Thinking About the Unthinkable: A U.S.-Iranian Deal

Iran FlagBy George Friedman, head of the highly-respected forecasting company STRATFOR:

The United States apparently has reached the point where it must either accept that Iran will develop nuclear weapons at some point if it wishes, or take military action to prevent this. There is a third strategy, however: Washington can seek to redefine the Iranian question.

As we have no idea what leaders on either side are thinking, exploring this represents an exercise in geopolitical theory. Let’s begin with the two apparent stark choices.

Diplomacy vs. the Military Option

The diplomatic approach consists of creating a broad coalition prepared to impose what have been called crippling sanctions on Iran. Effective sanctions must be so painful that they compel the target to change its behavior. In Tehran’s case, this could only consist of blocking Iran’s imports of gasoline. Iran imports 35 percent of the gasoline it consumes. It is not clear that a gasoline embargo would be crippling, but it is the only embargo that might work. All other forms of sanctions against Iran would be mere gestures designed to give the impression that something is being done.

The Chinese will not participate in any gasoline embargo. Beijing gets 11 percent of its oil from Iran, and it has made it clear it will continue to deliver gasoline to Iran. Moscow’s position is that Russia might consider sanctions down the road, but it hasn’t specified when, and it hasn’t specified what. The Russians are more than content seeing the U.S. bogged down in the Middle East and so are not inclined to solve American problems in the region. With the Chinese and Russians unlikely to embargo gasoline, these sanctions won’t create significant pain for Iran. Since all other sanctions are gestures, the diplomatic approach is therefore unlikely to work.

The military option has its own risks. First, its success depends on the quality of intelligence on Iran’s nuclear facilities and on the degree of hardening of those targets. Second, it requires successful air attacks. Third, it requires battle damage assessments that tell the attacker whether the strike succeeded. Fourth, it requires follow-on raids to destroy facilities that remain functional. And fifth, attacks must do more than simply set back Iran’s program a few months or even years: If the risk of a nuclear Iran is great enough to justify the risks of war, the outcome must be decisive.

Each point in this process is a potential failure point. Given the multiplicity of these points — which includes others not mentioned — failure may not be an option, but it is certainly possible…

[continues at STRATFOR]

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  • Hadrian999

    why is it so unthinkable,
    the nations with strong governments in the gulf region have more common interests
    the the US government than they do with terror and rebel organizations, stop listening
    to silly religious wing nuts and stop treating Israel like royalty and the mid east could be made into a much less unstable region…….If that is what anyone really wants

  • Hadrian999

    why is it so unthinkable,
    the nations with strong governments in the gulf region have more common interests
    the the US government than they do with terror and rebel organizations, stop listening
    to silly religious wing nuts and stop treating Israel like royalty and the mid east could be made into a much less unstable region…….If that is what anyone really wants

  • Surefoot4x4

    The US cannot control the entire world although we try. Im glad Iran’s prez brought up 911 because after a few yr.s of research he is absolutely right and Our US needs to give him some slack. We can’t be, do as i say not as i do. Everyone else has nukes. The illegal wars we are in is getting us a bad name. We shouldn’t be police of the world. We are, it seems, empire builders. That’s not cool. We are based in 130 of like 190 countries. Our govt is against it’s own ppl. with the so called Patriot act, which was never read but voted on. just a few hours after printing. This world has so much potential. Follow the money find the evil Bilderberg and illuminati people. Arrest them or whatever and peace will come by itself. It is known who they are. Like Kissinger, Brezinski, Paulson, Greenspan Bernacke Geitner, Bushes Clintons other world leaders and bankstrers.

  • Surefoot4x4

    The US cannot control the entire world although we try. Im glad Iran’s prez brought up 911 because after a few yr.s of research he is absolutely right and Our US needs to give him some slack. We can’t be, do as i say not as i do. Everyone else has nukes. The illegal wars we are in is getting us a bad name. We shouldn’t be police of the world. We are, it seems, empire builders. That’s not cool. We are based in 130 of like 190 countries. Our govt is against it’s own ppl. with the so called Patriot act, which was never read but voted on. just a few hours after printing. This world has so much potential. Follow the money find the evil Bilderberg and illuminati people. Arrest them or whatever and peace will come by itself. It is known who they are. Like Kissinger, Brezinski, Paulson, Greenspan Bernacke Geitner, Bushes Clintons other world leaders and bankstrers.

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