What Happens If The US/Israel Attack Iran?

It might happen this June or later, reports RT citing Israeli media. Obama and Netanyahu are at least discussing the prospect.

In previous years I was sure that it would happen eventually, probably before year end 2012. That is because that was the most convenient window between the fielding of the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (early 2012) and the completion of most of Iranian hardening efforts (about now). But this hasn’t happened yet, so I think the chances are diminishing fast that it ever will – because the returns to it (in terms of significantly setting back the Iranian nuclear program) are also diminishing fast in tandem.

FWIW, the gamblers who put their money where their mouths are think there is a 10% chance it will happen before June 2012, and a 25% chance it will happen before the end of this year. Those are not odds I would take, however.

If it does happen, however… I think the effects will be rather muted. Iran probably doesn’t have the capability to block the Straits of Hormuz for any significant amount of time and it will probably refrain from even trying (because then the US will have to intervene in a big way). In a just world, types like the BRICS bloc would bank together to punish the US/Israel for acting like rogue states, but I am almost certain that will not happen either. And not because they particularly need trade with the US (even in China’s case – see Myth 3). But because they don’t have any particularly interest in Iran becoming too big for its boots.

Oh they’ll huff and puff alright. But Iran really isn’t a reliable partner to anyone, including to ostensible-allies-but-not-really-or-at-all-actually like Russia. And no nuclear power has an interest in other countries obtaining the capability, because even if their relations aren’t hostile, it still serves to diminish their nuclear power in relative terms. After all having an American Airlines at a poker table doesn’t do you much good if all the others have it too. Furthermore, a nuclear armed Iran would be geopolitically much stronger. Russia doesn’t want that because it will then be less dependent on it. Ideally, Russia wants an Iran that is quite hostile to the West, but not independently strong. The same goes for China. Furthermore, if Russia and China express too much support for Iran, the Iranians may be emboldened to try and close the Strait of Hormuz after all as a fuck-you to the West, delusionally counting on more than rhetorical support from China and Russia. As China and Russia definitely won’t intervene in that one, what will happen in the end is Iran’s total military nullification and perhaps the installation of a pro-Western puppet in Tehran. And that isn’t in their interests at all.

So there will not be any significant reaction from China or Russia to an imperialist attack on Iran.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. Won’t the sequestration diminish chances of war, considering it will distract us from foreign policy? Any attack by the US requires $$$$, and that will all be added onto the existing total.

    • There is always extra money for ‘overseas contingency operations’ as Obama calls it. Neither side of the duopoly would strenuously object to it because of the strengh of the Israeli lobby in the US. So it is not a partisan budget issue. When you are $16 trillion in debt, what is a little more?

  2. “But Iran really isn’t a reliable partner to anyone, including to ostensible-allies-but-not-really-or-at-all-actually like Russia.”
    I agree with most of what you wrote but not this. I have seen no evidence that Iran is any less reliable a strategic partner than any other country, and more reliable and predicatble than most Western countries. Your example – I don’t think it all onerous or unusual to ask visitors to a country to fulfill that countries laws and social norms – and those workers are in effect employees of the Iranian government.
    I think that Iran is a potential vital partner for Russian and Eurasian interests – and that includes China for whom Iran is even more important (energy supplies) – in denying the US ‘access’ to mainland Asia and control over any more vital energy routes. Russia has no core interests threatened by Iranian interests – other than the possible peripheral issue of Azerbaijan – where for now the main concern for both is Azerbaijan falling under Western vassalage.
    I believe that eventually we will and must see a strengthened Sino-Russian-Iranian axis/strategic partners as the core of Eurasian/Asian regional hegemony (focused on denying access to the West and managing tensions, like the SCO). This is just a variation on Primakov’s Russian-Chinese-Indian triangle, with the replacement of India with Iran because of India’s geopolitical unreliability.

  3. I think the problem is that no one knows how Iran would react. Closing the straights of hormuz is one option but so is kicking off a bunch of wars around the persian gulf (the local populations are impoverished shia with ruling militant sunni kings) and at the far extreme the possible attack on a US/israel nuclear facility (this is the middle east, pioneers of eye for eye justice; There is a reason Israel never pursued nuclear power and is now dismantling dimona ).

    But if you view it from the US position you can go down three routes

    1. hit them in a way in which you do them no damage, that way you can be sure that there will be almost no retaliation but they will promptly declare that having been attacked by a nuclear armed superpower that they need nuclear weapons to defend themselves.
    2. Hit them sufficiently hard to do damage to there nuclear facilities but leave them in no doubt that this is not going to be regime change. There will be a measured response but who knows what? and ultimately they will rebuild all there facilities in double quick time and again they will justifiably state they need nuclear weapons for defence.
    3. Go all in regime change, that will stop the nuclear weapon program, but there is no reason for the Iranians to stay their hand (bye bye oil from the persian gulf for a year +, and who knows what they could do in pakistan) chemical weapon attacks on israel, and sabotaged electrical, gas, sewer, telecommunication, etc. networks and of course possible attacks on nuclear plants I wouldn’t want to be within 100 miles of any. bye bye to the world economy.

    1 is a pointless own goal, 3 is basically an absolute no no, and 2 is a massively unknown, you don’t know exactly what you are hitting and you have no idea what their response will be and it has the potential to cascade into 3 and all for a 5-10 year delay at best.

    There is of course 4 do absolutely nothing which given the above choices is the only sensible route to take.

    • Why would they want nukes? They are worthless without ICBMs and Iran still doesn’t has good enough rockets for that, yet.

      1. Sometimes doing as if nothing happen is the smarter option. Also a limited oil export stop will hit the American economy hard

      2. Their objective is breakout, not nukes. Hiding none spinning facilities is easy in a mountainous country like Iran.

      3. A change in regime doesn’t matter. Iran wanted nukes under the shah. Every country of that size like Italy, South Korea, Brazil etc have a nuclear “power” program

      ps. This assume that Iran is the big problem. It isn’t. Brazil/Argentina alliance on the other hand wants nukes and can use the breaking of the treaty as an excuse.

      • South Korea has made public rumblings about its own nuclear deterrent. Japan can’t be too far behind should the U.S. continue to weaken. This may be the actual best arguments the old farts in the dying GOP still have for ‘peace through strength’ but the simple arithmetic of U.S. assets to liabilities works against them, even with a real shale oil and gas boom (and the shale fracked wells are depleted faster, though not as fast as the Peak Oil crowd claims — in the end both the wild optimists who says the USA will restore the dollar with crude and the ultra pessimists like Engdahl who claim fracking is a hoax will be disappointed).

        But calling Sen. Rand Paul an isolationist is just a knee jerk exercise and based on little more than his father’s name. He did after all endorse more sanctions on Iran which did not endear him to his father’s core of supporters but the broader tea party is largely indifferent to that.