Last week the Middle East Policy Council held an interesting and important discussion of what to do about Iran. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to attend it, but the MEPC has helpfully posted the transcript of that event. Led by the astute Chas Freeman, a former American ambassador to Saudi Arabia, the discussion was a very thoughtful effort to analyze the consequences of an American and/or Israeli attack on Iran. If you have the time, read it.
An important aspect of the idea of war with Iran is how it would be viewed by the Arab Gulf states and Iraq. Freeman, who is well connected in the Arab Gulf, made this rather scary point, which I haven't heard anywhere else:
Because logistics require cooperation from countries in the region, they cannot avoid a measure of complicity with a U.S. operation against Iran, and the word in the region is that Iran has already told Qatar, for example, that if there is such an attack, the Qatari regime is toast.
Qatar, of course, is where the U.S. Central Command has its local headquarters.
Jean-Francois Seznec, a professor at the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University, goes on to suggest a point of possible conflict between Iran and Qatar involving huge gas fields. Qatar and Iran are two of the world's largest powers in natural gas. Says Seznec:
The Iranians are very worried about the enormous development on the Qatar North Dome Field. You know, it's the largest gas field in the world. Qataris are developing it like crazy right now. And the Iranians are upset by that because they own half of that field, and they feel that the Qataris are really stealing their gas at this point. And they've mentioned that, because they have not been able to develop that field for lack of money, mostly, and lack of technology from overseas.
Seznec suggests that oil would go to $300 a barrel if Iran is attacked, and gasoline to $10 a gallon here at home.
It's fairly obvious that [military] strikes won't solve the problem, will create additional problems, would lead to a wider threat against American and other interests, and would lead to a war with no obvious end. But aside from that, a military strike on Iran is a splendid idea. There is a chance in the next six months that we will find out just how splendid it is. For my part, I hope not.