Israel’s eternal existential fears and insecurities are once again instigating the US to war, this time to nip Iran’s nuclear evil in the bud!

Does Israel realistically expect Iran to unilaterally employ nuclear weapons against it, and not expect an immediate and severely overwhelming retaliation from it and the US-led West? To what possible end would Iran wreak such a deadly and destructive fate upon itself and the region? Israel’s basic assessment is, therefore, patently unrealistic, propagandist, exploitative and speculative in nature.

The Real Strategic Implications of a “Nuclear Iran”

A nuclear Iran would actually bring in that missing element of “balance of terror” in the Greater Middle East Region’s (GMER’s) strategic environment - the lack of which is the basic cause of Israeli intransigence and ruthless, provocative and proactive domination!

The emergence of a competing nuclear power like Iran would threaten Israel’s hegemony/supremacy as “the” regional cop, nullify the strategic space and advantage it commands, and severely curtail its freedom of action in the GMER - a situation that the US and Israel (and some Arab monarchies) fear the most and want to forestall.

The ensuing regional strategic balance and Israel’s (and USA’s) loss of status, power and overwhelming influence will directly impinge upon vital US-Israeli-Western interests.

Furthermore, a nuclear Iran may force Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey etc to kick-start their own nuclear weapon programmes, thus upsetting their (US-Israel) craftily contrived “strategic (im)balance” in the GMER even further - global implications of nuclear proliferation notwithstanding!

Thus, the paradigms and dynamics of the geopolitical and strategic environment of the GMER stand to be altered forever, to the abiding detriment of US-Israel-Western interests.

And they will try to preserve the obtaining strategic status quo at any cost! Period.

Possible Contingencies

The peaceful solution: The P-5+1 and Iran bring the issue to an amiable closure. Most preferable!

War contingency 1: Under unrelenting Israeli/domestic Jewish pressure, the US-Nato-Israel combine attacks Iran. Likely!

War contingency 2: Israel carries out a unilateral pre-emptive strike - at a time and place of its own choosing. By default, the US-Nato will get sucked into the war. Most likely!

The Timing

Option 1: The US/Israel/Nato combine attacks Iran before the US/Isaf/Nato pull out completely from Afghanistan. The risk: dissipating war effort in two theatres!

Option 2: The US/Nato/Israel combine attacks Iran after the completion of withdrawal of the occupation forces from Afghanistan. The risk: attacks delayed to 2013-14, allowing Iran more time to further enhance and secure its nuclear programme.

Furthermore, President Barack Obama would like to derive maximum electoral benefit from the timing of his decision to either attack Iran or bid for a peacefully negotiated solution. The world awaits his moment of truth with abated breath!

Modus Operandi

Option 1: Strategic bombings - but it must be kept in mind that even repeated bombings will not destroy or retard the Iranian nuclear programme decisively.

Option 2: Amphibious/ground/airborne attacks - a massive and debilitating air campaign will create the strategic environment for the ground/amphibious attacks. Multipronged attacks from the Persian Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan and even Balochistan, Pakistan (Jundullah!) will force Iran to fight on multiple fronts. Simultaneously, airborne troops will be inserted to seize its various strategic and nuclear installations. Its internal front will also be subjected to powerful upheavals at the same time. Thus, strategic pulls will be created in multiple directions to cause operational paralysis leading to defeat.

The Regional Response

Some of Shiite Islam’s holiest places are located in Iran. Any type of attack on it will motivate or compel the region’s Shiites (and anti-US-Israel groups) to rise and fight for it - radicalising the GMER permanently!

Iran’s Possible Response

The centre of gravity of Iran’s response will rest in safeguarding its nuclear programme. The Iranians are likely to adopt a largely indirect approach. In a multipronged strategy, they will aim to disrupt the production and supply of oil from the GMER to the world right at the outbreak of hostilities and prolong it indefinitely to generate meaningful effects on the global economy.

Concurrently, they will mobilise all regional and global Shiite populations (and anti-US-Israel groups) into a regional-global Jihad to support their war effort by all possible means - physical, material, cyber, intellectual, informational, financial and economical. The longer these global effects last, the stronger will be the pressures they generate on the US-Nato-Israel combine and their operational plans.

The Operations

The Iranian Armed Forces (IAF) will try to pre-empt the US-led coalition by blocking/mining the Straits of Hormuz (SOH) at the outset, snuffing out 20-30 percent of the world’s oil supplies.

Simultaneously, IAF and non-state actors/Shiite elements will start operating all over the GMER targeting oil infrastructure - refineries, ports, terminals, tankers, oil and gas fields and pipelines, etc aiming to hamper the production and transportation of oil. Thus, the global oil supplies will get disrupted not only at the SOH, but also at the sources of production, pipelines, ports, transportation terminals etc. The impact will be colossal and will rise exponentially with time, devastating the global economy!

Furthermore, predominantly Shiite and other anti-US-Nato-Israel groups in Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan etc will get motivated to join the “Jihad in Iran!” There will be a mass movement of religiously inspired pro-Iran Shiites and other anti-US-Nato-Israel factions pouring into Iran from all over, in particular from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Even the remnants of the Taliban may decide that their hatred of the US-Nato-Israel combine outweighs all other considerations, including sectarian ones, and join in!

Déjà vu! Quite like the mujahideen, who gravitated to Afghanistan-Pakistan in the 1980s to fight the “godless USSR”- this time around the warriors will congregate to fight “the Great Satan and his disciples” in Iran, the GMER and the world at large! This “Jihad in Iran” will have the potential of eventually morphing into a massive conflagration, sucking in people from all across the GMER and the world into a global cauldron of fire. World War III???

The USA and the world, beware!

n    The writer is a retired brigadier and a former defence attaché to Australia and New Zealand. He is the secretary general of Pakistan Forum for Security and Development.