UNITED STATES – IRAN US military pressure increasing in the Persian Gulf – Asia
US military pressure increasing in the Persian Gulf
by Maurizio d’Orlando
Some 12 US warships transited through the Suez Canal a few days ago. Three naval squadrons are currently in the region. Forces appear to be in position for a possible attack against Iran’s nuclear sites. Late July and early August could provide a window of opportunity for action. Iran threatens chaos in Saudi Arabia if it is attacked. Economic factors are determining the timing of the crisis.
Milan (AsiaNews) – After 387 bunker buster bombs were shipped to the US base in Diego Garcia, in the Indian Ocean, whose great potential AsiaNews had already revealed last April (see Maurizio d’Orlando, “Winds of war and economic crisis behind the attacks on the Pope,” in AsiaNews, 14 April 2010), 12 US warships, as well as one Israeli corvette, have crossed the Suez Canal, this according to Arabic-language newspaper Al-Quds-al-Arabi, confirmed by the newspapers Jerusalem Post and Haaretz.
The Debka online news agency, usually well connected with Israel’s secret services Mossad, also confirmed increased activity in the Persian Gulf. According to Debka, three Israeli nuclear-armed subs are believed to be currently operating off the coast of Iran. The German-built submarines are considered technologically top of their class.
Coming from the Mediterranean, the USS Harry S Truman aircraft carrier also transited through the Suez Canal, this according to an article published in Zerohedge (Tyler Durden, “12 American Warships, Including One Aircraft Carrier, And One Israeli Corvette, Cross Suez Canal On Way To Red Sea And Beyond,” in Zerohedge, 19 June 2010).
Thus, three naval squadrons with fighter planes are in position in the region, plus planes deployed at the US airbase at Diego Garcia. Preparations thus are complete for a possible attack against sites where, according to the United States and Israel, Iran is building its first nuclear bomb. If war does break out, the best period would be the end of July and early August.
Iran has always claimed that its uranium enrichment installations are for the civilian production of energy. Over the years, Tehran has allowed inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of the United Nations to visit those installations to verify that they are not being used for military purposes.
Recently, on 16 May, Iran agreed to a plan put forward by Brazil and Turkey (see “Tehran accepts an agreement on enriched uranium with Turkey and Brazil,” in AsiaNews, 17 May 2010) for uranium to be enriched outside Iran, in Turkey, to guarantee that the material would not be used for military purpose, a move not welcomed by Israel.
Every threat leads to a counter threat
For its part, Iran’s PressTV news network published an article in English that quotes from a letter written by a member of the Saudi royal family, Prince Turki bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud (see “Prince warns S. Arabia of apocalypse,” in PressTV, 9 June 2010), that was published by Cairo-based Arabic-language Wagze news agency.
The prince, who has lived in Egypt for years after falling out with Saudi Arabia’s reining family, warns the dynasty and its members that they are at risk because they are hated by the population. A coup could remove them from power, putting their lives in great danger. He urges them to leave and, in a somewhat dramatic tone, find refuge abroad before people “cut off our heads in streets.”
Most people living in the kingdom’s oil-rich regions are Shia, like in Iran. Shia Islam and the Wahhabi-oriented Sunni Islam backed by the Saudi dynasty are not exactly on friendly terms.
The publication of the story based on the prince’s letter shows what strategy Iran might adopt in case of an attack. It suggests that Tehran might try to cause havoc in its neighbour, Saudi Arabia, and thus put at risk the latter’s oil exports. In that case, the effects on oil prices would be huge since the desert kingdom is the world’s largest oil producer. Even so, it is still unclear how serious Iran’s threat to the Saudi royal family really is.
However, the letter also contains another element. “Do not fool yourself by relying on the United States or Britain or Israel,” the prince tells his family, “because they will not survive the loss”. What this actually means is unclear. Does he mean economic loss, military loss? Perhaps this obscure passage is a warning the Iranian network attributes to the prince in order to hint that Tehran might call for a ‘Jihad’, a holy war to urge the masses to rise up in Muslim countries and for Islamist cells to launch terrorist attacks.
Here too it is unclear how a hypothetical Iranian appeal to Islamic solidarity might unfold in the case of an attack and a terrorist counterattack.
Based on our evaluation of the threats and counter threats, the danger of a conflict is likely to be at its highest in late July and early August and this for various reasons.
First, the deployment of the US-Israeli military forces will be done by that time.
Second, leaders at the G8-G20 summits in late June in Toronto will have a venue where they conduct high-level consultations, a necessary preliminary step before any political-military action is taken.
For its part, Iran has to wait for the necessary provocation that can raise tensions, i.e. the arrival of a flotilla to break the naval blockade of Gaza to bring “humanitarian” aid.
The weight of US debt
The main factors behind the timing of this political-military crisis are economic in nature.
The first one is that US budget estimates for 2010 should be released in mid-September. Usually, rumours about them already abound by August. This year, this will not be necessary because it is already clear that Obama’s “economic stimulus”, as advised by Keynesian economists like Paul Krugman, has not only failed to increase employment, but that it has, through higher government spending, punched a huge hole in the US federal deficit, certainly more than 10 per cent of the GDP.
In order to hide the economic and social fiasco (with real unemployment at 22 per cent of the active workforce), a foreign threat and a military and political emergency are needed, but they must come before tax and employment data are released in order to achieve a minimum degree of credibility and be picked up by big information media.
A second factor that is often left out of the equation is that the United States (and others) not only has a huge public debt crisis but that it also has a huge private debt, affecting families and companies.
US private debt stands at US$ 50 trillion or 330 per cent the US GDP. On the long run, this cannot be sustained; it has to come down in real terms through deflation or hyperinflation.
Financial leverage must be cut and properties bought wholly or partially on debt must be liquidated. We might expect a repeat of the subprime crisis of September 2007. The difference this time will be that, instead of insolvent subprime debtors, the crisis is more likely to hit the more solvent private debt holders.
Mid-September will also see a mass of commercial mortgages and quality debts come due, but quite a few holders will have a hard time getting them renewed. A foreign threat will come in handy if it occurs right before the collapse in the real value of property, stocks and bonds, which would otherwise pose a threat to the traditional two-party system of the United States.
Iran’s governing regime also needs an external threat to hold onto power. Increasingly, a new generation of Iranians is putting pressure on the system, unable and unwilling to tolerate the regime’s corruption and technological backwardness. The inability to find a job and the isolation from the rest of the world are particularly heavy burdens to bear.
Unlike their parents, young Iranians did not participate in the Islamic revolution against the Shah, an event remembered also and perhaps especially as an uprising against US economic and cultural imperialism. They do not really know what anti-Americanism is and thus view the struggle against the “Great Satan” as tired old rhetoric used for domestic consumption. For the regime, it therefore becomes imperative not to lower its guard, but rather keep the threat level high through concrete steps.
Indeed, both sides appear to follow the rationale that led to the Falklands War when Argentinian generals were in charge of a country on the brink of economic bankruptcy and the British establishment was still facing tough domestic choices in order to restructure the country’s economy in the wake of Britain’s long movement away from empire.
A foreign threat or a war overseas are one of the oldest and most tested political tools to close ranks at home. However, today’s social, political and economic instability are global in scope. It is hard to imagine how an intervention could be surgically limited to a specific context, especially if that context is the Persian Gulf. Lighting a match and throwing it in to start a fire could quickly get out of hand and blow up the world’s powder keg.