Iran and America’s Dangerous Brinkmanship

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khameini.bmp
Last night, I sat next to a former foreign minister of a major nation at a small dinner and discussion which focused heavily on Iran and Middle East issues.
This foreign minister stated that Iran’s Supreme Religious Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei believed that western democracies would not tolerate $140 a barrel for oil — and that would be the probable price level if Iran was attacked. This belief combined with Iran’s perception of American weakness right now is driving much of Iran’s brinkmanship.
The foreign minster responded to Khamenei that he underestimated what democracies were willing to endure if pushed. And that Americans paying $8 or $9 per gallon at the pump could be absorbed, painful as it would be.
Energy Secretary Sam Bodman is saying that it will take three years for Americans to see gas prices fall again.
But that’s if we don’t bomb Iran, don’t create an axis of oil states allied with Russia and China against America, and don’t somehow disrupt oil flow from Venezuela.
What I learned from this foreign minister last night and a room full of extremely smart people is that there are forces escalating America’s and Iran’s tensions — and a single serious miscalculation could dramatically alter America’s position in the world — and yet miscalculations are already abounding.
– Steve Clemons

Comments

55 comments on “Iran and America’s Dangerous Brinkmanship

  1. Nasim Alatas says:

    Dear readers and writerss
    how can you all thinking of those kind of i dont think any islam country will make any disasters to other nation even if those countries attack on them because they dont think all that attack them are the nations of that country only view peolple who are greedy for the oil.so believe me they are not what you think they are so dont worry you all be safe.

    Reply

  2. civitas says:

    “?????? You are kidding??”
    No, I’m not. Name one example.
    “Sounds like you had a say in our Iraq policy, and possibly Vietnam policy – superior hardware and ability to win every battle must translate into ability to win wars.”
    Goodness no. If anything Vietnam proves you have to be willing to do what it takes too.
    “By your reasoning America should have lost the Revolutionary War, when Britian had superior military resources and could shell and take every town at will.”
    I don’t think Britain had quite the force projection in the 1700′s that the US has today. If you’re arguing that the US does not have the military capability to pretty much flatten Iran, hey, let’s hear why. I could use some amusement.
    “Try “The only good Indian is A dead Indian”, and the accompanying territory and resources.”
    Well, no one has argued that EUROPEANS don’t have a history of killing indiginous populations to take their resources, but you claimed the US has such a history. I asked for an example of AMERICANS doing it, not Europeans. Or are you saying that white men sprang from the earth in America rather than on ships from Europe? So, I’ll ask again, do you have an example of the US killing any people to steal their resouces?

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  3. karen says:

    The middle class in this country is being decimated. Americans paying $8-9 per gallon at the pump could be absorbed? With the rise in price of not just gas for our cars but everything else that is trucked or manufactured using oil? What nation is this foreign minister from…FANTASYLAND???

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  4. elementary teacher says:

    Maybe some of us heavy-duty commuters could do our part to reduce US dependence upon foreign oil by bunking in at work one or two nights a week? Participants could bring potluck dishes, chess boards, cards, pots of gin, etc.

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  5. Pissed Off American says:

    Try “The only good Indian is A dead Indian”, and the accompanying territory and resources.
    Posted by erichwwk
    Yep. Good example. The Mexicans come to mind too. But hey, Civitas is just humming the party line, is all. Iran is just gonna be another cakewalk, jusy like Iraq was…er…is….uh….was gonna be.

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  6. erichwwk says:

    civitas wrote at May 4, 2006 01:27 AM
    “Kill Their ASS and Take Their Gas” is a tried and proven US tactic, landing us lots of land and natural resources. Name one example.”
    ?????? You are kidding?? But then I see you wrote:
    “I’m not sure how much negotiation the US should really do with Iran. After all, we have the means to take out a good bit of Iran and right now they do not have the means to return the favor. They don’t really have much of a bargaining position, do they?” Posted by civitas at May 2, 2006 8:30 PM
    Sounds like you had a say in our Iraq policy, and possibly Vietnam policy – superior hardware and ability to win every battle must translate into ability to win wars. By your reasoning America should have lost the Revolutionary War, when Britian had superior military resources and could shell and take every town at will.
    But to get back to your request:
    Try “The only good Indian is A dead Indian”, and the accompanying territory and resources.

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  7. Logviewer says:

    Iran appears to be IRAQ part 2. If the original horror movie made lots of money, then the studio will release a sequel as quickly as possible.
    —————–
    Logview.net: http://www.logview.net
    Logviewer.net: http://www.logviewer.net
    —————–

    Reply

  8. civitas says:

    “Kill Their ASS and Take Their Gas” is a tried and proven US tactic, landing us lots of land and natural resources.”
    Name one example.

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  9. civitas says:

    I don’t drive anything. I don’t even own a car, although I can’t imagine what that has to do with my comment that the US isn’t really in a position of having to bargain or negotiate with Iran at all.

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  10. erichwwk says:

    Such stupidity may be breathtaking, but it seems to have lots of company. “Kill Their ASS and Take Their Gas” is a tried and proven US tactic, landing us lots of land and natural resources. Unfortunately (or fortunately if you share MPOV) it is a temporary state, as resources (including labor) shift until marginal products are equalized along all factors.
    A stupidity at least as damaging (and much more widely shared) is that consumers would be better off with lower gasoline prices.

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  11. Pissed Off American says:

    “I’m not sure how much negotiation the US should really do with Iran. After all, we have the means to take out a good bit of Iran and right now they do not have the means to return the favor. They don’t really have much of a bargaining position, do they?”
    Posted by civitas
    Such stupidity is truly breathtaking. Probably drives a Hummer too. (Maybe it will make a good chicken coop when the gauge is permanently stuck on empty).

