Europe,
has the third largest oil reserves and the second largest
natural gas reserves in the world. Some 17 million barrels
per day pass through the narrow
significant part of the globe's energy supply.
In short, the actors in this drama are widespread and their
interests as diverse as their nationalities.
According to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,
is building nuclear weapons that pose an "existential"
including the bulk of Tel Aviv's military and intelligence
communities. As former Israeli Chief of Staff Dan Halutz
and all its facilities are currently under a 24-hour United
Nations inspection regime.
a fragmented place, riven by sectarian divisions and
dominated by authoritarian governments and feudal
monarchies. If there is one lesson
its former British overlords, it is "divide and conquer."
Among its closest allies were the former dictatorships in
as the reactionary monarchies of the Gulf Cooperation
political problem, because Tel Aviv sees Teheran's fierce
nationalism and independence from the
the Shiite-based Hezbollah in
the Shiite-dominated government in
In the Netanyahu government's analysis, beating up on
Aviv's scenario features a shock and awe attack, followed by
a United Nations mandated ceasefire, with a maximum of 500
Israeli casualties. The Iranians have little capacity to
strike back, and, if they did attack Israeli civilian
centers or tried to close the
in the Americans.
Of course that rose-colored scenario is little more than
ceasefire--it fought for eight long years against
war has a habit of derailing the best-laid plans. In real
life it will be long and bloody and might well spread to the
if it attacks, but in the short run, there is not a lot they
could do, particularly given the red lines
drawn. The Iranian air force is obsolete, and the Israelis
have the technology to blank out most of Teheran's radar and
mixture of air attacks, submarine-fired cruise missiles, and
For all its talk about "everything being on the table." The
Obama administration appears to be trying to avoid a war,
but with the 2012 elections looming, would
on the sidelines? On the "yes" side are polls indicating
that Americans would not look with favor on a new Middle
East war. But on the "no" side are a united front of
Republicans, neo-conservatives, and the American Israeli
Political Action Committee pressing for a confrontation with
Israeli sources suggest that Netanyahu may calculate that in
the run-up to the 2012 American elections, an Israeli attack
might force the Obama Administration to back a war and/or
damage Obama's re-election chances. It is no secret that
there is no love lost between the two leaders.
that different than
dates back to Teheran's seizure of its oil assets from
elected Iranian government in 1953 and install the
dictatorial Shah. The
Aviv's local enemies are
When the Gulf monarchs formed the GCC in 1981, its primary
purpose was to oppose Iranian influence in the
Using religious division as a wedge, the GCC has encouraged
Sunni fundamentalists to fight Shiites in
own turf. When Shiites in
lack of democracy and low wages, the GCC invaded and crushed
the demonstrations. The GCC does not see eye-to-eye with the
not to annoy Washington and Tel Aviv--but the GCC is on the
same page as both capitals concerning
The European Union (EU) has joined the sanctions, although
force. Motivations in the EU range from
reclaim its former influence in
keep its finger on the energy jugular vein. In brief, it
isn't all about oil and gas but a whole lot of it is, and,
as CounterPunch's Alexander Cockburn points out, oil
companies would like to see production cut and prices rise.
A war would accomplish both.
would take advantage of a war. An attack would unify the
country around what is now a rather unpopular government,
allow the Revolutionary Guard to crush its opposition, and
give cover to the current drive by the Ahmadinejad
government to cut subsidies for transportation, housing and
food. A war would cement the power of the most reactionary
elements of the current regime.
There are other actors in this drama--
war--but whether they can influence events is an open
question. In the end,
interests are served by starting a war, and that the
will go along because it is much of the same mind.
Or maybe this is all sound and fury signifying nothing?
The sobering thought is that the three most powerful actors
in this drama--
the Gulf Cooperation Council--have many of the same
interests, and share the belief that force is an effective
way to achieve one's goals.
On such illusions are tragedies built.
[Conn M. Hallinan is a columnist for Foreign Policy In
Focus, "A Think Tank Without Walls," and an independent
journalist. He holds a PhD in Anthropology from the
journalism program at the
Cruz for 23 years, and won the UCSC Alumni Association's
Distinguished Teaching Award, as well as UCSC's Innovations
in Teaching Award, and Excellence in Teaching Award. He was
also a college provost at UCSC, and retired in 2004. He is a
winner of a Project Censored "Real News Award," and lives in