Things heated up a notch at midnight, Tehran time yesterday. The International Atomic Energy Agency team inspecting Iran's nuclear facilities left the country, issuing a report that Iranian authorities had denied access to the IAEA team for inspection of an explosives testing facility at Parchin, where presumably Iran might be designing and building a soccer ball of plastic explosives that would surround an atomic core.
The powers that be in Tehran appear to be doing everything that they can to provoke an attack. Ignore Ahmadinejad's threat today that Iran can take pre-emptive action against the Israelis. That is a total non-starter. It's foolish to think that Hezbollah in Lebanon is a merely a puppet, just waiting for orders from Tehran. Also, Tehran has absolutely no military capability to directly attack Israel with the exception of a few missles, which if launched would insure massive retaliation. But the IAEA impasse is one of those things that starts the machinery of war revving up.
What's even more tragic is, that lately Israel has been throwing roundhouse curves against Tehran, and it's been missing. The recent New York Times article to the effect that Israeli game theorists have put forward the proposition that an Israeli pre-emptive strike would elicit little response from Iran is sheer hooey, designed for the manipulation of of American public opinion and not reality based .
When coupled with the radio statement given by Ehud Barak on the 'far away' nature of an Iranian threat, along with the previous protests by former heads of the Israeli Cheif of Staff, Mossad, and Shin Bet -- it should be clear that Avigdor Lieberman and Benyamin Netanyahu have up until now been encountering serious resistance from those parts of the Israeli government that are reality and not ideology based.
Coupled with the remarks of General Martin Dempsey and Admiral Mike Mullen among other US spokesmen, all of these forces have acted as brakes on rash Israeli behavior. But, the failure of IAEA yesterday should be taken as a sign that in fact, Israel and Iran may now be doing everything they can to insure a confrontation in the March through June timeline for Israeli action that Leon Panetta indicated.
As before, an Iranian response to Israeli military sorties is almost a no-brainer. It's logical to assume that Iran will launch missle attacks against the major Saudi refinery complexes and attempt some blockage of the Straits of Hormuz, probably by scuttling Iranian ships to block the navigation channels. And it's easy to see the greater response from Arabs when the shit hits the fan. Egypt will seal off its borders while protestors riot in Tarhir Square. Lebanon will explode as Hezbollah reacts to an Iranian attack by lobbing shells and missles at the Israeli populace. And it's likely that the Palestinians will erupt with a new intifada.
Unknowns at this time include what the responses from Syria, Jordan, and Iraq will be, but we know it won't be pretty. At the very least, there will be a huge uptick in civil unrest and violence in all of these countries. Shiite forces in Baghdad may very well attack the humongous American embassy there in an attempt to draw the United States into the conflict.In any event that would mean -- $2oo a barrel oil, ready or not.
And if America is drawn into the conflict, the operational saying in the Pentagon is, "Don't forget to pack your lunch." In other words, be prepared for a massive, prolonged, and unpredictable military operation on the ground with Iran, most likely with hundreds of thousands of troops.