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Yes, Iran Can Be Stopped

The Iranian regime can't live without its oil money.

10:15 AM, Feb 1, 2007 • By DANIEL DORON
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Then there is the possibility of sanctions aimed directly at Iran's oil export industry. Both proponents and opponents of sanctions tend to warn how difficult and complicated a successful oil embargo would prove, since it would be resisted by some shippers, notably by the two nations that constantly strive to undermine Western interests, Russia and China.

But an embargo need not be perfect to achieve its goals, since it is sufficient to reduce Iran's oil income markedly, not cut it off entirely. This could be accomplished by blockading the few major Iranian loading facilities--a much simpler task than blocking ships on the high sea.

IF MORE STRINGENT economic sanctions fail to deter Iran's nuclear ambitions, one can always consider military steps, but more graduated and finely honed than are usually suggested. Opponents of military pressure on Iran claim that it would be futile because no military measures could give us confidence of successfully neutralizing the entire Iranian nuclear undertaking. Much of it, they explain, is buried underground and may be so thoroughly protected as to escape damage even from a nuclear strike.

But it is not really necessary to destroy the Iranian program down to the last centrifuge in order to effectively stop it. If serious damage can be inflicted on the electrical grid and on fuel depots and transmission facilities, such damage could effectively stop nuclear production. Even where independent electrical generation facilities are housed in underground silos, their fuel supply will eventually dry up. More important, plunging Teheran into darkness in a way that will not only cripple the government and its command and control centers but will make civilian life unbearable may be more than enough to return the Iranian leadership to its senses.

Iran seeks a nuclear capability for more reasons than fulfilling its dream of destroying Israel (they know Israel can retaliate, so even if they fervently wanted to destroy it, they might just continue to arm Arab terrorist proxies and have them bear the consequences, as they have done with Hezbollah). Iran needs an atomic weapon to one day take control of the flow and the price of oil, a strategic goal it has pursued since the days of the shah. Once it is in possession of an atomic weapon, it could control the Straits of Hormuz with impunity and dictate a constant, if gradual rise in the price of oil. No one will risk an atomic confrontation, let alone the threat of the Saudi oil fields being incinerated, to prevent a gradual rise in the price of oil.

The Iranians could then secure all the income they need to preserve--and even spread--their revolution. See what Arab petrodollars have done to the immune system of Europe, how they incapacitated it and made it impotent in dealing with growing Islamic radicalism in its midst. An Iranian-induced transfer of wealth caused by a steep rise in the price of oil will dwarf the already dramatic impact that Arab petrodollars have had on European politics and culture.

Pushing the hated West into economic decline will make it so weak politically and militarily that it will be in no position to resist when the time is ripe for the Iranian takeover of Saudi Arabia, its oil fields, and no less importantly in Tehran's eyes, Islam's holiest places. Shiite control of these Holy Places and of the Muslim jihad will finally bring the hated Sunnis, and especially the most hated Wahhabis, under Shiite domination, and fulfill another dream and strategic goal of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Shiite jihad will triumph "peacefully."

This is the strategic calculus we must weigh when assessing the risks and benefits of taking timely action to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear capability.

Daniel Doron is president of the Israel Center for Social and Economic Progress, an independent pro-market policy think tank.