A report prepared by the Joint Chiefs of Staff on June 30, 1947, stated: “A peace enforced through fear is a poor substitute for a peace maintained through international cooperation based upon agreement and understanding. But until such a peace is brought about, this nation can hope only that an effective deterrent to global war will be a universal fear of the atomic bomb as the ultimate horror in war.” We can see even at that time that nuclear weapons were seen as the ultimate deterrent to any nation’s aggression. If Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons, the United States would not have invaded the country in 2003. In his own words, Saddam Hussein stated that he allowed the world to believe he had WMD so he wouldn’t appear weak to Iran. He further stated, “By God, if I had such weapons, I would have used them in the fight against the US.”
In his recent summit address, President Obama stated that nuclear terrorism is “the single biggest threat to US security, both short-term, medium-term and long-term.” While the threat may be real, the reality of a terrorist organization gaining access to a nuclear weapon is improbable at best. To date, there are nine known countries that have nuclear arsenals, with the United States maintaining nuclear weapon share agreements with an additional five countries. Of these countries, only North Korea is openly hostile towards the United States and Pakistan is the only country where a change in regime could conceivably put its nuclear arsenal into the hands of anti-American Islamists. Neither country has let even one nuclear weapon out of its direct control. Thus, all eyes are now turning towards Iran.
As I stated previously , it became official US foreign policy in 1980 under President Carter to use military force if necessary to secure access to Middle East oil. With the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iran is the only country in the Middle East with proven oil reserves  that remains outside of US control or isn’t friendly to US oil interests. Were Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, it would gain the means to prevent any use of military force by the United States for any reason, much less to secure access its oil reserves. There is little doubt that Iran will turn its nuclear program into a nuclear weapon for this very reason. And, frankly, there is little that the Obama administration can do to stop it.
Iran has been under sanctions from the US for decades that have only fueled anti-American sentiment. The US forced Iran to accept additional International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) protocols for nuclear inspections and all IAEA inspections state that Iran MAY be looking to build a weapon. There is no evidence of such, only speculation. Given the recent history of epic failure in the US invasion of Iraq, where the justifications given for invading Iraq were stockpiles of WMD, links to terrorist organizations and the fear of Saddam Hussein putting WMD into the hands of terrorists, presenting the same argument against Iran has been met with skepticism. The fact that Russia and China have already engaged in joint military exercises since our invasion of Iraq should give the US government pause. The US can ill afford at this time to start a military conflict with Iran in which Russia and China have the capability of becoming involved.
Even if, or more likely when, Iran gains a nuclear weapon, there is little chance of it letting one slip into the hands of a terrorist organization. Terrorist organizations are renowned for being friendly one day and your enemy the next. The US government learned this lesson when it supported Osama Bin Laden in his opposition to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan only to see his organization turn on the US during the Gulf War in 1992. Furthermore, with so few countries having nuclear arsenals, it isn’t very hard to determine which country provided a terrorist organization with a nuclear weapon. If Pakistan, which has had nuclear weapons since the 1980’s, has kept nuclear weapons from Islamist terrorist groups, there is little doubt the Iranian government could do the same. The next concern, that terrorist groups will obtain weapons grade material and thus be able to build a nuclear bomb, is very much a concern. However, what is very unlikely is that Iran would be the source of the material. If we take as a given that Iran will try to build nuclear weapons, it will need all the material it has to build its own weapons.
The United States reached its peak oil production in the 1970’s. There are simply no large oil field reserves left in the US that are able to meet a fraction of our country’s need. The Guardian newspaper reported on April 11, 2010, “The US military has warned that surplus oil production capacity could disappear within two years and there could be serious shortages by 2015 with a significant economic and political impact.” What is even more troubling about this report is where it states: “The US military says its views cannot be taken as US government policy but admits they are meant to provide the Joint Forces with “an intellectual foundation upon which we will construct the concept to guide our future force developments.” This report only further bolsters the fact that US military force deployment and action are being specifically driven by US oil concerns.
