July 11, 2008

OPEC Threatens America, America Laughs - or, the Ultimate Political X-Prize

Hatched by Dafydd

In a bizarre, subtextual threat, the Secretary-General of OPEC, Abdalla Salem El-Badri, essentially said that if the United States attacks Iran, or even if we defend ourselves when Iran attacks us or Israel, OPEC will ensure that the price of oil skyrockets to an "unlimited" level:

In recent weeks, the price of oil has risen higher on speculation that Israel could be preparing to attack Iranian nuclear facilities. The saber-rattling intensified this week with missile tests by Iran. That has further shaken oil markets because of concerns that any conflict with Iran could disrupt oil shipments from the Gulf region.

"The prices would go unlimited," Badri said during the interview, referring to the effect of a military conflict. "I can't give you a number."

But of course, El-Badri is thinking about an Iraq-style invasion of Iran, which would be bad for several reasons (and is certainly not in the cards):

  • We simply haven't the troops; we're already fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, not to mention the hundred or more low-level engagements we have around the world in what Thomas P.M. Barnett calls the "non-integrated gap" nations.

    We still have not recovered from Bill Clinton ransacking the Department of Defense to find his "peace dividend," which he used for more social-welfare programs in the first couple of years of his presidency.

  • The American public would not stand for another invasion/occupation; they're already more than half convinced (demographically) that the Iraq war was not worth fighting, even if we win. Of course, if we do clearly win, then many of those saying "it wasn't worth it" will change their minds... that's how such things work. But certainly most people would freak at the thought of invading and occupying Iran in the next few months.
  • We might have a hard time pacifying Iran in the remainder of George W. Bush's presidency; and if Barack H. Obama is elected -- which would probably be more likely, given an invasion/occupation of Iran -- that would be the end of it. Bush would just be handing Obama yet another venue in which the latter could surrender to lawlessness and the world caliphate.
  • A protracted and bloody invasion would turn the entire Iranian population against us and send them scurrying to support the mad mullahs. I haven't seen anyone dispute this point -- and it's a deal-killer all by itself.
  • And most important to this anaylsis, such a force on force struggle would give those selfsame mullahs ample time to torch their own oil fields... leading to a disruption in the world oil supply that would indeed, as El-Badri suggested, lead to an "unlimited" rise in the price of oil: Our economy would absolutely tank, and I'm not willing to trade pacifying Iran for a complete collapse of the American economy. I don't think I'm alone in this.

Fortunately, we have a much better scenario available, which we've already talked about... the Herman Option, named after military historian Arthur Herman. Here is how we described it back in January of 2007:

Herman suggests a seven-point plan to break the logjam with Iran:

  1. Announce that we will not tolerate any nation interfering with the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz;
  2. Back that threat up by sending at least a carrier battle group (CBG) to the Persian Gulf, along with anti-submarine ships and planes (the latter are routinely carried on carriers), minesweepers, Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System-equipped cruisers and destroyers, UAVs, and our own submarines;
  3. Declare a one-country blockade of all of Iran's oil shipments out -- and gasonline shipments in; a complete freeze-out. Everyone else gets to ship freely through the strait... just not Iran;
  4. Launch a "comprehensive air campaign" against Iran's air defenses, air bases, communications grid, and missile sites along the PG;
  5. Continue the campaign against the nuclear sites and all supporting infrastructure, including roads, bridges, power plants that serve the nuclear development centers at Natanz and Bushehr, and so forth;
  6. Finally, and most important, continue the campaign to take out all of Iran's gasoline refineries.

Herman points out the critical choke-point for Iran and the focus of this campaign:

It is still insufficiently appreciated that Iran, a huge oil exporter, imports nearly 40 percent of its gasoline from foreign sources, including the Gulf states. With its refineries gone and its storage facilities destroyed, Iran’s cars, trucks, buses, planes, tanks, and other military hardware would run dry in a matter of weeks or even days. This alone would render impossible any major countermoves by the Iranian army. (For its part, the Iranian navy is aging and decrepit, and its biggest asset, three Russian-made Kilo-class submarines, should and could be destroyed before leaving port.)

Contingent upon the completetion of the first six steps, Herman suggests the coup de grâce:

  1. American special forces would seize all of Iran's offshore wells and pumping stations, from the strait to Kharg Island (the small, unmarked island just off Iran's coast, due east of Kuwait and about 10 o'clock from Bushehr).

Herman concludes that if we did all this, we would able "to control the flow of Iranian oil at the flick of a switch."

I would add an eighth step, per our Iran Strategies 5: the Joint-Stike Attack, linked above:

  1. Simultaneously with the American attacks above, Israel strikes hard at Hezbollah, crippling that organization with airstrikes and missile attacks.

This is the take-away point: "Herman concludes that if we did all this, we would able 'to control the flow of Iranian oil at the flick of a switch.'" That means, among other things, that since we would control their offshore platforms, we could keep that oil flowing. After crippling the Iranian armed forces by cutting off their supplies of gasoline, we could also stroll into their land-based oil fields and take control... keeping that oil flowing too.

And here's the kicker: We could put all the money from the oil into an escrow account... and announce to the world that the Iranians will get all that money back -- when they have removed the mullahs from power and set up a free and democratic society... which is what the younger Iranians want to do anyway.

I'm sure the Moslem world would scream and rave; but it's a bit hard to accuse us of stealing Iran's oil, when we're putting every last rial into a transparent escrow account; and we offer to hand it over to the Iranian people, as soon as they put paid to the Persian carpetbaggers who have run their country into the ground. Think of it as the ultimate geopolitical X-prize!

While the price might skyrocket at first, as soon as it becomes clear that we're deliberately keeping the oil lines open, and that Iran is probably headed for democracy (like their two next-door neighbors, Iraq and Afghanistan), I forsee oil prices dropping markedly, as the mad mullahs will no longer be figured into the pricing equation.

So to Abdalla Salem El-Badri, I will say this (quoting yet another great American Democrat): "Go ahead... make my day!"

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 11, 2008, at the time of 2:13 AM

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The following hissed in response by: capricorn

Dafydd -

The only problem with the above scenario is that surely the Iranians have their off-shore oil facilities already rigged with remote-controlled explosives, which would be set off if anyone attempted step #7. The "flick of the switch" would be switched off permanently.

The above hissed in response by: capricorn [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 12, 2008 4:37 AM

The following hissed in response by: hunter

Too many moving parts and too much risk for the reward.
We violate point 1 by blockading Iran right away.

The above hissed in response by: hunter [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 13, 2008 10:59 AM

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