Conflict drives through Israel, Iran and Oil Prices

David Bartholomew

Tensions between Israel and Iran have long been strained, but with such tension, experts feel there could be consequences such as increased gas prices here in the United States. 

As a generation, many current ISU students grew up with news images of suicide bombs going off in Tel Aviv, Israeli tanks rolling through the West Bank and U.S. politicians denouncing the rhetoric of Iranian leaders.

Now that students are older and many rely on the use of vehicles, gas prices can be a priority for college students.

“Israel has to be very fearful of Iran acquiring atomic weaponry and, the fact is, Iran has missiles that can reach Israel,” said Ellen Pirro, lecturer of political science. “That being said, Iran is stepping up production of its nuclear program and fortifying all of its nuclear sights, which gives the Israelis a narrow window from now until about September to strike Iran.”

To quickly recap, Israel, a very close ally of the United States, has become more and more dissatisfied with the nuclear enrichment program Iran continues to employ for electricity purposes and could possibly use to create a nuclear warhead.

Iran continues to insist that its nuclear program is for strictly for peaceful purposes, but this has not convinced the United States and the European Union, which have both slapped harsh sanctions targeting the banking system and oil production of Iran. However, the Israelis contend that even sanctions are not enough to successfully halt their nuclear program and have threatened they may have to take matters into their own hands by launching an air raid on Iran’s nuclear sights.

Many leaders throughout the world, including President Barack Obama, have warned the Israelis about launching a strike on Iran and have continued to push the message that diplomacy and sanctions need time to take effect before a military option is seriously considered.

“The international repercussions of a nuclear Iran would be so abominable because, first of all, it could destroy Israel and could even set off a big nuclear arms race in the region,” Pirro said. “The potential for Middle Eastern conflict is so high. And if Israel attacks Iran first, it could wind up with retaliation from a lot of people including Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran itself.”

In the last few months, the Iranian government has threatened to use its navy to close off the Straits of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, where roughly 20 percent of the world’s oil passes through every day. This could cause the United States’s Fifth Fleet, which is based in the Gulf state of Bahrain, to act to end the blockade and reflexively to have an effect on world oil prices.

“I would guess that in the event of conflict, gas would prop up almost immediately to over $4 a gallon and maybe even go into the $5 range because of these dramatic events,” said James McCormick, professor of political science. “Oil prices are speculative and driven by psychology, and this would cause a huge impact on them.”

Additionally, Pirro said he is of the belief that many students do not have any idea the implications this potential conflict could bring about, much of which, like oil prices, could directly affect students at Iowa State.

“Many students are very much unaware of the Middle East and all of the ramifications that come with it,” Pirro said. “Unfortunately, some of my students can’t even identify where Iran is on a map.”

McCormick and Pirro both went on to say that even though the Israelis continue to push for a strike on Iran, logistically it would be very difficult without the support of the United States.

The Israelis are known to possess an impressive air force, but the sheer scope of a long range air strike on Iranian nuclear sites would require the full breadth of their weaponry and even then could still be unsuccessful because many of the sites are buried deep underground or in the sides of mountains. Nevertheless, an air strike could shake up things in the world oil markets and potentially cause international conflict.

However, McCormick said this is not to say that good old fashioned diplomacy has been thrown out the window, yet.

“The Iranians have said they want to come back to the bargaining table, but they have to come back and actually bargain,” McCormick said. “That’s the obvious way to get this. But if they are so determined to get a bomb and unwilling to bargain with this, it is going to be very difficult to get a resolution on their nuclear program.”