Monday, July 7, 2008

Declaration of War

Markets have been watching every move of President Bush and the Israeli government to decipher whether war with Iran is in the making. Few expected, however, that the equivalent of a green light for war would come from our Democratic-controlled Congress. That is what Congress is preparing to do through a resolution calling for a de facto naval blockade in the Persian Gulf to prohibit Iran from importing refined petroleum products.

The last time the United States imposed a blockade on another country was during the Cuban Missile Crisis. President Kennedy labeled the move "quarantine" because he understood a blockade to be universally regarded as an act of war. Yet, a blockade is exactly what many politicians are considering in Washington and elsewhere.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reportedly suggested the idea to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during a recent meeting, and presumptive Republican nominee John McCain alluded to the same during his speech at the America Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in Washington. With hardly a word of opposition, Congress is poised to pass a resolution calling on the president to enact such a blockade, possibly as early as next week. This is a de facto capitulation of the legislative body to the Bush administration.

If they choose to pass this resolution, Congress will make a bad situation worse not only for the American economy, but also for stability in Middle East.

Among factors contributing to short-term oil prices are supply and demand, market speculation and the value of the dollar. Risk of a natural or political catastrophe jeopardizes the production and flow of oil which also plays a major role in the price Americans will have to pay at the pump.

Take, for example, the market´s reaction to Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz´s statement last month that an attack on Iran's nuclear sites may be "unavoidable." That statement has been blamed for the largest single-day rise in the price of oil in history - $11 a barrel.

For each instance of tough talk, money is grabbed directly out of the pockets of American taxpayers and sent to oil-producing states - including, of course, Iran.

A declaration from Congress calling on the president to take such drastic action before direct diplomacy even begins would likely fuel even greater uncertainty in the oil sector.

And, why shouldn't it? The Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf is the strategic chokepoint for nearly 40 percent of the world's oil exports. By recommending a naval blockade in the Persian Gulf, Congress could likely be responsible for oil prices approaching $200 a barrel, which translates to nearly $7.50 a gallon of gas.

Even more significant is the impact such a move would have on the region´s stability. The mere mention of another war in the Middle East sets nerves on edge, and blockading Iran would create a tinderbox where even a small incident could erupt into a conflagration. To say nothing of the fact that a blockade is a prima facie act of war under international law.

Proponents of the naval blockade resolution argue that sanctions and diplomacy have failed, and that the naval blockade is the next step short of war.

They are wrong on both counts: Proper diplomacy - direct talks between the U.S. and Iran - has neither failed nor succeeded, because it has yet to be tried. And the blockade is not a step short of war; it is war. It virtually guarantees military confrontation causing unnecessary casualties on both sides.

The solution to the impasse over Iran's nuclear program will be found not by creating a situation that ensures military confrontation, but through direct diplomacy.

Negotiations are the only way for the international community to guarantee that Iran maintains its nuclear program for civilian use while also preventing another disastrous war that will undoubtedly further destabilize the Middle East.

Time is not neutral in this equation. Nor is it on the side of America or Iran. Time is on the side of war. This scenario, as disastrous as it sounds, assumes that bullying Iran will cause Tehran to stop enrichment altogether. The likely scenario, however - and according to keen observers - is that it is a preamble to war.

For each day that passes without dialogue, the world is brought closer to another war in the Middle East - paid first by Americans at the gas pumps, and eventually, American lives and treasure.

Cyrus Bina, distinguished research professor of Economics at the University of Minnesota, is the author of "The Economics of the Oil Crisis.

Sam Gardiner, a retired Air Force colonel, has taught strategy and military operations at the National War College, Air War College and Naval War College.

This op-ed was first printed by Washington Times, July 5, 2008.

9 comments:

Wil Robinson said...

Have you read Sy Hersh's latest story in the New Yorker?

Definitely worth a read.

Naj said...

Wil,

Covert operation with the aim of regime change are simply FUTILE.

All they achieve is crackdown on activists, who, IRONICALLY, are not after regime change, but regime REFORM.

There is no viable alternative to the current regime, this current regime is an organic entity that is undergoing transformation from within. If US stayed out of this business, this transformation would have been far more rapid.

However, the US hawks benefit from Iranian Hawks ... and thus this theater of the Macabre ...

Wil Robinson said...

I hope you didn't infer I was advocating such a policy - I just though Sy Hersh's piece added to the not-so-subtle push for war. It was quite depressing to read - and even more depressing to hear Hersh on NPR/Fresh Air - you could hear the despair in his tone.

Looking at things on a timeline, the election of a hardliner like Ahmedinejad makes sense. Iran was behind us immediately after 9/11, until we lumped them in with the axis of evil, invaded one of those (next door), stationed troops on the other side, not to mention the other countries who "host" US troops. The sabers rattled and the Iranian public voted for someone who was going to stand up for them.

The whole notion of "engagement" instead of "containment" blew up - prior to 2001, we seemed to be on the right track - unless you're a religious zealot neo-con who won't be happy until every Muslim country with a speck of oil is under our thumb.

Naj said...

Wil,

Of course not. I was just adding comment to Hersh's report. Now he has been predicting a war with Iran for a couple of years already. And still, I am in serious doubt that it will actually happen.

The religious neo-con zealots in America are empowered by those in Iran and vice versa. We in the middle east are quite accustomed to such perverse politics; and that is what I was commenting about. That the Covert operation funded by America just strengthen the grip of the Iranian regime ... which in my opinion is getting farther and farther from being a regime, but a burgeoning government which is learning the value of democracy and diplomacy ...

Mariamariacuchita said...

This is very worrisome. We cannot manage the multiple "military actions" we are engaged in now, and are allowing our own country to sink into chaos.

mark said...

Global warming in a hoax. Surprised such an enlightened crowd would fall for it.

Global Warming is 20 years old. It was 20 years ago that we were first warned about AGW. How much have we warmed since then?

BZZZZT. It has actually cooled slightly.

CO2 consists of 396 Parts Per Million in the atmosphere. 97% of that comes from natural sources. You know, the carbon cycle. The earth is very busy converting carbon to carbon dioxide and back again. Plants, and the oceans (you know that three quarters of the planet where man does not live) convert co2 to carbon. Plants, and the animals that feed on them diodegrade and release the carbon back into the atmosphere.

It is a self regulating system. It is part of why life is possible on earth and why it has persisted for these millions of years.

CO2 consists of .03% of the atmosphere. Our 11 molecules of CO2 we are responsible for? .001%

You know what is responsible for 90% of global warming? water vapor. Yes, clouds. Why is know one talking about controlling the clouds?

For a group of people that seems to be surprisingly agitprop, (hatred of the current government, dislike for both of the current candidates for the leader of the next administration etc) you seem to willingly soak up anything journalists will throw your way.

Why are you not still discussing the previous media scares? The population bomb, coming Ice age, Aids epidemic, killer bees, fire ants, ebola virus, Y2K doom, homeless filling our streets (strike that - there was a post) designer flu epidemic of the year, disappearance of the amazon, landfills are full, all the trees disappearing (switch to plastic bags), plastic bags are killing all the fishes (switch back to paper bags)

Randy said...

What efforts has Iran made to dialog?
Their president said Israel should be wiped off the map. Can it be any more hostile than that?

The US-Iranian dispute has nothing to do with Israel. Did the Iranians hold US Embassy hostage because of Israeli policy?

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