Lo riporta il Financial Times.
One of the first sessions to be booked out at the World Economic Forum was “What if Iran Develops a Nuclear Weapon?” The risk of conflict over Iran’s nuclear programme is debated every year at Davos, but the assembled experts and politicians now seem to be taking the prospect of war considerably more seriously.
They will listen to the words of Ehud Barak, Israel’s deputy prime minister and defence minister, particularly carefully when he addresses the conference today. There are several reasons for this state of alarm. First, Iran is thought to be making significant progress with a nuclear weapons programme. In particular, Iran watchers are concerned that, over the coming months, vital nuclear technology will be moved into hardened underground silos – making important parts of the Iranian programme much less vulnerable to bombing raids.
The Israeli government has long been vocal in demanding action to stop Iran – and has made it clear that it is considering a unilateral military strike. But the Gulf states and Saudi Arabia have also expressed deep concern to US and European leaders about the progress of the Iranian nuclear programme. One western policymaker describes the Saudis as “obsessed” by the Iranian threat. The Saudis are believed to have told their western interlocutors that if Iran gains a nuclear-weapons capability, Saudi Arabia would immediately respond by attempting to join the nuclear club itself.
The continuing turmoil in the Arab world is also increasing tensions, because it is altering the balance of power in the Middle East. The Sunni Arab world fears that Iranian influence is growing in Iraq following the withdrawal of US troops. But the turmoil in Syria offers the Gulf Arabs a chance to strike a blow against Iranian influence by pressing for the removal of the Assad regime – which is close to Iran.
Iran is also feeling the pressure in other ways. This week the European Union approved a ban on crude oil imports from Iran, to take effect on July 1. Among business delegates in Davos, there is a palpable anxiety about the effect of these sanctions on the global oil price – particularly if Iran pre-emptively cuts off exports to Europe. There is also clearly a very active covert programme aimed at disrupting Iran’s nuclear programme, involving everything from the use of computer viruses to the sale of faulty equipment to Iran and the murder of Iranian nuclear scientists.
Richard Haass, head of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, who is in Davos, argues that it is “far too soon” to accept that sanctions cannot force Iran to halt work on its nuclear programme. But Mr Haass also acknowledges that the history of past sanctions efforts suggest they may ultimately fail to force a change in Iranian policy.
As ever, there is debate about whether military action would or could be taken by Israel acting unilaterally, or whether any effective strike on the Iranian programme would have to involve the US. John Chipman, the head of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, argues: “Israel could mount a bombing raid, but only the United States could mount a sustained campaign.”
A “raid” of the sort that Israel could mount would probably leave substantial parts of Iran’s nuclear programme intact – as well as leaving Iran with enough military capacity to retaliate against Israel and against western interests in the region. Iranian retaliation, particularly if it involved the threatened blockade of the Strait of Hormuz or overt attacks on western interests, would almost certainly drag the US and key European allies, such as Britain and France, into the conflict.
Gulf Arab states might also become involved in a campaign against Iran if they were directly targeted. The true intentions of both Israel and Iran remain opaque. After fighting the Iraq war, which was based partly on faulty intelligence, western leaders are reluctant to risk sliding into a conflict with Iran without incontrovertible evidence that Iran is closing in on a nuclear bomb.
On the other hand, the success of the Libyan conflict seems to have restored some confidence in “air power” as a means to achieve military objectives. While US, Arab and European delegates in Davos are urgently debating the prospect of conflict with Iran, some observers from Asia are watching the debate with surprise and alarm. Said one prominent Asian strategist: “The US would be crazy to get involved in another conflict in the Middle East. If they get tied down there again, it would be a complete geostrategic gift to China.”