November 7, 2011

TSG Atmospheric: Iran – Jaw Jaw or War War?




A military strike against Iran would likely unleash the law of unintended consequences and would be seized upon by Islamic extremists as proof positive that the U.S. is waging a war against Muslims, thus putting U.S. citizens - as well as their allies - at a much higher threat of reprisals across the world.

Next week, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will publish its latest report which, we understand, will contain an assessment that Iran is attempting to build a nuclear weapon despite consistent denials by Tehran.

Last week, President Barack Obama noted the significance of next week's IAEA report, saying:  "The IAEA is scheduled to release a report on Iran's nuclear program next week and President Sarkozy and I agree on the need to maintain the unprecedented pressure on Iran to meet its obligations."

Quite why President Obama singled out President Sarkozy is unclear at this stage, unless this is a nod to the fact that France, under President Sarkozy, has followed a far more aggressively interventionist foreign policy than his predecessors.

For example: Sarkozy said on November 4 that:

"Iran's behavior and this obsessional desire to acquire nuclear military (capability) is in violation of all international rules, and France condemns firmly the lack of respect for these rules.  If Israel's existence were threatened, France would not stand idly by."

Without doubt, the activities of the Iranians give rise to considerable concern.  Uranium-enriching centrifuges are being moved into a hardened bunker under a mountain near the city of Qom, 97 miles southwest of Tehran.  This will offer a measure of protection to the centrifuges from air strikes.

The selection of Qom as a shelter for the centrifuges also has a more cynical undertone: it is a holy site to the millions of Shi'a Muslims worldwide; is a center for scholarship on Shi'a Islam; a pilgrimage destination; and contains the shrine of Fatimah bint Musa al-Kadhim, sister of Imam `Ali ibn Musa Rida.  Her grave is revered as a site where miracles occur.

At the main enrichment plant at Natanz, south east of Qom, Iran has installed some 200 advanced centrifuge machines.  These centrifuges have the capability to produce enriched uranium much more quickly than than before.  Iran is also continuing to accumulate stockpiles of uranium enriched with a 20% concentration – which is close to being weapons-grade in various locations (left).  Further, as can be seen from the map, there is a significant number of locations involved in the nuclear program in a geographically dispersed area, making targeting difficult.

We suggest that an attack on Qom would constitute an attack on a key holy Shi'a location, and would likely be a casus belli for Shi'a muslims worldwide.   Meanwhile the political rhetoric from the Israelis is growing louder and louder.  Even Shimon Peres, the President of Israel, who has previously been categorized as a political dove, was moved to say on Israel's channel 2 TV on November 4 that world leaders need to "fulfill their promises" to stop Iran "whatever it takes." He said, "There is a long menu as to what can be done." He did not elaborate on this last comment.

There is therefore a growing clamor for military action against Iran.  However, the consequences of such action could be very damaging, especially given the effects of the so-called Arab Spring, and policy makers in Washington and Tel Aviv should carefully balance their desire to punish Iran against the likely fallout.

We would likely see immediate retaliation by Iranian-sponsored groups (i.e. Hizbollah and Hamas), oil prices will probably skyrocket, and on a global basis, Israeli and Jewish interests will face retribution and terrorist attacks, and the hard-line clerical Iranian regime would no longer exercise restraint over its political and military machinations.  This is a country, let us not forget, that deployed 200,000 Pasdaran fighters in one human wave attack on February 6, 1983 during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

The text of the IAEA report has therefore never been more important, along with the reactions of the world to that report.


This is an excerpt from the full report released to clients.


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