Pros and Cons Regarding a Possible Attack on Iran

27 February 2012 | 12:37 Code : 1898403 General category
What causes the West to float the idea of attacking Iran, and what stops it from doing so?
Pros and Cons Regarding a Possible Attack on Iran

By: Shahrzad Maftooh


Increasingly heard and read in the news these days is a possible attack on Iran due to Western unsubstantiated fear of an Iranian potential nuclear bomb. While the Western powers recount several explanations to regard Iran as a potential threat, there are ample counterarguments convincing enough call off a war on Iran. But how did this ambivalent situation happen?


After years of negotiations on the Iranian nuclear program failed to assure the West of its peaceful nature, it was time for the IAEA to enter and release a controversial report on Iran's nuclear program on November 8, 2011, a document which significantly paved the way for the West and US to enforce further sanctions in the areas of finance and energy, and boycott Iran’s key oil industry and Central Bank. All the while, Iranian authorities have insisted that Iran would not suffer much from these sanctions, and that Europe and the US, suffering from dire economic situation and the need to supply oil, would be the losing side.


But for certain states, particularly Israel, the economic sanctions lack the power to curb the Iranians, and there is an urgent need for media propaganda to make the public opinion ready for a war on Iran. Even Leon Panetta, US Secretary of Defense, has predicted that an Israeli attack will be launched in the April-to-June 2012 period. But the pros and cons on attacking Iran remain a major problem.


The possible reasons for attacking Iran originate from: first, Iranian influence in the region would increase if it goes nuclear and it will gain some negotiation leverage.


Second, if it goes nuclear, along with Pakistan, India and Russia, Iran could constitute a nuclear bloc in a region of high importance to the West and US.  


Third, Iran is considered as a major threat to the US interests as both parties are engaged in a zero-sum game in the region. This holds true about the US interests in the Middle East: Iran’s burgeoning clout in the region – Iranian authorities claimed the Arab Spring was following the Iranian Islamic Revolution – would reduce the US influence.


Fourth, instability in the region due to provoking Israel. Israel threatened it would intervene militarily with a preemptive strike if it felt under threat from Iran. Anthony Cordesman states "Iran's potential acquisition of nuclear weapons and the ability to arm its missiles and aircrafts with such weapons represent the most serious risk that shapes US, Arab, Israel and other international perceptions."


And finally, there’s the domino effect: the fear that a nuclear Iran would provoke other leaders to go nuclear either to join the nuclear club or to defend themselves against any possible future threat. As Jack David states "Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, already unsure of America’s reliability, will accelerate their efforts to obtain their own nuclear deterrents."


But despite all these threats, why are the Western powers cautious on attacking Iran:


First, the death of North Korean leader signaled a new era opening in the United States-North Korean relationship. Some speculations indicate a change in North Korean strategy and its willingness to restart talks on nuclear issue. Jonathan Pollack says "China and Russia both insist that Pyongyang is prepared to reenter nuclear negotiations with the United States" [3] Starting a war in the region means the end of all peaceful talks with states of the region including North Korea.


Second, President Obama's new approach to Asia and his trip to Asian countries in November 2011 showed he is seeing American new interests lie in Asia and establishing good relationships with Asian states. According to Kenneth Lieberthal "America is going to play a leadership role in Asia for decades to come." [4] Clearly, the US is going to play that role economically and diplomatically rather than militarily which will produce no benefits.


Third, the US is looking for establishing a relationship with China. Establishing a good relationship with China means regarding China's interests and an attack on Iran, China's trade partner and oil provider, would make China defend Iran.


Fourth is the policy to preserve the stability in the Middle East. The Arab-Israeli peace process, stability in economic relations, and access to key transportation routes, especially for energy, make the region one of the most important geopolitical regions. A war in the Persian Gulf would destabilize the region and hype the price of oil the West is thirsty for.


Fifth is Moscow’s concerns. Not only would an attack in the Middle East endanger Russia's interests, but also the fact that Russia is Iran's neighbor makes the whole thing look different. Speculations of a new era of Cold War between the US and Russia are gaining credence, and any military action taken in the region would intensify the situation.


In the meantime, a possible war in the Middle East would endanger US's regional interests and in case of a preemptive attack from Israel - US ally in the region - Israel itself would be the first to suffer the consequences by being targeted by Iranian and Hezbollah' missiles, not mentioning other Iran's allies help. In fact, in case of an attack on Iran, because of the importance and the geopolitical situation of Iran, the whole region would be involved in a war and the stability and balance of power in the region will be totally lost.


The seventh matter is Iran's geopolitical situation and its full access to the Strait of Hormuz. The Strait of Hormuz enjoys unique strategic vintage which affect the world economy and political outcomes. In case of a war, the energy transportation from the Persian Gulf states to Europe and the US through this strait would be affected severely.

Eighth is the problem American military budget cut due to government debt and deficits and the high cost of two wars overseas. Withdrawing forces from Iraq and Afghanistan displays providing the high cost of military spending overseas is not possible regarding the present economic situation – not to mention starting a new war.


Ninth, American presidential election is approaching. Having difficult times competing with his Republican rivals, President Obama considers cutting military spending and not engaging in another war overseas now seem the best options for him to be hopeful to be reelected.


Tenth, the influence of public opinion cannot be ignored. American people would not vote for a war-provoking president who will spend their taxes on a war which would only levy on them more taxes, and on the whole, global public opinion is against any new war.


And the last but not the least, Iranian power to reply any potential attack is another main factor that makes any state have second thoughts before attacking.


Weighing the possible reasons to attack and prevent a war on the region shows that the benefits of finding other diplomatic solutions are far more than the initiation of a war based on a rash decision which benefits no side.