The idea that the United States is planning to attack Iran seems to be gaining currency in the media. Let us hope that this is an intentional strategy of intimidation meant to bolster efforts to deal with the Iranian nuclear program diplomatically. Compared to Iraq – which had been crippled by sanctions and frequent military interventions in the years leading up to the second Gulf War – Iran certainly retains the offensive capability to inflict considerable direct and indirect damage to American and other western interests.
Consider the single possibility of rendering the Strait of Hormuz impassable. Given the sheer volume of oil that passes through there, a disruption could cause severe economic problems worldwide. Between air power and missiles, Iran also has the capacity to strike targets throughout the region. Any military action in Iran would lead to casualties that make the 2000 or so in Iraq so far look like nothing: and that’s just if the strikes are based around conventional forces. There is apparently talk of using tactical nuclear weapons to strike embedded facilities, such as the uranium centrifuge cascade that is supposedly under construction. Even without nuclear weapons, Iran could inflict massive casualties in retaliation for such an attack: an attack that would also be a gross violation of international law and any reasonable code of morality.
Anyone who is as terrified as I am by recent revelations that the United States may be planning an attack on Iran, or who maintains a general interest in the Middle East region, might want to take a look at a new Oxford blog: Middle East Wonks. Among the contributors is my friend and fellow M.Phil student Roham Alvandi, who I was impressed to learn writes about Iran for the Economist Intelligence Unit.