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Sunday, 19 August 2012

In 30 days to Armageddon – How an Israeli-Iranian war can lead to World War III

It seems to be a decided fact that Israel is determined to launch an attack on Iran. Being driven by paranoia and the collectively spread fear that Iran might attack Israel with nuclear weapons or even develop nuclear capabilities, Israel is keen to set an example against its main adversary and conduct a – what it calls – “30 days war”.

According to information by Matan Vilnai, the Israeli Home Front and Civil Defence Minister, Israel is prepared for an armed confrontation as it has never been before. Despite the readiness, he admits that the Israeli casualties would exceed at least 500. The plans for a limited 30 days operation not only include the destruction of Iranian nuclear facilities, but especially war essential communication and transport infrastructures. The method for such attacks will be a combination of conventional and cyber warfare.

Harsh and exaggerated sabre-rattling again, or serious pre-war preparations and a final warning to Tehran? Even if a 30 days war was seriously considered, it would become obsolete after the first bullet shot. No war did actually follow 100 % according to plan – this is a simple fact of military reality, and no matter how well the Israeli army might be prepared for such a military operation, the consequences would get out of hand in a fraction of a minute. In fact, the 30 days war could last much longer – a simple and likely matter of modern warfare.

Western experts are seriously concerned about the outcome of a potential war between Israel and Iran. Although both countries are relatively isolated in political terms, the potential to drag more countries (neighbouring and greater powers) into the conflict is almost certain. The question however is, what consequences will occur in the case that Israel attacks Iran on a full scale.

As I have mentioned in an earlier blog post  ( ), Israel is anticipating Iran to have already crossed an imaginary border line to achieve own nuclear capabilities. With Israel as the only nuclear power in the Middle East, it won’t accept another nuclear power in its immediate neighbourhood. Being nearly entirely surrounded by enemies, Israel will on the one hand be determined to maintain its nuclear monopoly in the region and fight any threat arising at the nuclear horizon. But on the other hand, Israel cannot be sure to gain any ally for this war. The potentially only ally for Israel – the USA – is reluctant to join Israel in a military adventure. With the US entering the main stage of presidential election campaigning, it is highly questionable if the US will be ready and willing to join Israel. Any war commitment or participation – directly indirectly – is a classic election killer, and none of the competitors – neither incumbent President Barack Obama, nor his Republican opponent Mitt Romney – would be thrilled by another military operation in the Middle East, especially not after the disaster in Iraq.

According to a German Middle East expert, Israel is anticipating that the US might assist Israel before the presidential elections, since it assumes that President Obama cannot ignore the powerful Israeli lobby in the US. But will the Obama administration take the risk of a military support for a few more votes? For Israel, this pre-election period is possibly the only occasion to gain the big brother USA for a war, after the elections it might be even harder, no matter if Obama will go into a second term, or if Romney succeeds. Also, Israel presumably elaborates the current moment as a best possible time for an attack. The reason for this is simple: Iran is stuck in an economic crisis, and Tehran’s long-year partner in the Middle East Syria under Assad is crumbling and drowning in a civil war. As a result, Iran is more isolated in the Middle East region than ever before.

But no matter if Israel succeeds to gain the US as a comrade in arms or not, the Israeli leadership is blinded by its own paranoid behaviourism of desperate pre-emptive self-defence measures. The long-term consequences of a war against Iran will not be limited to the region alone, and we are not just talking about economic consequences. Despite the simple matter of exploding oil prices all over the world, and a destabilization of the Middle East region; a new potential crisis it will erupt into a global crisis with all major global powers being involved.
Israel will call for its American and European allies for support, while Iran is likely to be backed up by China and Russia. As a strategic target, the Strait of Hormuz will be the main goal number one for naval blockades. A blocked Strait of Hormuz will not only bring the maritime trade to a halt and lead to economic downturns all over the oil dependent world; it will also be the epicentre for a naval confrontation between the global naval powers. In short, a regional crisis would deteriorate into a global challenge of the existing global power USA against its old adversary Russia, and the emerging military power China: a highly dangerous and explosive constellation.

Despite the global consequences of a “30 days war”, Israel would have no chance to win a war against Iran. A war against Iran is utter madness; a statement not only by Middle East experts, but also by any reasonable policy maker. In terms of tactical forces, the Iranian army is superior in numbers regarding man power and conventional arms, whereas the Israeli forces have strategic and technological superiority. However, the civilian casualties on the Israeli side will outnumber the estimated 500 military casualties by far. Even the Israeli population is reluctant towards a war against Iran, and Israeli international relations academics are aware of the global impact of an uprising conflict. Additionally, in terms of international law “Estoppel” provisions, Israel cannot force Iran to respect the international nuclear arms regime, if Israel does not respect it either. With Israel as the only nuclear power in the Middle East, the Israeli government uses its nuclear capabilities to blackmail its neighbourhood and also any potentially rising rival.

The question remains: will Israel take the risk to attack Iran, or not? Basically, Israel can only lose such a war – not only in military terms. And it will not just be Israel to lose this war, but the entire region, and the world as well. The economic costs would be disastrous, the global war potential is massive, and it would also lead to a vast credibility loss for the western community, if it commits itself to such an unpredictable and unreasonable military adventure. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Minister of Defence Ehud Barak are very well advised to take all consequences into consideration, if they are seriously willing to drag the Middle East into an unlimited crisis and a full scale war. The only way the western community could possibly convince Israel not to attack Iran would be through mere diplomatic action – by suspending all diplomatic relations with Israel and expelling all Israeli diplomats from their territories: a harsh measure in terms of international diplomacy, but probably not enough to prevent a war. From a German perspective, this would possibly not even happen, since Germany is keen to support Israel by all diplomatic means or through indirect military aid by arms sales (as proven by submarine sales in the past months).

An Israeli attack would be a breach of international law, and it is certain that the international community cannot tolerate such a violation. On the other hand, no one can be really cured from his own madness just by words or powerless action. In any way, the gates to Armageddon are about to be pushed wide open. Volker Perthes, director of the German foreign and security policy think tank SWP (“Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik”) states that a war between Israel and Iran will have the potential to initiate World War III.

Evidently, the very moment when Israel really launches an attack on Iran, we can start the countdown to World War III.

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