Friday, August 19, 2011

A Galtieri Event

To those of us who lived through military dictatorships in Latin America, General Galtieri of Argentina is always remembered. He is the man who launched the military coup in Argentina in 1976. Before his reign of terror was finished over 30,000 Argentines were dead or missing. Hundreds of children were taken from their parents and given to other families. In 1982 when the military government saw its end coming, General Galtieri ordered Argentine forces to invade the British-controlled Falkan Islands. He thought that it would draw attention away from his domestic political problems. He also arrogantly assumed that the British would not fight to save such a worthless piece of real estate. 

General Galtieri made a sad miscalculation. The British did fight for their islands and the failure of this military adventure lead to the collapse of the military government in Argentina.

I had the pleasure of sitting in on an incredible web seminar hosted by Gonzalo Lira of the Strategic Planning Group. The seminar was about the possibility of a war between Israel and Iran.

When one thinks of Israel and Iran one thinks of the Iranian nuclear program that could produce nuclear weapons. One could easily come to the conclusion that the Israelis would consider such aprogram a threat to their survival.

Gonzalo Lira quickly pointed out that both US and Israeli intelligence sources were sure that it would take Iran four more years to develop a serious nuclear weapon.

So why would Israel be interested in starting a war with Iran now? The answer lies with problems inside Israel at this time including a bad economy, the Palestinians, the Arab Israeli population, and a population protesting high rents, government corruption, etc. Despite Iran's large population of 74 million and its oil revenues, Iran is a poor and militarily-weak country.

Nothing would be better for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahou than a war to take people's minds off of their problems at home. Just as General Galiteri did in 1982, Netanyahou might be tempted to attack Iran to take people's minds off of their problems at home.

Such an attack would be aimed at Iranian nuclear sites that are well dug in and fortified. As Israel does not have the huge conventional explosives that the US has for "bunker busting," they would almost be forced to use tactical nuclear weapons to destroy these well-dug in facilities. I suspect that cruise missiles would be used to deliver this ordnance. I'm sure that attacks would also be launched on Iran's military facilities including command and control centers. There would also be attacks on some oil-producing facilities with the aim of cutting off money to Iranian-sponsored militant groups menacing Israel.

Israel also has some surprising allies in the area. The Kurdish populations in Iran and next door in Iraqi Kurdistan are Sunni Muslims. They hate the Iranians whom they see as Shi'ite Muslims. Another friend if Israel in the region is Azerbaijan. They also hate Iran.

In the mind of Netanyahou, such an attack would neutralize Iran's nuclear program and ability to finance terrorist groups. It would not bring military retaliation against Israel from such major players as China and Russia. Such an attack would result in few Israeli military and civilian casualties. The Israeli government could claim that it acted to protect itself from destruction. It could also claim that it neutralized a true rogue in the international community.

The first use of nuclear weapons in battle since 1945 would produce a fire storm of indignation against Israel. The disruption of oil flows from Iran would do a lot of damage to the economies of China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Europe. The world would slip back into recession or worse as oil shot up to $250 plus per barrel. Supply chains would be disrupted as factories in places like China, South Korea, India no longer had the energy they needed to stay open.

In my opinion the US would do a lot of protesting but nothing else. President Obama would pull oil out of the US strategic petroleum reserve to keep domestic US fuel prices down. I also feel that President Obama would welcome such a diversion of attention away from his domestic political problems. Such an attack could easily insure his reelection.

Let us hope that such an attack never happens.