Historian Niall Ferguson makes the case for military action against Iran in the latest issue of Newsweek where he writes that all the arguments against airstrikes are flawed.
The American defense secretary, Leon Panetta, hinted last week that Israel may attack Iran’s nuclear sites before June of this year. Western countries, including Israel, believe that Iran’s uranium enrichment program is designed to build a nuclear bomb. Tehran insists that its aims are peaceful.
If attacked, Iran is likely to retaliate against the Jewish state through its proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon and it has threatened to shut access to the narrow Strait of Hormuz which would put roughly 40 percent of the world’s seaborn oil transports at risk. Ferguson doesn’t deem it likely that, given this scenario, President Barack Obama will stand on the sidelines and let Israel take the heat.
Moreover, it’s not an argument against airstrikes, he said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe Monday. “The thought of Iran lashing out through its satellites, its supporters in countries like Lebanon or Iraq, is just a reminder of what exactly Iran is, which is a major sponsor of terrorism in the region. We should not be intimidated by threats like that.”
He also rejected the notion that the entire Middle East will erupt in flames if there is a military intervention. Although “there might be some crocodile tears shed,” he said, “in reality, not many people in the non-Shiite world give a hoot about Iran and indeed, the Saudi,” he added, “have been encouraging the Israelis to take action. The last thing the Saudis want is a nuclear armed Iran.”
The two countries have been engaged in a struggle for regional hegemony for many decades, a conflict that deepened in October of last year when American authorities revealed that the Iranians had plotted to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States on their soil.
Ferguson admitted that the price of oil will probably go up if there’s turmoil in the Gulf but the Saudi oil minister promised last month to lift production by up to two million barrels per day “almost immediately” if there is a reduced Iranian supply. So, “I don’t think this is the kind of economic deathblow that some people say.”
The biggest threat to the Middle East is not the risk of a brief Israeli war against Iran, writes Ferguson. “It is the risk that Western wishful nonthinking allows the mullahs of Tehran to get their hands on nuclear weapons.”
Because I am in no doubt that they would take full advantage of such a lethal lever. We would have acquiesced in the creation of an empire of extortion.
He told Morning Joe that the “worst case” scenario has the United States sitting on their hands and Israel fails. “Then we are faced no only with the prospect of a nuclear armed Iran which could be as soon as next year; we also see our principal ally in the region humiliated.”