    Reply

  12. God of all Gods, Big, Little, and Small says:

    Did John Bolton Lie Under Oath Today?
    by bewert
    Tue May 02, 2006 at 06:34:53 PM PDT
    I have CSPAN while reviewing some software and patent licensing agreements I’m negotiating, and have just watched a couple of remarkable exchanges made earlier today between Rep. Henry Waxman and UN Ambassador John Bolton. In this exchange Bolton repeatedly stated that he had absolutely no knowledge of or input to the Fact Sheet the the State Dept. presented to the UN Security Council. One of the claims made in this Fact Sheet is the Niger uranium claim. This despite the fact that Bolton was the main administration guy on arms control at the time.
    But is this true? A short google makes it clear that Mr. Bolton has perjured himself before Congress. More on the flip…

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  13. civitas says:

    I’m not sure how much negotiation the US should really do with Iran. After all, we have the means to take out a good bit of Iran and right now they do not have the means to return the favor. They don’t really have much of a bargaining position, do they?

    Reply

  14. chris_from_boca says:

    “Now, if we could just get the general public to understand the subversive role of the right wing corporate media.”
    perhaps when pigs have wings.

    Reply

  15. Ryan Oddey says:

    The situation with Iran continues to escalate, as it appears China and Russia will not support a sanctions or military action. So the question is, why not?
    The answer is unsettling.. China has the world’s fastest growing economy and a need for fuel, which can be provided by Iran and Russia. Iran depends on Russia and China for diplomatic support. Russia has financial investments in China and Russia. Three nations with a lot of power, and doing they can to distance themselves from the United States.
    For a long time now America has been one of the “have” nations, but we are quickly progressing to “have not” status. If you look at the energy crisis we are almost completely dependant on foreign oil. If Iran and other nations decide to withhold oil shipments to the United States, and gas continues to go up, our economy will reach a crippled point. What feels like a pinch at the pumps now, could become a choke hold.
    What is unfortunate is that, to some extent, we brought this on ourselves. American motor companies have not invested in alternative fuel technology, even though we have known that we would run out of oil for decades. Rather than conserve ahead of time, Ford and GM went out and built bigger SUV’s. Meanwhile our international competitors, Toyota, Honda, and others built a more efficient and subsequently better selling automobile. The result has been tens of thousands of layoffs with no relief in sight. Would anyone be surprised if there are no more American cars twenty years from now?
    On the diplomacy front America, courtesy of President Bush, is no longer the big brother whose little siblings aspire to be like. For years nations waited in our shadow, taking their cues from us, but now they are ready to go out on their own, partly because growing up to be like America is no longer desirable. Iran, Russia, and China understand this, and by working together they are offering a new leader for other nations to follow, an alternative to America that has not existed for decades.
    The world has been ready for change, and when you couple poor leadership over the last few years with other factors you create a situation where someone else can come in and take the spot light. China has the potential on its own to become the next superpower, but a Russia, China, Iran alliance could become the LONE superpower over time.

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  16. Solitaire says:

    Rick: One justifies a policy of brinksmanship when no real threat exists in the first place by implementing a “pre-emptive” war policy. Diplomacy was the tool of choice when one country “felt” threatened by another, percieved some disrespect, prophesized aggression down the road, etc. Now, under Bush and the Neocons, that’s reason to go to war, right now, no talk, attack! That policy pushes what little opportunity there is for discussion WAY up the line, to the point where ordinary people would be asking themselves, like you, “where is the threat to US?” Pre-emptive policy is the behavior of pre-pubescents, and that is what we have running the Administration.

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  17. Shaneekwa says:

    Forgot to develop the point about the cultivation of nationalism among Iranian youth. The analyst said that some 50,000 suicide/martyrdom seekers are being trained for “defense of the Iranian nation.” God help us all.

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  18. Shaneekwa says:

    There was a fascinating analysis of this situation on the BBC yesterday which connected the dots very convincingly, something we don’t see in the pages of the New York Times or on CNN. The analyst argued – among other things – that if Iran felt threatened, they would use their oil as a weapon. If the dictator-friends of the Carlyle Group ruling Saudi Arabia offered to increase oil production to mitigate price increases, Iran would send a message through their intelligence services that any such Saudi effort would be deemed an act of war against Iran and that OPEC would be dead. Apparently, Iran has already made it known to its sunni and shia allies across the region that if Iran is attacked, the gloves are off with respect to American interests in the entire Middle East. Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigades Shia extremists, millions of Islamic extremists in Egypt and Al Qaeda will all act as one seamless, asymmetric fighting force against American interests. Hell will break loose. Iranian patriotism is being stirred among their youth who previously offered so much potential for serving as a modernizing force in Iranian society, if only Bush had taken advantage of the window of opportunity for diplomacy when Khatami was in office. (Colin Powell’s non-existent skills as an international diplomat certainly did NOT help in that period.) The Muslim “street” regards Iran as the only Muslim nation capable and willing to offer any military opposition to American military power and, in the view of the analyst interviewed, would rally to the side of an attacked Iranian nation, from Morocco to Pakistan, regardless of sectarian affiliation. Finally, Iran is already aware that the region is full of American military targets and regards them as sitting ducks. They have not seriously considered the possibility that Bush may be planning to use tactical nuclear weapons just in time to guarantee re-election of a servile Congress. With re-election of a servile Congress, nothing can be done to check this president domestically or internationally. Karl Rove knows this. God help us all.

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  19. Jon Stopa says:

    If one accepts the premise that Chalabi is an asset of Iranian Intel, and has been so for at least 10 years, than the rest of the recent history of Iraq makes sense. What would the mullas want? Get rid of Saddam? (Check.) Destroy the US Army? (Check.) Aquire new, oil rich provences? (Hmm.)

