Simplified: the case of war with Iran

The March 2013 issue of TIME magazine included an article titled ‘The Path To War’ by Massimo Calabresi. Calabresi reported details of the Obama administration’s discussion of an impending war with Iran. Conclusively, the article indicated that in all possibility the US would be drawn into war with Iran in an effort to prevent Tehran obtaining a nuclear weapon. This immediately made me question the potential consequences for Australia, and specifically, our National Security Strategy. As detailed in ‘Strong and Secure: a strategy for Australia’s National Security 2013’, the Australia-United States Alliance is marked as a pillar of our National Security [1]. Additionally, a key national security risk is the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. I can only conclude that due to these facets, if the US declared war on Iran— we possibly would too. This would be a preventative action in response to mitigating the risk of a nuclear-armed Iran.

However, additional pitfalls and dangers would obviously arise as a result of this action, and impact other stated security risks. Calabresi suggests that war would “set off a wave of terrorist attacks, spike in oil prices, and sour the US [and I presume other States’] relations with Muslims worldwide” [2]. This argument is an example of the role that the “presence of the future” plays in security analysis [3]. It is also an example of the further challenges that Australia’s national security faces. Simply, it is lose-lose for Australia. The threat of terrorism on our shores is not easing, and the risk of Iran is gaining momentum too.

The capability of Iran has been marked, and a risk has been identified out of the immense uncertainty of Iran’s proliferation process. Namely, “Iran’s nuclear intentions are not completely peaceful” [4]. Political judgments now need to be made “about whether it is possible to ‘live with’ (but monitor a given risk), or whether the risk is too great and requires some further form of intervention” [5].

So I must ask a question. How can we know what risk will affect our security to a larger extent considering neither has eventuated— Iran’s proliferation process? Or the consequential risks that Calabresi identifies? And so, what does this risk transfer mean for Australia’s security?

[1] Strong and Secure: A Strategy for Australia’s National Security, Australian Government, Canberra, 2010, p. vvii

[2] Calabresi, M. “The Path To War.” Time Magazine Mar. 2013: 24. Print.

[3] Phythian, M. ‘Policing Uncertainty: Intelligence, Security and Risk’, Intelligence and National Security, April 2012, Vol. 27, Issue 2, p. 190

[4] Eisenstadt, M. ‘Living with a Nuclear Iran?’, The International Institute for Strategic Studies, vol. 41, no. 3, 1999, p. 124

[5] Phythian, M. ‘Policing Uncertainty: Intelligence, Security and Risk’, Intelligence and National Security, April 2012, Vol. 27, Issue 2, p. 205

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