Monday, January 16, 2006

An Alternative Solution on Iran

It's easy to follow the lunatic leaders of Iran's government and get concerned about the prospects for everything from war, to an oil embargo to a worldwide recession. I've been following this news over the past few weeks, and since we invaded Iraq I have been thinking about what we should do were Iran to begin to misbehave. While I'm no military or geopolitical strategist, and by no means an expert on the region, the only shocking thing about Iran's latest provocations has been that it took them so long to initiate a plan that has been obvious for years. While Iraq is by no means a done deal, we're certainly better positioned now to pay more attention to Iran than we were a year ago.

It is what it is I guess, and nobody should ever doubt an Islamic theocracy's ability to vastly over play it's hand which is exactly what Iran is in the process of doing. A weak government, with a limited one product economy should never back itself into a corner over a needless asset; in this case nuclear weapons, er "power". Having started the backing process, it is sheer lunacy to then threaten the world with an interruption in oil flow should things not go the way they want it. Unfortunately for Iran, this is exactly what it's leaders are doing.

So far the Bush administration has acted wisely, and let Europe's leaders experience the futility of dealing with the mullahs. Now with Iran's latest threats of some sort of oil embargo, Europe can be left to ponder the implication of an oil shock to their already weak economies. Nothing like a little crisis to focus the minds of the weak of heart.

It's been fashionable of late to over emphasize the futility of our position. We can't let Israel attack Iran, because this will inflame other Middle East countries. We can't attack Iran's nuke facilities because while crazy, the mullahs aren't stupid and have apparently buried and hardened their facilities. Finally, the favorite excuse of the left is that we can't invade Iran because, of course, we're "bogged down" in Iraq.

So panic and hand wringing are our only alternatives.

I'm not so sure we're in as impotent of a position here as our lefty betters would have us believe. Allow me to explain.

First we have to acknowledge that the world has indeed become smaller, and our economies more intricately linked than the last time we had a little Iranian problem. Because of this, we really haven't had any choice in recent years but to allow Iran an important place in our global economy. They've got the oil, and we need it.

That Iran hasn't modernized their economy or used this position of strength to help it's people is unfortunate, but a problem that we have chosen to ignore. We can argue about whether or not this was a wise course, but it was one that we willfully choose thinking that Iran's government was the problem of the Iranian people. This was probably the right move.

With the advent of Iran's nuclear ambitions, and it's threat to ruin the world economy as blackmail against the west, the mullahs are no longer the problem of just the Iranian people. Like it or not Iran is a partner in the west's economy, and with their provocations they have become a dangerous partner who must be brought back in line.

What can we do? The answer is really rather simple. The west and it's partners must capture and hold Iran's oil fields.

Crazy? I don't think so. Look at the map above. Iran's fields are not broadly dispersed around the country. Unfortunately for them, the fields are gathered in the western region of the country. Doubly unfortunate for them,is the fact that they are generally in a mountainous area. In other words, with the right force, the right equipment and a focused will the west can capture the fields and administer the production of Iranian oil for the benefit of the world, and ultimately the Iranian people.

This is why it is so important for Europe and Japan to become quite aware of the pain they are about to experience should Iran embargo the west. Any invasion, but in particular one that is specifically "war for oil", must be executed by a multi-national force. In this case I'd suggest NATO.

Hopefully we can negotiate this problem away, but I think the odds of such a result are virtually zero. All out war against Iran would be difficult, result in an oil disruption anyway, and unnecessarily punish a people who have no contol over their mad government. So capture of the fields is paramount to our success. Here is how I would do it.

Using a NATO force, I'd first knock out the Iranian air force before it had a chance to get off the ground. Air superiority will be critical to maintaining control of the fields once we capture them since Iranian ground units will not be able to effectively attack in the mountains. With air raids underway, I'd then drop our forces into the fields for quick commando raids to take control and then quickly follow up with reinforcements to solidify our position. Finally, I'd find a way of moving in armor and artillery east of the fields to set up a line of defense from any attempt by the mullahs to retake the fields using their remaining infantry.

Once established in this position, I'd have NATO administer the production of oil, with the proceeds held in account for the Iranian people. I'd also suggest to the Iranian military that a new, democratic government has the best chance of getting the fields back.

Obviously I'm spit balling here, but I'd bet something along these lines is the only solution to our Iranian problem. Global partners can't be expected to get along at all times, but dangerous threats and provocations simply cannot be ignored in this age.

Your thoughts?

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