    Reply

  20. Tom3 says:

    Our beloved Chimperor is going to get us all nuked.
    He wants to. He’s a End Times Christian.
    Chimpy doesnt care if gas doubles in price. He wants that too. The price of gas has ALREADY doubled since Chimpy stole the White House in 2000.

    Reply

  21. Pissed Off American says:

    Once again, Bush demonstrates that “policy”, in the Bush Administration, is committing to actions that have been rigorously tested for their potential for failure……
    “Chalabi involved US, Iran policy making again, current and former intelligence officials say”
    Larisa Alexandrovna
    Published: Monday May 1, 2006
    Print This | Email This
    Ahmed Chalabi, the man who helped provide cooked intelligence on Iraq to the Pentagon and the New York Times in the lead-up to war, is once again being engaged in US policy decisions, current and former intelligence officials say.
    According to two former high level counterintelligence officials, one former senior counterterrorist official and another intelligence officer, Chalabi is acting as broker between the US Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, and Iranian officials in what are now stalled diplomatic efforts between the US and Iran.
    “[Ahmed] Chalabi inserted himself and brought a proposal to Zel,” one intelligence source said.
    Intelligence officials say the proposal that Chalabi delivered asked both the US and Iran to focus diplomatic talks on the Iraqi insurgency, leaving all discussion of Iran’s nuclear program off the table. The talks, however, are now stalled.
    It is unclear, however, who has tasked Chalabi to act as middleman or who he is representing in these attempts at negotiations.
    “Either he is taking it upon himself or being asked to intervene,” one former senior counterintelligence official said. “What we know is that Chalabi has approached the US Ambassador to Iraq with a request from what appears to be the Iranian leadership to engage in talks.”
    Asked what is motivating Chalabi to attempt talks between Iran and the United States, another former intelligence official put it simply: “He is close to Iran.”
    This “closeness” to Iran could also be the reason the Office of the Vice President and the Pentagon decided to re-employ Iran-Contra middleman and arms dealer, Manucher Ghorbanifar. An earlier RAW STORY report revealed that Vice President Cheney and the Pentagon re-hired Ghorbanifar as “the man on the ground” in order to monitor any talks between the US ambassador and Iran.
    “Khalilzad has been authorized to enter into discussions with the Iranians over the issue of stability inside Iraq,” one former intelligence source asserted.
    continues at……
    http://www.rawstory.com/news/2006/Chalabi_0501.html

    Reply

  22. Pissed Off American says:

    “Yep, a sick part of me wants to see us do it too. Considering we have another three years of the neo’s running the show, despite what we are told about their influence waning, something has to stop them. If letting loose a nuke on Iran didn’t make Americans rise up, then hopefully the rest of the world would slam us beside the head hard enough to make a dent.”
    Carroll…
    Think it through. These criminals have the potential to END life as we know it, on this planet. That is NOT a fantasy, it is cold hard fact. If we nuke Iran, all bets are off. It is SHEER INSANITY. Have we all forgotten the wisdom of recognizing the REALITY of Mutually Assured Destruction?? Weren’t some of you subjected to the same terror I was, of being a young mind cowering under a desk after having a teacher scream “DROP!!!”. Of ALL the travesties of this administration, it is their argument that we need MORE nukes, and that a nuclear war is winnable, or a nuclear weapon should be used pre-emptively, that I find most horrifying and despicable. These sons of bitches have revived fear as the primary tool of governance, and we are in deep shit if these people play this game ineptly or with the same criminal malfeasance that has been the hallmark of the rest of their ill destined policies.
    Be careful what you wish for.

    Reply

  23. erichwwk says:

    Carroll wrote: erichwwk …would you care to give us a specific example of what you are talking about?
    “Recessions are caused primarily by government efforts to preserve favored clients, and preventing the resilient markets to function in response to changes in supply and demand. Loss of resources may indeed suggest a lower standard of living, but unemployment is produced by institutional obstacles preventing adjustment.”
    I respond:
    I define recession as a decline in UNINTENDED rate of growth. As such it is primarily an informational problem, ie ones’ expectations are not realized. Thus recession is not a Lower ABSOLUTE rate of return, but a LOWER THAN EXPECTED rate of return. The OPTIMAL rate is that rate that would prevail, were the cost of transacting zero. High rates as well as low rates “could” be non-optimal. What keeps us from that “optimal rate” (other than the fact that information and transactions have costs associated with them), is that governments have the power to use force to prevent voluntary efforts to adjust. The flavors in which this comes are infinite.
    Hope that helps. If not, I refer you to a good recent [ from my perspective ;-) ] exposition in a beginning text: Paul Heyne “The Economic Way of Thinking, (mine is the 7th edition, 1994. In THAT edition , the discussion of recession begins on page 431.
    For an early (60 yr old) clear discussion that the interesting economic problems result from imperfect information see Hayek’s “The Use of Knowledge in Society” @ http://tinyurl.com/ffadl.
    There are many other sources of “good” macro texts and discussions, but unfortunately almost as many “bad” ones. I trust if you are able to distinguish between “good” and “bad” anything, those skills will be equally useful here. If you are ready for a more advanced discussion, try Leijonhufvud’s “Keynsian Economics and the Economics of Keynes”.
    Taking this further should be done privately.

