January 04, 2006

Iran: Gaming the Odds of a Looming Confrontation

Well, it's the Guardian so salt and grain and all, but this is yet another in a flurry of Iran-related nuke stories worth taking a gander at:

The Iranian government has been successfully scouring Europe for the sophisticated equipment needed to develop a nuclear bomb, according to the latest western intelligence assessment of the country's weapons programmes.

Scientists in Tehran are also shopping for parts for a ballistic missile capable of reaching Europe, with "import requests and acquisitions ... registered almost daily", the report seen by the Guardian concludes.

The warning came as Iran raised the stakes in its dispute with the United States and the European Union yesterday by notifying the International Atomic Energy Authority that it intended to resume nuclear fuel research next week. Tehran has refused to rule out a return to attempts at uranium enrichment, the key to the development of a nuclear weapon.

I was talking to a hedge fund manager today who had research crossing his desk guess-timating an approx 25% chance of a military strike on Iran in '06. I still think it's lower, but others, er, don't....

What do commenters think...let's query, say, the probability of a military strike on Iran, whether by the U.S. or Israel, between now and Q1 2007. I'm gonna say 10-15%, but welcome other views...

Posted by Gregory at January 4, 2006 04:34 AM | TrackBack (2)
Comments

I really don't know enough here to make any predictions, but I'd like to note that over at Tradesports.com, they have futures markets/betting pools (depending on how you look at it) for these kinds of things. They put the odds of a US or Israeli airstrike against Iran at about 15% by June of 2006, and at about 30% by December of 2006. I've come to like watching the percentages on public issues there, the markets tend to be pretty good about reflecting a kind of consensus view.

Posted by: Dan Larsen at January 4, 2006 04:57 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Interesting situation.

The US sells military technology to Israel. Israel sells China the same advanced military technology and then China sells the technology to Iran - and I'm talking about the kind of know-how you need to get a missile to fly - and fly accurately - from point A to point B.

Then the US press deflects by echoing the party line that Iran is obtaining dangerous weapons capability from those crumby gay Europeans. (in this way the stage is set for the US populace to show antagonism toward the UN when it doesn't cooperate with whatever we have planned for Iran (and elsewhere). Also, the POTUS doesn't have to cope with China; a power that he cannot simply bully.

Attacking Iran will have to done cautiously so as not to step on China's toes. If China thinks their oil contracts are threatened by our move, there could be trouble.

Posted by: machine gun at January 4, 2006 12:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Interesting situation.

The US sells military technology to Israel. Israel sells China the same advanced military technology and then China sells the technology to Iran - and I'm talking about the kind of know-how you need to get a missile to fly - and fly accurately - from point A to point B.

Then the US press deflects by echoing the party line that Iran is obtaining dangerous weapons capability from those crumby gay Europeans. (in this way the stage is set for the US populace to show antagonism toward the UN when it doesn't cooperate with whatever we have planned for Iran (and elsewhere). Also, the POTUS doesn't have to cope with China; a power that he cannot simply bully.

Attacking Iran will have to done cautiously so as not to step on China's toes. If China thinks their oil contracts are threatened by our move, there could be trouble.

The whole situation is very ugly for all parties.

I think Iran will assassinate its own reckless loud mouthed leader as an overture of peace.

I put the probability of an attack at 5%.

Posted by: machine gun at January 4, 2006 12:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I know nothing about Iran's WMD capabilities, and I hope the single-digit probabilities of a strike are correct. But I'll add a prediction: if we don't strike before Nov. 10, 2006, we won't strike at all.

Posted by: brent at January 4, 2006 03:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

We must not forget that Euro duplicity, craven greed and self interest is not limited to playing off US interests against Muslim oil producers. If those macro degadent Euro fairies see an opportunity to gain US dollars by now 'discretely' selling out Iran they will do it. Quite possibly they already have.

Posted by: Ronald Proby at January 4, 2006 04:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Nuke Iran? Lebanon? Syria - updated 1/3/06.

