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Blockade Iran?

October 2, 2009

How do we deal once and for all with Iran’s continuing nuclear threat?  The image above is already out of date regarding the Iranian enrichment facilities that we know about, as it does not include Qom.

Some pundits, including Bill O’Reilly, have advocated a naval blockade of Iranian ports to stop the import of finished petroleum products on which the regime is dependent.  They see this strategy as the least bad choice in dealing with Iran’s march toward developing nuclear arms.   Iran has limited domestic oil refining capacity and imports 40% of its benzene.  Cutting off benzene and other key products, the argument goes, would cripple the Iranian economy.

The blockade advocates compare the action to President Kennedy’s decision to blockade Cuba, which ended the 1962 nuclear missile crisis precipitated by the Soviet Union’s installation of nuclear missiles on the Communist island.

However, there is a big difference.  Cuba is in our backyard and it is relatively easy to surround the small island with a naval blockade.   Iran will be playing in its own backyard.  At minimum, it will use its demonstrated missile capability to strike at our ships as well as at Israeli cities.   In order to protect our ships, we will have to divert scarce military resources including air protection  from other locations.  We will be, for all intents and purposes, engaged in a third major war in the Muslim world while we are still trying to figure out how to turn things around in one of them — defeating the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

In retaliation, Iran will also likely close the Strait of Hormuz, which  connects the Persian Gulf with the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea.  Hormuz, according to the U.S. government Energy Information Administration,  is the world’s most important oil chokepoint due to its daily oil flow, which is estimated at roughly 40 percent of all seaborne traded oil (or 20 percent of oil traded worldwide).

The result will be skyrocketing oil prices – perhaps to over $300 0r $4oo a barrel — that will deliver a crippling blow to the global  economy, including, of course, our own.  And who can predict what Russia will do if it feels threatened or wants to use the blockade as an excuse to cause trouble?  

Finally, the blockade is very likely to be counter-productive, much as a direct attack by Israel or by the U.S. on Iran’s known nuclear facilities would be.  Such military actions will not be definitive enough to end Iran’s nuclear threat, because its plants are most likely dispersed and well hidden throughout the country.   And such military actions will hand Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his mullah friends the perfect rallying cry that will unify the country against the West and the Zionists.  They will also use the blockade or attacks as an excuse to declare martial law and wipe out any remaining traces of dissent. 

Unfortunately, however, the course that President Obama has embarked on — more negotiations and possible sanctions down the road — is only giving Iran more time to advance its uranium enrichment and nuclear weaponization programs.   Given Russia and China’s enormous economic stake in Iran as a trading partner and as a source of oil, they will impede any efforts at effective UN sanctions.   So I certainly understand the call for more direct military action.  And if we do nothing, Israel will most likely go ahead with its own attacks on the facilities, setting off the chain reaction that I described above or worse.

There are obviously no easy alternatives.  Too much time has passed and Iran is too far along to be readily stopped.  On the other hand, a nuclear-armed Iranian regime under its present leadership is an unacceptable risk to peace and stability in the region.  And, because Iran will be able to pass on a nuclear device to its Islamic terrorist networks, a nuclear-armed Iranian regime under its present leadership is an unacceptable risk to international peace and security.

Therefore, the only realistic solution is to work much more actively with the opposition forces in Iran to change its regime from within.   Assuming the failure of the present negotiations, which is a given despite some phony gestures of conciliation at the October 1st negotiating session, we should announce that the United States will refuse to deal with Ahmadinejad or his government because it is illegitimate and that henceforth neither Ahmadinejad nor any member of his Cabinet will be provided visas to visit the United Nations or for any other reason.   If they try to enter the country, they will be subject to arrest.  We should ramp up economic sanctions to the maximum extent with our allies.  Indeed, France and the United Kingdom these days seem to be more willing to take strong action against Iran than Obama.

The next time there is a street protest, we should indicate our support for the protesters  in unambiguous terms.  And, most importantly, we should provide whatever technological, financial, logistical and other assistance is required by the internal opposition to mount effective defiance in the name of freedom against the regime.  Covert assistance from our elite Special Forces to insurgents who may know where some of the hidden nuclear facilities are and who can infiltrate and disrupt them should be part of this plan, if at all feasible.  

Getting the regime into friendlier hands as soon as possible is probably the best that we can hope for at this late stage without precipitating a major war and world economic catastrophe.

  1. Mark permalink
    October 2, 2009 10:36 am

    This is another situation for which I and many conservatives believe G.W. Bush deserves a large part of the blame. He should have bombed Iran’s nuclear facilities while he was in office, KNOWING that Obama would never authorize this. Norman Podhoretz and apparently Dick Cheney feel the same way. Things being what they are, however, we can’t cry over spilt milk. I disagree with Klein’s analysis. Bombing remains the only practical and effective option. I pray that Israel does this soon, as the rest of the world has demonstrated its impotence, led by Barack Obama.