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  24. Rick says:

    With all due respect to the wonks, anyone who thinks the Bushists are playing Brinksmanship with Iran is kidding themselves. Most of them probably can’t even spell the word, much less define or practice the concept with any real competence. That is precisely why I am convinced the only intended audience for any Brinksmanship meme is domestic only. No one else on the planet is even capable of believing it.
    If those people were even the least bit inclined at any kind of diplomacy (even the “playing chicken” variety), they would have at least played out every opportunity for talks, memos, note passing or whispered code phrases between surrogates in some smoky cafe somewhere in Morocco, no? Instead, they’ve torpedoed every single effort at TALK. They aren’t into that. It’s hard work, after all!
    No, they want to directly into Chapter 7, ‘cuz then they get to talk about blasting people into the netherworld, which is what this is really about anyway. It’s the only thing that will hold their attention for more than 17 minutes!
    That’s as much “work” as they’re willing to put into the whole diplomacy thing.
    Of course, what so many intelligent people are shockingly ignoring is the simple fact that there simply isn’t any real crisis with Iran yet, nor will we reach that stage for a number of years. So how does one justify a strategy of brinksmanship when no real crisis exists in the first place?
    I would simply ask the technocrats to get outside their conceptual boxes for a moment and ponder the genuine strategic crisis that is being foisted upon us, not by some Iranian hothead but by our very own government. You know, the ones that ACTUALLY POSSESS nukes are are quite willing to use them!
    The very same people that wrote the QDR to include pre-emptive nukular strikes. The folks that then rewrote the JNP to reflect that. In other words, the PNAC crowd in DoD who’ve been wishing to light the planet afire since Reagan and now have everything they could have possibly wanted.
    I’m increasingly tempted to think our very own “leadership” are, in fact, working for our enemies. It’s almost like they actually want to destroy this country. Well, not destroy so much as turn it into the biggest banana republic this side of China.
    Does anyone here really believe the US will be able to maintain any kind of real position on the world stage after we’ve sent the planet into a depression? A depression which will only cause more wars, more instability, and more hatred for us as a people?
    Didn’t think so.
    We’ll be toast as a global superpower if we go that route. Of this there can be no doubt, given that our position is already tenuous in the wake of Operation Iraqi Chaos. All anyone has to do is start dumping dollars. China could do it all by themselves, not that they likely will. But they could. Not a shot has to be fired to sink this country into our own brand of chaos.

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  25. Peter says:

    Punchy,
    Self-delusion will keep most folks from turning on the Republicans for a short period of time. Portraying the situation as “we were attacked” or “they were about to attack us first” will keep most sheeple satisfied. They may hurt, but they’ll support the action, at least long enough for the Republicans to stay in office – this election.
    Doubling and tripling of fuel prices in a short period of time will cause widespread disruption as our transportation system breaks down. Yes, it tripled since the war began in 2003, and that took 3 years: a gradual time. Tripling in weeks doesn’t give the market time to adjust, while the fallout happens quickly. It will take some time for people to notice: that goods aren’t making it to market. That truck drivers are squeezed by contracts into bankruptcy. That more and more people end up handing the keys to their cars back to the finance companies. That more and more homes are going into foreclosure (for example, in GA, last year, more than half of homes financed in 2005 were “interest only”). That more and more businesses (who depend upon traffic) are going out of business. An effective propaganda campaign would convince each and every person that if they are having financial troubles, then it is all their own fault. Combined with some flavor of “well, China is helping Iran, so that is why we aren’t importing more cheap goods any more” to explain the empty shelves. Stalinists liked to blame shortages on sabateurs, and we’ll do the same, only we’ll use the “terrorist” word until it has completely lost any and all semblance of meaning.
    I suspect that we will continue to supply PKK with weaponry to attack Iran (which they will also use to attack Turkey) and use the Iranian retaliation against terrorist attacks as the cause belle to attack. Something like:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4960478.stm
    How does that old saying go? One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter? Effective marketing and control of the media is going to hide Turkey aligning with Iran to suppress the Kurdish separatists. We might end up in a shooting war with another NATO ally over our botched handling of PKK.
    http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2006/04/journal_the_kur.html
    What is going on scares the heck out of me. I’ve stopped spending money for stuff that’s non-essential and I’m shopping for farmland far away from cities as possible. I don’t think that I will have enough set aside by this fall. If this war hits, I don’t believe that the US will survive as a country. And it will all be self-inflicted by the bush administration.

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  26. liesbeth says:

    The US economy is running on debt. Both households and the US government are on a spending frenzy: households on houses; the US government on tax brakes and war. This whole package of debts has to be payed for at some later date. The creditors – intelligent bankers, European governments and the Chinese government – will one day ask the US of A to pay back its loans. With interest.
    One of the key problems facing the US is that it has to transform itself from a production machine – due to low minimum wage there has been no incentive to invest in the underclass so production has always been cheap – into a service machine.
    All in all, “old” Europe’s future looks a whole lot better compared to an outdated, militarily overstreched production machine in decline. Certainly when you take into account that Old Europe don’t build bridges to 60 families in Alaska; Europe builds bridges in Portugal.
    Now doesn’t that sound a whole lot better? Portugal?

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  27. Not a Liberal, if that's what you're thinking says:

    To add to my comments, there are segments of this society that would dance in the streets if the economy took a hit.
    The rich would be happy as they would still be rich and not worry about the uppity “new money” infringing on their caste and the religiosos in red states would be happy to see the middle class in “elitist” places like NY, LA, SF, Chicago and so on suffer.
    Sad, but I think there are many who want this to happen.

    Reply

  28. Not a Liberal, if that's what you're thinking says:

    If gas went to $140/gallon I would be willing to bet that the apologists and the “unwashed masses” who blindly support these tyrants would cry this is all the Dems fault and BELIEVE it.

