America’s Muslim allies would love to see Iran bombed. Saudi Arabians fear nuclear Iran not because it would attack the Saudis—Iran has never attacked anyone in modern history—but because its growing stature would stir up the Saudi Shia population, which dwells in the oil field region. Saudi Sunni Wahhabites stole oil from  Saudi Arabia’s Shia citizens, and might be forced to give back the hoard if Iran goes nuclear. Is that good or bad news for international oil interests? Probably good, because Saudi oil production is state-owned and foreign corporations there receive moderate service contracts but not windfall concessions. If, under Iranian influence, Saudi Shia pockets become semi-independent, they would grant concessions to international oil corporations to make foreign governments accede to their autonomy. This is similar to Kurdistan. Instability in the Middle East generally, and particularly in Saudi Arabia, would send oil prices through the roof, contributing handsomely to corporate profits. Therefore US oil corporations prefer a nuclear Iran, even if it means war.

Populist democracy against Iran's nuclear program

An Israeli-American operation against nuclear Iran would close it to Western oil corporations, and accordingly, secure oil concessions for the Russians. Their rhetoric at the UN aside, the Putin-Medvedev duo would love to see Iran bombed. Besides the inbuilt Russian tendency to enjoy others’ troubles, the destruction of the Iranian nuclear reactor and enrichment facilities would check Persian influence in China, Azerbaijan, and generally in Central Asia, Russia’s soft underbelly. An American attack on Iran would secure that country as a Russian client for decades. Nuclear Iran would reshuffle the power balance in the American-controlled Middle East. Russia enjoys Iran going nuclear, but the devastation of Iran’s nuclear program benefits Russian policy still more.

Egypt, an American client and recipient of huge aid, which allowed it to build a modern army, is not overly worried about a nuclear Iran. El Baradei, an Egyptian Foreign Ministry official who became the IAEA chief, shares inside information on Iran’s nuclear development with Mubarak. Egypt feels no military threat from Iran. On the other hand, nuclear Iran would rival Egypt in regional politics, so the Egyptians might prefer to have Iran bombed.

For Israel’s ruling Kadima party, attacking Iran is the best electoral propaganda. The Bush Administration sees an attack on Iran as a way of locking the next president into maintaining a large American military presence nearby, in Iraq. The attack might not produce a long-term spike in oil prices, and might indeed lower them from their current inflated level by poking the bubble of bad expectations. Once the bombing campaign is over, gasoline prices might drop, sending American voters into a state of bliss.

The Iranian nuclear threat pales compared to that of Pakistan, an extremely unstable entity with rabidly Islamist voters and demagogue-driven Islamist parties. For Israel and America, Iran is not so much a military as a political problem: Pakistan developed its nukes clandestinely, while Iran defies everyone’s authority. Unable to deal with Pakistan, North Korea, or even the Palestinians, Israelis demand that something be done against Iran. On the issue of Iran, it is oil interests versus populist politics.