    Soon the world will owe a great debt to Israel (God willing), which of course will never be acknowledged by most nations.

    • Joseph Klein permalink
      October 2, 2009 11:20 am

      Don’t get me wrong. I would love to see Israel take out Iran’s nuclear facilities but only if they are 99% sure they can get them all in the first wave of strikes. Israel would be rolling the dice with its very existence if Iran has anything left to use and I don’t see Obama rushing to Israel’s defense.

  2. jbtrevor permalink
    October 2, 2009 1:17 pm

    3 yrs 3 mos left of the Obama admin…
    That is a very long time

  3. David Holmes permalink
    October 3, 2009 2:03 am

    Sanctions against Iran have not worked. I’snt it about time we tried something else? China and Russia are not our allies against nut-cases like Ahmadinejad and other religious fanatics. They have constantly shown that they lack the will to stop Iran in its endeavour to obtain nuclear weapons. As long as Russia and China are not directly threatened by Iran and its future nuclear capabilities, then they will continue to pursue economic goals with this religious band of crazies – irrespective of the risk to Israel – the only democracy in the neighbourhood. So, forget about these two fence-sitters and pursue a course of action that puts a halt to Iran’s nuclear ambitions sooner rather than (too much) later. It won’t be long before Iran starts touting its nuke to Hizbollah and Hamas.
    Stand by Israel and take action now – bomb the holy sites (bound to hit the real nutters) and destroy their nuclear facilities with those big big bunker-busting bombs. Call on those Arab neighbours for their collective aid – money and military and make this a war of Arab versus Arab. Those Arab countries adjoining Iran can’t be allowed to benefit at the expense of our (the west’s) actions against Iran. They must be a part of any action, and of course they can be coerced to get involved, as their lifeline is through the straits of Hormuz.
    If they are reluctant to get involved then there is always the French and British who seem less afraid to take a firm stance than President Obama, the man who will be remembered for allowing Iran to get nuclear weapons. Why can’t he see that rationality and religion are not the same.
    Save Israel and send a firm message, in the form of 1000 kg bombs, entirely blockade the country and unite the western civilized world in to taking action NOW!

    • Joseph Klein permalink
      October 3, 2009 7:30 am


      As the saying goes, “When you strike at a king, you must kill him”.

      If we can be virtually certain that we know where every enrichment site is located and have the means to effectively strike them and wipe them out, then I am with you. Lets get it done. But I highly doubt that is the case. If I am right, then bombing or a blockade may buy us some limited time but at enormous cost as I described in my post. Perhaps with Special Forces operating covertly in Iran with opposition informants on the ground, we can locate enough of the facilities to deliver a fatal blow to Iran’s nuclear program. But we had better be sure.

  4. Kenneth Hall permalink
    October 4, 2009 8:25 pm

    You know if they want Nukes so bad I say we give em some! LOL! I’m sure we have a bunch of older ones laying around which are going to cost us a bundle to recycle! Why not just air mail them to Iran? LOL! With a note attached POSTAGE DUE!

    Seriously thought, The time for anything other than a major bombing raid to set them back a while has come and gone! It’s to late for regime change unless we could disable their programs covertly ASAP.

    The fact is they may already have nukes and are waiting to get a decent inventory before tipping their hand with a test!
    Or more frightening getting several in place around the world to create havoc or blackmail the west with after demonstrating their capability!

    The only thing left is for someone or better coalition to bomb the hell out of what we know of and send them messengers at the same time if they respond they will glow in the dark!

    If your going to play chicken be ready for a head on collision if you expect to make them swerve! It now or later and as with the USSR the only thing that will make any of them flinch is to know your willing t0 go all the way! That’s how Kennedy stopped the Russians in Cuba He brought us to the brink of world war! That was the only thing that made them believe we would not allow them to keep backing us into a corner!

    We have no credibility now and no one fears us thanks to those to short sighted to see their fear is insuring that we will be slaves or we will have WAR! It is only physicking our enemies up to be more aggressive and giving them propaganda tools to use on their minions! Making their followers believe the can win!

    The only thing left that can stop the spiral into Armageddon is a serious wake up call to the rest of the world!


  5. Phil permalink
    October 9, 2009 12:55 pm

    Cynics amongst us might suggest that current Nato wargames here off the west coast of Scotland involving the stopping;boarding and searching of British Merchant Vessels in British territorial waters by US warships!!!! as well as being very provocative is little more than a practise for an Iranian blockade.

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