There is no doubt that in order for the United States to withstand the inevitable loss of oil as its primary source for energy it must look to alternate energy models. The problem with this assessment isn’t a matter of what energy model, but, how long it will take the United States to bring online a viable alternative that can fully sustain the nation needs. Already electric cars are being looked at as an alternative, but, it will take another decade or more of research before they become a sustainable means of transportation. The public has to have the monetary ability to purchase such vehicles, something that with high unemployment and wages stagnant, there is little chance of average people being able to afford them. The next primary concern is the replacement of government vehicles: police cars, school buses, mass transit buses, ambulances, fire department trucks, etc. You simply cannot replace these vehicles en masse with the ability to keep them running 24/7 in some cases in a few years. This will take decades. In the meantime, securing access to as much oil as possible will be the primary objective of the US government.
If indeed, as the US military states, the supply of oil could start to dwindle as rapidly as it claims, actions taken by the Bush administration come clearly into focus: the stocking of the administration with ties to oil companies, Dick Cheney’s secret energy meetings in 2000, the attempted coup of Hugo Chavez in 2002, the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the torture of detainees both prior to the invasion of Iraq and afterwards that sought to provide statements justifying the claim that Iraq had ties to al-Qaeda, and the constant search for a casus belli to strike Iran. The question has to become at this point just how much time do we really have? The answer to that question couldn’t have come from a more unlikely source: Dick Cheney. In his interview with the Washington Times, Cheney claimed that George W. Bush’s popularity and place in history would increase in the next 20 to 30 years. While this seemed like an arbitrary number at first, there is data from the International Energy Agency (IEA) to support the 20 to 30 years claim made by Cheney. The graph cited in this article by the IEA shows a 43 percent decline in oil production worldwide by 2028.
It is this decline in oil production that could bring Russia and China into any attack on Iran by the US military. China increased its demand for oil by 28 percent in the past year alone. China is the third-largest importer of oil and Iran is a major supplier of China’s oil needs. While Russia only uses 19 percent of its oil production domestically, it is a major exporter of oil to Europe and Asia. Any attack on Iran that threatens its oil export capability will directly affect China. It is China that has consistently blocked action against Iran in the United Nations and called for talks between the US and Iran regarding its nuclear program. Were China to enter a conflict between Iran and the US, there is little doubt that Russia would ally itself with China.
Simply changing regimes in Iran will not change the situation as it did in 1953, as the ruling Mullahs of Iran are the real power in the country and they seem to agree with Iran gaining nuclear technology. This means that any attack on Iran, if an operation is to be conducted, must be done before it acquires a nuclear weapon. The National Intelligence Estimate dated November 2007 states that Iran may acquire a nuclear weapon by 2015. With the continued Republican calls for attacking Iran militarily, there is no doubt that a Republican president being elected in 2012 would initiate such an attack or condone Israel performing the attack as it has now gained such capability.
The primary fear of the US government in Iran gaining nuclear weapons is not that Iran would use them against Israel, but that the Iranian regime would use them to defend itself against a US invasion just as Saddam Hussein would have done if he had been in possession of such weapons. Once one nuclear weapon is detonated in the region by Iran, the concern becomes one of how the US will retaliate. If the US uses nuclear weapons to retaliate, it will only further contaminate Iran. This means that areas where oil companies would drill for reserves become contaminated. As the fallout spreads beyond the borders of Iran to other nations, world reaction will be swift and decidedly anti-American, or anti-Israel, for initiating the attack on Iran.
Statements just released by Adm. Mike Mullen support this analysis: “It has been worked and it continues to be worked,” Mullen added. “If there was an easy answer, we would’ve picked it off the shelf.” There isn’t an easy answer for the United States regarding Iran because it is a no-win scenario.
Michael Gass is a former Explosive Ordnance Disposal Specialist and veteran of the Gulf War during operations in Iraq in 1991. He performed numerous VIP protections missions for the US State Department to include presidential protection missions for Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. He graduated from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy with honors in 1996 and spent six years in law enforcement. He returned to Iraq in 2006 as a US contractor doing ordnance disposal.