News stories just out report that the Bush administration is planning to designate Iran’s entire Revolutionary Guard Corps a "specially designated global terrorist" in order to tighten sanctions on that country. This follows a many-months-long drumbeat of U.S. claims against Iran — for arming not just Shiite militias (and Sunni insurgents) with the most sophisticated roadside bombs to attack American troops, but the Taliban as well (an especially unlikely charge). It also follows a growing eagerness in Congress for passage of the Iran Counter-Proliferation Act; reports of rising administration frustration over the UN Security Council’s unwillingness to pass a third round of sanctions against Iran; a flurry of insider leaks that the Cheney wing of the administration is again pushing for military action against the Iranians and that the Vice President himself has urged the launching of "airstrikes at suspected training camps in Iran run by the Quds force, a special unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps"; reports that neocon think-tanks and pundits are joining the attack-Iran fray; constant claims from the President’s commanders and diplomats that the hand of Iran is behind any administration misstep in the Middle East. In this context, it’s worth remembering that the President has long claimed he would not leave office with the Iranian nuclear situation unsettled.
A recent piece by energy expert Michael Klare, "Entering the Tough Oil Era," at Tomdispatch.com offers perhaps the crucial context within which to consider Cheney’s urge to launch an air assault on Iran. If we are, as Klare writes, leaving the realms of "easy oil" extracted from the most accessible places in the least unstable and least troubled of countries, and entering a new era of "oil that’s buried far offshore or deep underground; oil scattered in small, hard-to-find reservoirs; oil that must be obtained from unfriendly, politically dangerous, or hazardous places," if global oil supplies are already under intense pressure and oil prices ready to leap on any hint of possible oil disaster anywhere on the planet, then imagine what a major air assault on Iran before January 2009 might mean for the global economy.
Actually, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates helped us imagine just this at his confirmation hearings back in December 2006 when asked about the effects of such an attack: "It’s always awkward to talk about hypotheticals in this case. But I think that while Iran cannot attack us directly militarily, I think that their capacity to potentially close off the Persian Gulf to all exports of oil, their potential to unleash a significant wave of terror both in the — well, in the Middle East and in Europe and even here in this country is very real."
Such an attack would, of course, be a straightforward act of global economic madness; but, given the cast of characters–a classic neocon quip of the pre-Iraq invasion period was ""Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran…"–that hardly takes the possibility off the hypothetical "table" where all "options" so obdurately remain. Think global meltdown after any administration air assault on Iran and you’re likely to be in the economic ballpark. Then buckle your seatbelt. We’re entering a hair-raising age.