Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Beware the Ides of March

Soothsayer's warning before Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44BC

By Mathew Maavak
February 7, 2006

If Julius - regarded as one of the greatest Caesars - couldn't take note, the leader of the current superpower should. This March, his actions may spark off a conflict from which the world might never recover.

There is no superstition needed for the coming month, as too many converging forces are spiraling out of hand to tip the world into a precipice burning in peak oil.

History was created on Jan 1 when Russia abruptly cut off gas supplies to Europe for a day; a brutal reminder that the stakes in the current game can be raised dramatically at will. It caught the world by surprise, converted millions into news addicts and brought about the realization that we are living on borrowed time, in an era of strained energy resources.

Unless saner elements among the Bush administration prevail, the next neocon project might involve playing Alexander the Great vs. Persia. That ancient conquest took the Greeks right to the doors of India, and history is repeating itself, except that it may have run out of cycles by March, or culminate in a pact for a strategic future in New Delhi.

In March, IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei may summit the results of his findings on Iran's nuclear program to the UN Security Council. The United States will be pressing for sanctions, and it is still unclear which way China or Russia may vote, though abstentation is the most likely outcome. Either way, the neocons are already prodding President George W. Bush along a unilateral path to conflict.

Undoubtedly, Iran's continued uranium enrichment program is a destabilizing factor in the Middle East. It is not just Israel - the only nuclear armed nation in the region- which may feel threatened. The entry of a nuclear Iran would shift colossal power back to the Persians, and in the long-run, enable it to control oil supplies in the region.

The Iranians may feel justified in having nukes in a hostile terrain; a feeling further amplified by the egregious policies of successive US administrations. When there was time to engage, or even congage (contain + engage), it preferred to concircle (contain + encircle) Tehran with sanctions. Instead of lending moral support to the nascent democratic aspirations of Iranian youths - which would have immensely benefited Washington - sanctions eventually brought about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the hardliner president who is saber-rattling the Middle East of today.

Time for regime change?

Unfortunately, the message is still not sinking in that Iran is not Cuba. The Bay of Pigs is not the Straits of Hormuz. There, on an island called Abu Musa, the Iranians have already deployed sophisticated anti-ship missiles and artillery shells, trained on a tiny gateway through which half of our global oil flows. In other words, the Iranians can turn this vital oil route into a fiery inferno and precipitate global economic pandemonium, should the US embark on a unilateral action.

The Iranians can achieve this in many ways, even if its nuke facilities are blasted to smithereens. Think of a few submerged oil tankers blocking oil traffic to the rest of the world? There will be no room for environmental cries here; they will drowned out by the shrills of the global economy, choked right at the straits.

Tehran may call this a "military blunder," which, incidentally is the title of a History Channel program on the controversial shooting down of an Iran Air Airbus A300 on July 3, 1988, by the USS Vincennes, exactly at the same spot. Close to 300 people died. If controversy still dogs that incident today, another mission creep in the middle east would flame justifications for any sort of reprisal.

Iran's military retaliation would only need to disrupt oil supply, not winning battles per se. It has other arsenals at its disposal to achieve this target. In this game of brinkmanship, tit for tat verbal provocations between Washington (and Tel Aviv) and Tehran is enough to rattle stock market nerves, and major industries are undoubtedly lobbying the White House right now to go easy with the rhetoric. Only in this era of Peak Oil can verbal threats be used so effectively as a weapon...

[complete article here]

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