    Reply

  29. Greg Priddy says:

    Peter,
    You hit the nail on the head — the main thing which has changed about the world oil market is the lack of Saudi spare capacity. They’ve only got about 1 million bbl/d right now, and it’s all heavy/sour, which there isn’t any more refinining capacity for right now.
    In 1990-91, you could take Iraq and Kuwait offline from the world market, and still have no net disruption thanks to the Saudis opening the spigot — and that’s a unique role that the Saudis aren’t likely to ever regain.
    Greg

    Reply

  30. vaughan says:

    David Shuster is reporting what was rumored–Valerie Plame was working undercover tracking potential WMD, in Iran particularly. It doesn’t help that we’ve lost intel sources on Iran, for partisan CYA reasons.
    It is outrageous that Pres. Bush did not fire Rove. It only makes sense if he and/or VP Cheney were in on it. Sounds like they were, from Libby’s testimony.
    Here’s a link:
    Valer Plame story at C&L

    Reply

  31. Punchy says:

    Pete-
    Sept. 2006 is plenty of time for the jump in oil prices–which would happen overnight–to be reflected in gas prices. This is the one variable I cannot reconcile with my Iran attack prediction. Specifically, everything politcal points to a pre-election invasion/air strike; however, the resultant spike in gas prices ($5,$6?) would absolutely crush the Republican party. Joe Six-Pack doesn’t care what oil itself sells for, but he’s reduced to tears when fillin’ up his truck runs him a benji.
    So how do the Republicans use war tatics to invade without destroying gas prices? I cannot figure this out. Seems like political suicide.

    Reply

  32. Peter says:

    My guess is that Russia is intimately involved in this circus. Putin has stated that he wants Russia to be a superpower again, this time financed with energy. The renationalization of petroleum companies (remember Yukos?) fits into this scheme.
    The USA fears Iran. Rhetoric goes up, driving up fear and uncertainty about oil supplies. Russia profits from the higher petroleum prices. Iran purchases missiles from Russia, profiting the Russian aerospace industry. Those missiles scare the Americans, driving rhetoric and oil prices higher, raising the Russian profits yet again.
    I suspect that when the US gets ready to try to get a UN Security Council resolution authorizing force, the Russians will veto it.
    The last time Iranian oil went offline, in 1979, the world price of oil only doubled. Back then, Saudi Arabia was able and willing to pick up the drop in production. This time, they can only pick up about 1/4 of the loss of Iranian production. The Iranians know this, and they know that the US can’t attack without destroying itself economically in the process.
    I also think that Iran can survive longer without exports than the rest of the world can. Yet these two apocalyptic leaders think that they’re going to be the last guy to chicken out in this game of chicken.
    In 2006-2007, about $1.3 Trillion in mortgages are going to go from “interest only” to “principle + interest” along with interest rate adjustments. My prediction is that any spike in oil prices will cause a significant amount of these mortgages to go into default. As it is, first quarter 2006 defaults are up 38% from fourth quarter 2005, and 72% up from first quarter 2005. How many people can tolerate 150% increases in mortgage payments without defaulting? If these folks had the money, they would have obtained traditional “principle + interest” mortgages.
    http://www.realtytrac.com/news/press/pressRelease.asp?PressReleaseID=99
    If I had to predict the timing of such an attack by the US, I would say September 2006, as that would be the perfect timing for a pre-election maneuver. I think that the administration is rightly afraid that the Republicans will lose majority seats in both houses, and that impeachments and removal from office become a real possibility come January 2007. September would give sufficient time to take advantage of partisan politics to raise Republican marketshare, and insufficient time for the spike in oil prices to collapse economic systems. Staying in power appears to be more important to this administration than survival of the USA.

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  33. ckrantz says:

    Steve:
    Do you think the US would be prepared to enter in to direct negotiations with Iran over all regional issues and recognize both the regime and Iran as the regional power with all the implication that would have?
    I suspect that is the price to avoid war in the short term at least and I think it’s something neither the US, Israel or the US arab alies would be willing to pay.
    Anyone read how ww1 started? The war that no one wanted or expected but felt they had no choice to enter into?
    I suspect that is where we are today thanks to the current administration but what do I know. Hopefully I’m very wrong.

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  34. Marica says:

    Either the decision has already been made to attack Iran before its new oil stock exchange leaving the dollar zone is functioning, and the babbling of Rice ressembles that of pre-war Iraq, or they think the November elections are lost and are bluffing.
    Psychologically America’s position in the world is already altered. Since 2000 the Bush administration has done more than any external element to diminish the country. China is patient and holds our debt, Russia has oil, gas and wants back in the game. We have acquired the arrogance of Athens thinking it needed no one.
    The nuclear menace is a black cloud on our souls and the blundering fools in power dash forward.
    Remember the SOS has been suppressed.

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  35. Marcel Cote says:

    I’ve just sent this letter to President Bush. I’d appreciate any comments from Steve or the regulars here.
    ===========
    Dear President Bush,
    It is said that the Iranian people are not happy with their regime. Their president is quite unpopular just one year after his election, because he is seen as an extremist by the Iranians themselves, and because he has not delivered on his promises to the poor. Meanwhile, young people and the educated elite are restive under a system where control is held by religious authorities.
    It is said, however, that the vast majority of Iranians support the right of Iran to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Achieving this goal is seen as a way of establishing themselves in the club of advanced nations.
    Your administration has made clear that the U.S. cannot accept an Iran with even peaceful nuclear capacity, since this would give them the technology and the know-how to produce nuclear weapons at short notice. However, the U.S. has not always felt this way about a nuclear Iran. After all, it was the U.S. that encouraged Iran to begin developing its nuclear program in the 1970s, under the Shah. The problem is an extremist regime that cannot be trusted.
    It is said that your administration wants regime change in Iran, and given the above, this seems logical. However, it is also said that some people in your administration believe that a military strike against Iran’s nuclear program would “humiliate the mullahs” and help to provoke regime change. The majority of experts disagree, arguing that instead it would cause the Iranian people to rally around their leaders — even those who in other circumstances would be eager to see a democratic, Western-leaning government. There is also the risk of Iranian retaliation against U.S. interests in the region, and a conflict that could rapidly spread.
    Given this, a military solution should be ruled out, since it would only force the Iranian nuclear program underground and make the regime all the more determined to achieve it, in a context of hardened support from their people. In other words, it is likely to bring the opposite result of the one we desire.
    I have an alternative. If you proclaimed to the world that the U.S. would support a peaceful Iranian nuclear program on the condition that its people change their government in fundamental ways — by throwing off the rule of the mullahs, renouncing the export of “Islamic Revolution” to other nations, and establishing friendly ties with modern, democratic nations — it seems to me that this would send the right message. The majority of Iranians who oppose their current system of government, yet who support the development of nuclear energy, would realize that regime change in Iran would achieve both these goals.
    This would put President Ahmadinejad on the spot, because he could no longer hide behind nationalistic rhetoric as the defender of Iran’s nuclear aspirations. Indeed, he would be revealed as the obstacle to those aspirations, along with the mullahs and the idea of “Islamic Revolution.” The Iranian people would be faced with a choice between extremism, or full integration into the world community. It would be up to them to take destiny into their own hands and choose integration. There is evidence that the Iranian people are ripe for such a choice. The U.S. and the world would support them, as we did in Ukraine.
    However, in the event of a military strike against Iran, all bets are off. The opportunity for regime change would be lost for another generation, unless an escalating conflict led the U.S. to invade Iran and decapitate the regime by force. This would cause yet more chaos in the Middle East, and yet more loss of American blood and treasure, a price which is probably too high to pay.
    I urge you to consider my alternative, and put the choice before the Iranian people themselves.
    Sincerely,
    Marcel Cote

    Reply

  36. Den Valdron says:

    I have to say that in the eyes of the rest of the world, most of this is coming from the United States.
    Think about it. What’s your position on Iran? Regime Change.
    As I understand it, America’s ‘moderate’ position on Iraq is that it surrenders its nuclear energy program, surrenders any influence in the middle east or Gulf, reduces its military, opens its economy to western investment on American terms, abandon its oil bourse and sell its oil only in American dollars, cease its involvement with China and Russia, recognize and open diplomatic and economic relations with Israel, abandon the Palestinians, cut off Hezbollah in Lebanon, subordinate its security to American intelligence, change its governmental structure, and hold open and free elections satisfactory to the United States which elects a pro-American government.
    Well, if that’s America’s starting point, as far as the Bush administration is concerned, then why should the Iranians give you the time of day? The Bush administration has shown unwavering hostility even to moderates, and in fact, has worked to undermine the moderates. What exactly is the incentive to play ball, particularly when nothing short of near unconditional surrender will be accepted as playing ball?
    Things are only worsened by the Bush administration’s near hysterical public overreactions to Iran. From going ballistic over 3% enrichment by a hundred or so centrifuges, where for credible nuclear weapons material you need tens of thousands of centrifuges going to 96% enrichment. Or the false allegations of interference in Iraq. Or the deliberate(?) mistranslations of Ahminijad’s statements regarding Israel and the Holocaust.
    So let’s recap: The Bush administration is not intent on any dialogue short of Iran’s begging to surrender. The Bush administration deliberately misrepresents Iran at every turn. The Bush administration is transparently preparing for war.
    What ‘conciliatory’ or ‘reasonable’ tactics are available to the Iranians? What display of moderation will not be taken as weakness?
    Perhaps the better answer is a resounding fuck you, an assessment of the limits of American power, and an attempt to call the American bluff.
    Perhaps that’s the way to go. We’ll recall that in the 30′s, had France and Britain pushed back, they could have called Hitler’s bluff in the Rhineland and in Czechoslovakia.
    Perhaps Ahminajad has read these histories and decided that there is no way to appease America, and the only course is to stand up against a rabid giant.

    Reply

  37. erichwwk says:

    Pat Buchanan shares his rather clear and precise view of what is at the core of the present marketing campaign to reduce public opposition to an acceptable level to further control of Middle East energy assets with the Iran Nuclear capability the agreed talking point- as well as how our elected Congresspersons MUST respond:
    http://www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=49959

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  38. Shaneekwa says:

    $140/bbl would wreck my tight finances and crash the lives of millions of Americans just like me. When are our leaders going to wake up and take this reckless president for the maniac that he is? What kind of a lunatic is this foreign minister?
    God help us all.

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  39. Janice says:

    Steve,
    You had to sit next to a former foreign minister of a major nation to figure out that there are forces escalating America’s tensions with Iran? And that a single miscalculation could dramatically alter America’s position in the world?

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  40. Carroll says:

    erichwwk …would you care to give us a specific example of what you are talking about?
    “Recessions are caused primarily by government efforts to preserve favored clients, and preventing the resilient markets to function in response to changes in supply and demand. Loss of resources may indeed suggest a lower standard of living, but unemployment is produced by institutional obstacles preventing adjustment.”
    Posted by erichwwk at May 1, 2006 02:02

    Reply

  41. Punchy says:

    Gas prices at $8 does much more than drive up the cost of personal transpo; it skyrockets the cost of airfare, mail/package delivery, clothing, food, and anything else trucked in from afar. Cab fares would go astronomical, and cities could hardly afford to fund bus routes. And I’d recommend buying a lot of shares of whatever company makes locking gas-caps…
    And about the nukes…I have a feeling that such an attack would unleash US-directed hatred like this world has never seen before. I’d be scared to travel; scared to ever show my passport. It’d embolden Pakistan to hit India and vice versa…God knows what it’ll embolden N.Korea to hit…

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  42. erichwwk says:

