Before North Korea can or will strike anywhere with a nuclear weapon China will march from their border all the way down to the DMZ and it will take about a week for this to happen, at most. No one is going to play with nukes that close to China and the Chinese allow it. It really is that simple. North Korea, for all their noise, realizes that extinction is a bad decision away. Worse case scenario for them is for everyone to just stop listening to their threats and let them rot in their own madness. They might be better off if China invades.
The United States, for all of its power, cannot stop China from going all the way to Wando if that’s what China really wants to do. We could stop them with nukes, but hey, is Korea really worth it? I’m more than willing to bet North Korea gets a visit from a diplomat from China who will tell them they just went onto the Endangered Species List and things will cool off a bit. Of course, if North Korea does attack someone with a nuke then China just might decide to take Taiwan and see which way the pressure really lies. But I really do not believe either country is interested in war because war is really expensive.
Over in the Middle East, Israel believes that if Iran gets a nuke then Tel Aviv will be a memory about ten minutes later. Israel may or may not have nukes and I’m betting they do. Having a nuke and using a nuke are two different animals and Israel doesn’t want to be on the wrong side of global public opinion. They do realize that using a nuke also means they are fair game if someone else gets one. How many nukes they have is an open question. Do they have enough of them to change the political geography of the Middle East is another.Will they use those weapons? That may be the question.
Iran isn’t likely to nuke anyone for the same reasons North Korea won’t. Using a nuke means that people in that area of the world with an interest of nukes not being used will likely do something about it. Russia isn’t at all interested in a nuke fest on their southern border region. Don’t forget those people have the ways and means to do a lot of military stuff and do it well and quickly and massively. But it is so expensive to throw a good war, you know.
Iran is betting America is played out for a while and I agree. We do not have the ways and means for an invasion because of the lack of political will in America for another war. Air strikes will have a limited affect but that is also something that Iran would like not to happen. Their transportation and military infrastructure could take a beating, and that too, is expensive.
What no one knows is how good the Iranian air defense might be in an actual war. These are not stupid people. They know what is going to happen if a war cranks up and they’ve had a long time to get ready for it. Without American help to suppress Iranian air defense Israel takes a huge risk in going it alone. They could very well take a beating militarily. And even with American help taking out the Iranian defense system, there is the very real danger that one strike, or even a series of strikes, might not accomplish anything more than driving up the price of oil to two hundred dollars a barrel and crippling the American economy. And the air strikes might do more harm than good if the Iranians have done well in hiding their facilities. We might face a more resolute and nuclear armed Iran in a couple of years. If we suffered any major military setbacks in the strike we might not have the political will to attack again. Iran may be betting heavily in this very hand of cards.
What Iran is most afraid of, secretly, is that America and Russia will form an Alliance and carve the Middle East up into fuel depots. While they have a military that is quite strong they cannot depend on any allies in the next war. Egypt, Syria and Iraq cannot put to field an army of consequence at this time, and may not for a while. If Iran starts a war they might find themselves standing toe to toe with much larger problems than they ever imagined. I doubt seriously that Russia and the Americans trust one another enough to cooperate in a war but if they ever do someone is going to cease to exist when those two countries are done.
America exports only three things consistently: Arms, Food and Entertainment. We’re not in the peace business and there is a lot of money to be made, for private companies, in a war. We discovered that during the Iraqi war. But we also export a lot of corn and wheat, both of which wind up in Russia and the Middle East. No one in the Middle East has enough arable land to feed itself and the idea of putting America out of the food business by jacking up oil prices to the point of collapse is not an idea that anyone is willing to entertain for every long. The Iranians may or may not have a solution to this problem, but nevertheless it is a problem.
The Iranians may indeed want war. After all, we were stupid enough to start one in Iraq for no other reason than greed. They may see this as an opportunity to take down the United States once and for all, no matter the cost to themselves. No American president can allow Israel to be attacked with a nuke without a harsh military reaction and right now that would be a disaster.
What the Iranians haven’t considered is that an American president, one who cannot run for reelection, might just pop a couple of Iranian cities with nuclear weapons if Iran nukes Israel. Israel would, for all practical purposes, cease to exist if they lost their capital, ( whereas the United States might be better of losing their own) and Iran wouldn’t fare much better after losing their capital and perhaps a major port.
There isn’t any way for this all to play out and everyone walk away happy, unless everyone walks away. Each time the drums of war began to play we seem to forget that the least war, no matter which war it might have been, lasted longer, was more costly, was more damaging, and had more consequences than we first supposed.
This one will be no different unless it is worse.