The United States’ sudden introduction of national (and, because of the global character of American business, essentially global) sanctions against Iran — markedly more painful that the symbolic sanctions of the U.N. Security Council — elicits the sensation of being on the threshold of war.

In like manner, in 1941, the U.S. stopped supplying petroleum products to imperial Japan, which had no other sources, and left it with the decision to either give up immediately or attack.

As far as one can judge, Western analysts are convinced that Iran will be able to construct its atomic bomb as early as 2011 or 2012. The Iranian leadership, by virtue of its alienation from American and Israeli elites, evokes their horror. Leaders of the U.S. and Israel really fear that once the Iranian leadership acquires an atomic bomb, it will use it for the destruction of Israel. Insofar as that risk is impermissible, a missile or bomb strike on Iran (which would logically be accompanied by commando operations) to put the brakes on the nuclear program could be carried out by the end of 2010.

Additionally, Obama’s only route to a second term lies through victory in the midterm elections of November 2010. Under conditions of general American dissatisfaction, the only way of saving his hope for victory is a strike on Iran. Aside from a splash of patriotism, it would attract the sympathy of the Israel lobby, which is disturbed by his flirtations with Muslims.

That strike would be a monstrous error from all points of view except the pre-election one. Alas, we have too often seen how these “all points of view” cease to exist for American politicians on the eve of elections. A reckoning of the election factor makes October the most likely time for a strike — in September it is still too hot for precise aiming.

The results would be horrible.

First and foremost, Iran will respond. The most accessible target is Israel, which uses atomic bombs. Israel might not even wait for a response, but may carry out a preemptive strike concurrently with the United States. It is not a coincidence that the wisest leader of the Western Hemisphere, Fidel Castro, returned to political life to address 115 Cuban ambassadors serving in various countries of the world on July 16 and point out to them the inevitability of limited nuclear war.

Aside from a missile strike on the U.S. Sixth Fleet and their bases, Iran presumably would prepare a series of retributions on the very territory of the U.S., which would not be terrible in the military sense, but would be psychologically painful.

The Iranian diaspora in the U.S. numbers around a million people; it would hardly be complicated to find some who have become disillusioned with the American way of life.

It is logical to assume that the U.S. will attempt to destroy Iran’s atomic program not by military means — on that matter, it would appear the train has already left the station — but by changing the condition of Iranian society. In that case, a strike on objects of the atomic program would be accompanied not by a smaller but possibly a more powerful strike on the governing system of Iran.

The minimum program is to “bomb them into the Stone Age”: decapitate the country, plunge it into chaos and destroy its infrastructure, so that it would be that much further from an atomic program.

The maximum program is the arrival to power of a pro-American leadership. Mass disturbances in Tehran have shown the presence of liberal forces and moods in favor of it, and the multinational character of Iran can allow Americans to hope for its breakup.

These possible hopes are nonsensical, but after the assault on Iraq, we know: Among other things, the U.S. knows how to make mistakes.

The economic repercussions of an attack on Iran are particularly serious — above all the interruption of petroleum supplies to China, which are vitally important to that country. In such a case, China would cease to be an engine of global demand, which would push the world economy into a global depression — a situation in which the absence of demand reliably blocks development, and stagnation supports itself.

In principle, global depression, as well as “global turbulence,” should strengthen the competitive position of the U.S. as the psychological and governmental leader of the world and the “safe harbor.” But if a retaliatory strike frightens investors, the U.S. will not become a “safe harbor,” and the dollar will become weaker or enter a fluctuation zone. The English [sic] pound will also be in the zone, because Great Britain traditionally supports the U.S. and could also come under a retaliatory strike.

A rise in oil prices, general instability and a fall of the world economy into a depression would heighten Europe’s problems. A new round of deterioration of the international situation might force Germany and France to refuse to sponsor the “weak links” of the eurozone. That will not lead to its collapse because the governments of the failure-countries have lost the capacity for independent monetary control; aside from that, routine behaviors associated with euro-interpretation, the euro and European values are thoroughly ingrained. It is most likely that the countries of southern Europe (except Italy) will be deprived of their influence on monetary policy of the eurozone and their claims on appreciable aid.

As a result, the “refuge” currencies will be the Swiss franc (and the “safety zone” will be the territory 300-600 km from the borders of Switzerland, depending on the direction) and the Norwegian krone (due to the increased value of energy producers). The greatest influx of resources, however, will be into the crisis “classic” — gold.

For Russia, a strike against Iran would be financially beneficial, for it would raise the price of oil. In the conditions of global depression, the presence of petrodollars would appreciably raise the importance of our country (as well as the significance of Arab petroleum-producing countries) even as a seller’s market of the production of developed countries. That would ensure the patience of the West, which would stop lamenting the absence of democracy in Russia and would start to demand from her only stability. This, in turn, would lead to a change in the political orientation of a considerable portion of the ruling class, which up until now has adhered to liberal rhetoric.

However, the interruptions of petroleum supplies would activate China, and the Russian leadership would have to increase its export of energy resources to that country and possibly permit Chinese corporations to extract them directly. That would hasten a dangerous — for us — change in the balance of power not just in Central Asia but also in all territories to the east of the Urals.