Posted by: Solomon2 at January 4, 2006 05:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

StratFor thinks that Iran is mouthing off because playing the madman has worked so well for North Korea, and because Iran has lost its bid for control of Iraqi politics though the Iraqi Shi'a. If history is any guide, US and Europe will buckle under and give Iran what it wants rather than deal with the threat of nuclear weapons there. Which, of course, will give Iran that much more time to develop these weapons. Probability of strike in the next 12 months: 1%.

Posted by: djg at January 4, 2006 08:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

With the health situation of Sharon and the possibility (it's possible) of Netanyahu (sp?) assuming Prime Ministership, do the chances of military strikes on Iran increase? what about targeted killings of Iranian nuclear scientists?

Posted by: William at January 5, 2006 01:02 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I say there is an 80% likelihood of a strike on Iran in 2006...

and that there is a 70% chance of a strike on Iran in late October...right before the 2006 elections, and after the president demands a vote on congressional authorization of a strike on Iran after an eight month campaign designed to convince the American people that Iran's nuclear program represents an imminent threat (without ever saying the word "imminent", of course.)

The Democrats will cave, and allow the authorization to be passed, and all hell will break loose in Iraq but not soon enough to prevent the GOP from retaining control of congress.

History does repeat itself....I'm just waiting for it to stop repeating itself as tragedy....where's the farce?

Posted by: lukasiak at January 5, 2006 04:22 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'd rate the likelihood of a US attack at 1-2%. Prior to the elections it's 1% - $5-6 at the pump prices do not a happy electorate make - and the possibility doubles after the mid-terms.

The continued chaos in Iraq, and the (unspoken) dependence on Iranian good offices to exit with dignity will also act as a powerful brake on any further military escapades. Perhaps someone in the Bush administration will eventually realise that 'all options are on the table' also includes talking.

Any of you thinking that the likelihood is over 50% should be piling into oil futures/shorting the DJIA with as much credit as you can muster.

Posted by: dan at January 5, 2006 04:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

None of us has the data to estimate the odds -- unless somebody has inside info that they mustn't reveal.

The choice will be made by people who are not rational. How do you predict how a crazy person will behave? Which way will a cat jump?

Don't short the DJIA unless you have very deep pockets. Short run fluctuations are subject to a lot of manipulation, and you might have to withstand repeated margin calls before you get the chance to cash in.

Besides, if you believe it will come to $6 gas prices, what good is it to double your money on the stock market? You'd do better to convert your dollars into euros before it happens. You double your money. WalMart doubles its prices. For all the risk you come out worse than even....

Posted by: J Thomas at January 6, 2006 12:43 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

EU3 &/or IAEA refers Iran to UNSC, sanctions agreed by China:
probability of US strikes within 12 months nil (of Israeli strikes, below 10%);
probability of US (or Israeli) strikes increases to 100% if Iran fails to cave within 12 to 18 months of sanctions.

Iran not referred to UNSC or sactions vetoed:
probability of strikes 50% by end 2006, 75% by mid 2007, 100% by mid 2008.

Posted by: JSF at January 11, 2006 01:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I doubt very much that we'll strike Iran to destroy their ability to make atomic bombs: It's not a question of whether such a strike is the only saving solution or a thoroughly bad idea--the fact is that the only nation that could muster the political will to do anything about it is Israel, simply because they'd probably be the top target of a nuclear Iran.

And even if Israel were to summon up the will to strike (they've certainly got the ability!), they'd likely seek some sort of U.S. green light to proceed--whether official/explicit or inferred and unofficial.

Personally I don't think hitting Iran would be worth it--if they're determined to spend the billions it will take to build a bomb, instead of building schools and infrastructure, I'm for letting them do so. History shows that simply having nukes doesn't mean a nation will use 'em. In fact, quite the opposite: nations seem gradually to come to the realization that the damn things are a huge waste of money and effort.

Finally, as other commenters have noted, the top leadership throughout the Islamic world encourages their followers to commit suicide to advance the cause, but the top dogs seem to steadfastly avoid that route themselves. (Surprise, surprise.) But when one throws nukes at a nuke-equipped opponent, it's hard to guarantee you'll personally be safe from the inevitable counterstrike.

So...let's all relax and watch this one unfold. No need to head for the bunkers quite yet!

Posted by: sf at January 17, 2006 08:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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