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Netanyahu issued holiday greetings to Israeli Muslims making the hadj to Mecca.

Incidentally, Mecca is located in an enemy state to which Israeli law generally prohibits our citizens from traveling.

Jericho-3Israel’s test of the Jericho-3 ICBM left analysts wondering about its purpose. Okay, everyone knows that our country has reasonably advanced ICBMs with nuclear warhead capacity. Obviously we are not going to use its 4,000-mile range to nuke the United States. So who is the enemy?

One obvious target would be Yongbyon. Indeed, North Korea cannot reasonably be expected to strike back at Israel, and demolishing the communists’ nuclear program would make the Middle East a bit safer. But a government that hesitates to punish Gaza for rocket barrages cannot be expected to project Jewish power into Asia.

Jericho’s range is excessive for attacking Iran. True, a dozen or so ICBMs with 1,500-lb conventional payloads could wipe out Natanz—but the Iranians have TOR-1M there. To that end, we would need to saturate their TOR defenses with Tomahawk missiles before the decisive strike—and Tomahawk are more than sufficient for that strike, too.

All in all, it seems that the Jericho-3 test served only the government’s ambition to demonstrate Israel’s decisive superiority over Iran’s half-baked missiles.

The upcoming US and EU embargo on Iranian oil sales, which is expected after the next IAEA report, can only be meaningful if supported by India and China. These two countries can easily consume Iran’s entire oil output.

India and China are expected to ignore the embargo. The US could easily bring them into the line by threatening import tariffs, but the White House is unlikely to wield the threat of a trade war in the middle of a recession. The simplest way would be to ask India and China to buy Saudi oil instead, and compensate them for the loss of whatever discount Iran offers.

But then there is Russia, which subverts the sanctions for the sheer pleasure of doing so. Here the stakes for the West are much higher. If Russia and China succeed in channeling Iranian oil payments into rubles and yuan, that would mean the end of US financial dominance. Scores of dictators would flock to Moscow and Beijing banks, where their assets and transactions would be safe from Western sanctions. And eventually the yuan or the ruble would become the reserve currency of choice for third-world economies.

Iranian sanctions are a test of the West's economic power

November 2011
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