Now that the entire leadership of the country, in and out of uniform, has spoken about "the point of no return" in the development of Iran's nuclear arsenal, we shouldn't be surprised if this "point" were to be assigned a definite and precise date - March 28, 2006. It is important therefore to clarify that on the axis of time, there is no point of no return, and one can backtrack from any point; it all comes down to the threats and enticements directed at Iran, and their seriousness, as well as cost-and-benefit considerations.
Once, 20 years ago, a heated discussion developed on this page about the Jewish settlements in the territories - about whether they are an irreversible, irrevocable, fait accompli or not. And lo and behold, along came the disengagement from the Gaza Strip and the razing of Gush Katif and proved that the settlement process is indeed reversible. If the leadership either in Jerusalem or Tehran were to recognize a need, it, too, would know how to reverse the irreversible, despite all the difficulties.
If the international community really wanted to stop the nuclearization of Iran, it could do so without firing a single shot or launching a single cruise missile. Apparently, however, it doesn't really want to, because doing so involves a price: For a certain period of time, oil prices may soar, and even George W. Bush and Dick (Darkman) Cheney prefer to risk a bomb in the future to somewhat more expensive oil in the present. This the way they are running things here.
Oil makes people crazy, especially if they are world leaders. Oil is what drove the president and the vice president to the lost-cause war in Iraq, and oil is what is now preventing them from removing the bomb from the stalls of the Persian market.
International sanctions are a very effective tool when dealing with "insane countries," and particularly their rulers who pretend to be insane. They proved their effectiveness in Libya, for example, and in Iraq, too; but in Iraq, they did want to give them the second chance; Bush was itching to declare his crusade. Is it not odd that until now, Iran hasn't been slapped with a single sanction to warn it of what may come? Most certainly odd, and even very much so.
And when sanctions are imposed, they are imposed gradually. Example: Iran is indeed one of the world's largest producers of oil, but it is also a large consumer of oil derivatives, which it does not produce itself. One can only imagine what would happen in Iran if in one fell swoop, it was cut off from the derivatives pipeline - the sun in Tehran and the moon in the Valley of Isfahan would stand still.
Iran is also a huge importer of spare vehicle parts. Traffic in Iran could be brought to a standstill within a month: No coming and no going, no producing and no importing - absolute paralysis. Iranian officials and business executives travel all over the world - negotiating, buying and selling. And what's wrong with sending them packing? The insurrection from within would only intensify, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his ayotollahs would lose interest in going crazy.
And if all this comes to naught, and the Iranians don't take the hint, the harshest sanction of all will come - an embargo on their oil; and the world won't fall apart, and will even hold up well with a slight effort.
All in all, Iran produces a total of 4 million barrels of oil a day (and commands only about 0.5 percent of natural gas production) - a lot, yes, but not critical. We are talking about 5 percent of the total world production. For the sake of comparison, Saudi Arabia produces about 9 million barrels, more than twice as much as its terrible neighbor, Russia about 8.4 million, and the United States about 7.8 million; in the North Sea, Norway and England produce more oil than Iran - about 5 million barrels a day.
Does anyone want to tell us that without the 5 percent from the normal-crazies in Tehran, it will be impossible to survive? With concerted international cooperation, can the void not be filled? If the international community were to prepare in an organized and orderly way for an embargo, and Iran were to be convinced that this time, it means business, the threat alone would almost certainly do the job, and the uranium-enrichment centrifuges would be thrown out with the trash.
But Iran knows that America is a tiger who loses its sense of direction, and responsibility, with the scent of oil under its nose. And so what if oil were to cost a little more? After all, a nuclear-armed Iran will in any case be able to play with prices just as it pleases; and then it will be so much more difficult to bring it back from the point of no return.
Woe to a world with Bush as its leader - a tiger that can attack with exposed teeth, but doesn't know how to deal with gritted teeth.
More than 20 years ago, when Yaakov Meridor articulated his "energy invention" - a single light bulb to illuminate all of Ramat Gan - he promised that henceforth, the Arab rulers would be able to drink their oil; no one would want it any longer. Nevertheless, there is something serious about Meridor's funny invention: In order to save the world and the region from Iranian weapons of mass destruction, the ayotollahs must be made to drink their own sea of oil.
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