    BTW, all this talk about high gasoline prices leading to a recession is one of the many myths that it would be helpful to correct. No one is served by prices that do not reflect reality, allowing actors to receive the correct information as to relative scarcities, and appropriate use of resources. But then the myth of “tooth fairies” and Santa Claus” have long given comfort to many.
    This topic has many covered in detail by many with the requisite skills to base reasoning on fact.
    One of the many doing so is brad delong @ http://delong.typepad.com/
    FWIW, it appears that at prices above $3.50/gallon, alternative automotitive fuels are economically viable, eliminating the need for infant industry subsidies of the type the present administration is loath to promote, prefering instead the trillion dollar subsidies of petroleum producers and their bankers, a much more reliable source of political funding. And suggest a political incentive to keep prices below that amount.
    In the “Conduct of Life” section on Wealth (a worthy read for any generation), Emerson discusses similiar fears about the end of coal.
    Recessions are caused primarily by government efforts to preserve favored clients, and preventing the resilient markets to function in response to changes in supply and demand. Loss of resources may indeed suggest a lower standard of living, but unemployment is produced by institutional obstacles preventing adjustment.

    Reply

  43. Ryan Oddey says:

    I think America was misguided afer 9/11 into thinking Bush was a great leader, clearly he is not. I am not saying one needs to be the most brazen to lead, or a genius, but Bush’s character traits are what make him a poor leader.
    Iran is a situation that should not be ignored, but should not be dealt with the way we are doing it.
    As someone who graduates from college in a few weeks, myself and many in my spot could not afford gas prices that high. I live in a big enough city where I could get around, but many of us work jobs or will take jobs that are out of the way of public transportation.
    Meanwhile we will see more airlines go under, because the cost of jet fuel will sky rocket, and people will stopy flying again. This will result in more layoffs, and a serious blow to the economy.
    Under the circumstances I would almost guarantee a recession, and not rule out another great depression.

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  44. Dan Kervick says:

    Well, I assume oil at $140 a barrel would send the US and other Western nations into a profound recession. So I don’t know just how much pain Americans would be willing to endure “at the pump”. We’re not just talking about a $50 extra bucks a week for filling up – but also about massive job loss, business failures, mortgage forecloses, deferred or cancelled college dreams, etc. Hey, even the thinks tanks may be forced to trim their payrolls.
    For Americans who lived through the Cold War, and dealt with the persistant fear of a catastrophic nuclear exchange between the US and the Soviet Union, it’s going to be hard to persuade them that the threat posed by Iran, which has no nukes now, but might have a few 5-10 years into the future, was so great as to merit devastating the country economically.

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  45. Carroll says:

    Yep, a sick part of me wants to see us do it too. Considering we have another three years of the neo’s running the show, despite what we are told about their influence waning, something has to stop them. If letting loose a nuke on Iran didn’t make Americans rise up, then hopefully the rest of the world would slam us beside the head hard enough to make a dent.
    But I gotta say…about the former minister of a “important” nation and Steve calling these folks “smart”…they aren’t. In fact they are dumb, they have access to info we don’t have and they are still stupid in their judgements if you look at their outcomes.
    It’s time we all got over the notion that people in powerful positions are there because they are smart, after all even monkeys learn by repetition, something our leaders don’t seem able to do.
    And I don’t think Americans will go quietly into $8.00 a gallon gas. But then unlike the “leaders and insiders’ squatting on their privilaged perches, I live in reality and see what is going on in the population in the small towns and cities outside of DC.

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  46. memekiller says:

    A sick part of me wants to see Bush do it. I’m tired of warning people about what these guys are up to. The Neocons need to be chastened, and the back of the cult has to be broken. This would certainly achieve those ends. Let’s keep the wackos out of power for a couple of generations.

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  47. Mimikatz says:

    Brinksmanship has to be practiced by people with cool heads and guts of steel, not hot-headed arrested adolescents who think God speaks to or through them. Any evaluation of this situation has to take into account the lack of levelheadedness on the part of Bush and those who surround him, from Cheney and Bolton to Bob Joseph and the neocon idiots. This makes what might in other hands have been a reasonable policy vewry, very dangerous.

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  48. erichwwk says:

