In 1976 an investment banker turned adventure novelist, Paul Erdman, penned a best-selling thriller, The Crash of ’79. Center to the plot was the Shah of Iran making a grab for the oilfields of the Arab Middle East, with a well-armed military, thanks to rising oil prices. Of course, barely 24 months later the Shah was ousted by radical Islamists, who subsequently bled the country white in a bloody and futile eight-year war with Iraq. Oil prices crashed after Ronald Reagan took office, and all thoughts of an Iranian version of a Nazi blitzkrieg disappeared.
Well, if Erdman were still alive (he died in 2007), he could write a very plausible updated version of his novel, with—very frighteningly—the all too likely possibility that this time fiction would turn into fact.
Iran doesn’t possess a passel of Panzer divisions and have a murderous Luftwaffe at its disposal. But it now has the means to make a play for control of the immense oilfields of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and, all too obviously, Iraq, where its proxy militias are gaining strength. Militias under Iranian control can achieve Teheran’s imperial goals almost as well as WWII-style armed forces.
In the updated Erdman novel a prominent role would go to Russia’s strongman,Vladimir Putin, whose economy has been devastated by sanctions and low oil prices. Putin would ally himself closely with the murderous mullahs of Teheran, since both have a desperate desire for more expensive petroleum.
Oh, wait. In the real world didn’t Putin announce that even though sanctions against Iran are still in force Russia would sell the blood-soaked clerics a very sophisticated air-defense missile system, thereby making an Israeli strike against Iran’s burgeoning nuclear weapons program even more problematical?
Look at the map of Saudi Arabia, keeping in mind that the majority of Muslims there are Sunni and the minority, Shiite. To the south is Yemen. Readers will remember Yemen as the country that President Obama proclaimed a success story against terrorist forces not so many months ago. Oops! Pro-Iranian terrorist militias are now ascendent in Yeman, with ISIS-like forces also enjoying a strong presence there. The freaked-out Saudis are conducting air strikes in Yemen to try to stem this adverse tide.
To the Saudi north lies Iraq, where Iran is exercising more and more control. Adding to Saudi anxieties is the fact that most of its oil assets are in an area of the kingdom in which Shiites are the distinct majority. Iran’s Shiite mullahs figure this is territory ripe for Iranian suzerainty and feel they have nothing to fear from Saudi ground forces.
It doesn’t take a great military theorist to see that Iran is applying a pincer movement against Saudi Arabia. While the world focuses on U.S./Iran nuclear negotiations, the mullahs–and Putin–have their eyes on more immediate and immensely more juicy prey. They believe, despite the deployment of U.S. Navy vessels leading Iran to turn back an Iranian naval convoy last week, that Obama will do nothing effective.
Which leads to the question: What will Israel be forced to do to secure itself–and the civilized world?