    Josh Marshall gets to the nub of the problem:
    “The White House is now telling us that engineering a confrontation with Iran is a key part of their plan to resuscitate the president’s dismal approval ratings in time to survive election day.”
    Over at NYT, David Sanger tells us: “In the words of Robert Joseph, the State Department’s top proliferation official, the administration is determined to ensure that “NOT ONE CENTRIFUGE SPINS”. Further in the same article (Sunday’s Front page story): “In Vienna, Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the atomic Agency [IAEA], has made it clear in conversations with diplomats that he believes pragmatism will eventually dictate that Iran be allowed some limited form of enrichment, monitored constantly by his agency.
    {Note: nothing is said about the US enabling India to increase its proliferation of nuclear weapons by the recent proposed treaty, nor the fact that the IAEA is NOT permitted to inspect India military nuclear facilities.}
    Nor is it mentioned that a bunker bomb nuclear simulation of 700 tons of conventional explosions is scheduled for June 6 at the Nevada test site, that Rumsfeld currently is authorized to initiate a nuclear attack on Iran, that the Democrats in their recent party platform have decided to outflank the GOP on the right (that is to be seen as even MORE aggressive and MORE willing to initiate war), or that Rumsfeld and Cheney came into power under Gerald Ford with the discovery (and enabling policy by George H. Bush) that threatening war provided a significant support for an incumbent president.
    Also of note is a recent article by Anneliese Fikentscher and Andreas Neumann, who have translated Ahmadinejad’s alleged speeches threatening the destruction of Israel into statements that what he REALLY advocated was REGIME change, NOT physical destruction, in Israel. Erik Appleby has translated this article into English. Any comments by readers able to read Farsi, and willing to comment on this (either supporting or refuting their conclusions) would be appreciated. BTW, they allege that similar distortions occur re the allegation that Ahmadinejad denies the holocaust; what they allege he said was “even IF the holocaust is as you say, why must the Palestinians pay for these crimes, Why not give the Jews a part of Europe”, the consistent position of the ME from even before WWII.”
    While there appears to be some evidence that military leaders might oppose the actual use of nuclear weapons, it is not clear what would happen, should initiating nuclear war be seen as politically prudent to avert Democratic control of the House and hearings into the use of intelligence and the discussion of whether intelligence was criminally subverted, as originally promised by Sen. Roberts in the Phase II hearings of the Senate Intelligence Committee. In this regard, it might be appropriate to note that even the THREAT of using nuclear weapons is considered a war crime by the International Court of Justice.
    Anyway one wishes to parse the argument, it does seem clear that the USA is governed by war criminals, with the Minority Party also believing that political viability is contingent upon being seen as the toughest bully on the block. I for one do not see good coming out of this process, and as with alcoholics and drug addicts, one may truly have to hit rock bottom before change occurs.
    Though there has been a Fatwa against Iran’s production of nuclear weapons for decades, and Iran has had no territorial ambitions for centuries, even the members of the CFR (with one exception) appear ALL to believe that Iran has nuclear weapon ambitions. The evidence that it was the US that instigated the IRAN-IRAQ war is overwhelming, and the evidence that Saddam Hussein was manipulated into invading Kuwait is all but conclusive, yet it is Iran that is cast as the “rouge nation”.
    While it is of course possible that they do wish to possess nuclear weapons (and do have a P2 centrifuge program), the evidence pointing to that is as shaky as the cartoons and fabrications of the current Gulf War.
    And even IF they have a P2 program, it is clear that Pakistan has that, as well as an actual stockpile of weapons, yet no one is talking of a nuclear attack on Pakistan. What is needed is an entirely fresh approach on the issue of nuclear energy production, and nuclear weapons in the twenty first century. The model of the US as unilaterally determining what is, and is not, allowable under threat of using nuclear weapons, is not an option that can be on the table, or one that serves any purpose other than enabling a US dictatorship.

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  49. God says:

    The US and that ‘other’ axis
    By Jephraim P Gundzik
    Beijing’s increasingly close ties with Moscow and Tehran will thwart Washington’s foreign policy goal of expanding US security footholds in the Middle East, Central Asia and Asia.
    However, the primacy of economic stability will most likely prevent a proxy-style military confrontation, in Iran or North Korea, between China and the US.
    Iran-Russia-China axis seeks to limit US power;
    Chinese nuclear scientists visit Pakistan military
    ran has expanded relations with China and Russia to limit the role of Washington in Middle Eastern affairs, reports the Cairo Al-Ahram newspaper. Iran has relied on China and North Korea to develop strategic missile capabilities to confront Israel and rebuild its power, both in conventional and nuclear arms. Iran President Khatami’s recent visit to Moscow, where he signed new economic and defense agreements, represents a reaction to the United States’ efforts to isolate to contain and isolate Iran. Russia is striving to restore its influence exercised before the fall of the Soviet Union, the paper adds, “particularly after Washington did not hesitate to accept Eastern Europe into NATO’ If we add this to the emerging Chinese giant, we will find that global transformations in the next few years will not give unipolar powers [US] much chance to enjoy its hegemony over world resources.”

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  50. 0701 says:

    Linda is right. Now, if we could just get the general public to understand the subversive role of the right wing corporate media.

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  51. steambomb says:

    But that’s if we don’t bomb Iran, don’t create an axis of oil states allied with Russia and China against America, and don’t somehow disrupt oil flow from Venezuela.
    Hasn’t this Bush Administration allready created this alliance between Russia, China and Iran? I dare to say that they have. The Cold War is still on and there is a new playa’
    What I learned from this foreign minister last night and a room full of extremely smart people is that there are forces escalating America’s and Iran’s tensions — and a single serious miscalculation could dramatically alter America’s position in the world — and yet miscalculations are already abounding.
    I think from the moment Putin met Bush he knew that this was a dolt that could be played. Now he is seeing the fruits.

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  52. linda says:

    i think the most disturbing aspect of this is the corporate media’s casual embrace of using nukes on iran. check the transcripts from the initial reports of the iranian program, and you’ll find blitzer, chris matthews, et al — the usual cheerleaders — assuming this is a legitimate option. they were instrumental in pushing the rhetoric to this level and breaking that barrier.
    but then, that’s what they are paid to do. besides, cnn desperately needs a ratings boost — and that old shock and awe does pull in the viewers.

    Reply

  53. Bill Petti says:

    I hate to say it, but the dangers and the potentially disastrous miscalculations are part and parcel of a brinksmanship strategy, which both states are relying on at this point. Iran knows that the US is an a severely week strategic position do to our Iraq adventure, the rising price of oil, and the lack of credibility in the eyes of many foreign publics which makes support for US operations (military and diplomatic) more difficult for foreign leaders. Additionally, they recognize that China and Russia have strong incentives to scuttle any kind of international sanctions/military action. A policy of brinksmanship by the US seems to be the only practical way to get the Iranian regime to walk back its policy. Iran, while it sees numerous obstacles to US policy, recognizes that under this administration unilateral action (in the form of strategic air-strikes) is not out of the question and so it too needs to raise the stakes of a conflict in order to keep the US at bay. Both states are “rocking the boat” pretty hard at this point hoping that the other side blinks?unfortunately for the US, I have a feeling Iran is less likely to blink.

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  54. maurice says:

    Sobering news for your readers. Do any of us have any pull at the White House?
    Would it be fair to say that most of the world would regard the United States as a reckless and criminal agressor if this game of chicken escalates into a U.S. attack?

    Reply

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