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August 14, 2006

Comments

Brett Bourne

ruined my day - what, in your estimation, would stem this tide of events?

is regime change here any help? Israel? new global player/broker?

billmon

"At that point, the Iranian state will cease to exist in any recognizable form."

I disagree on this point. Iran is a real country, and commands both legitimacy and the loyalty of the vast majority of its population, Farsi and Azeri. Get ready for the students and the reformers to line up and pledge their lives to defend the Islamic Republic they detest.

Indeed, this is one of the things that will give Iran a leg up in the coming war. It can surround itself -- will seek to surround itself -- with stateless chaos, while remaining relatively unaffected by it.

Can the fat oil sheikhs on the other side of the Persian Gulf say the same?

Other than that, though, I think John Robb's forecast is probably correct, although I personally still have hopes the "self-replicating" process can be contained within the Middle East (although Londonstan and Clichy-sous-Boisstan are going to be very, very big problems.)

b

I agree with Billmon but for Baluchistan which is covering the southeastern part of Iran, south Afghanistan and significant parts of Pakistan.

Serious tribal folks who want a country of their own. The US will support them abandoning the Afghnaistan project and Pakistan and this may seriously endanger Iran. That is a weak flank. Another are the Kurds, but Turkey will take care of them.

The "western" Gulf states are toast when Iarn take them on.

For western nation states - if they stay out of the conflict, I do not see them endangered. Even GB, without Blair, could come of without trouble if they stop taking sides.

dan

I think you're getting a tad hysterical with this - I would still rate the likelihood of a US military attack on Iran as being very, very low, and becoming more unattractive to everyone bar the hard-core delusional by the day. The Iranians have simply engineered too strong a position for themselves in the region to complement their natural geostrategic advantages in this game for anyone to be able to seriously claim that attacking Iran won't spark a regional Gulf War which will, among other things, cut the global supply of oil by at least 14 million barrels per day for a sustained period. The effects on the investor classes/Asian central banks stock portfolios won't be pretty, and I'm sure that they've already exercised their veto on this. The only way that an attack on Iran works is if agreement is secured before hostilities that the Iranians won't fight back - that ain't gonna happen.

As I've argued on your sites before, Iran will maintain state cohesion, EBO or not; and as Billmon points out above, it is the Gulf peripheries ( and US allies ) that are the states in peril here, along with whichever US officials are stupid enough to set the ball rolling. I can see little chance of the US military surviving in Iraq, Kuwait and Bahrain if the conflict lasts for more than 90 days - the US simply hasn't fought against a smart and determined enemy armed with the type of serious weaponry that can hurt it for decades. There are no US forces available in the region to draw on for an invasion, and I don't see legions of Saudi princes signing up for active duty on this one.

The US military is in a catastrophically weak position in Iraq, and there is no-one left to come to its rescue ( allies are departing, not signing up for duty ). The Iranians are as far ahead of the curve today as they were on the first day of the invasion.

drewblue

IS THERE A SPLIT BETWEEN CHENEY AND BUSH ON THIS SITUATION? IS IT TRUE THAT RICE PULLED ISRAELS' OLMERT BACK FROM THE CONTINUED GROUND WAR IN FAVOR OF THE UN DEAL WITHOUT THE CONSENT OF CHENEY AND THE NEOCONS? IS RUMMY STARTING TO SEE THAT PERHAPS THE IRAQ CIVIL WAR AND THE SHIITE HYDRA IS FAR TOO STRONG TO GO OFF AND ATTACK IRAN NOW....PERHAPS LIKE ISRAEL WE ARE ALSO HESITATING....UNSURE.....DIVIDED.
BETTER GET THIS RIGHT.....I DON'T THINK WE HAVE DO OVERS IN THIS GAME
DREW
SATX

Colman

I'm with b+billmon. Iran will probably shed some of the provinces, at least for a while, but will hold together otherwise. Every time the US/UK has pushed against Iran it has consolidated the power of the authorities. I don't see any reason that would change. I assume that the Iranian military are configured to deal with the disruption from an EBO.

Further, the main body of European Muslims could be relatively easily dealt with if we simply acted honourably and in accordance with public opinion: condemn the US action, dump Blair and anyone else who supports the war and try to broker a ceasefire. Declare we will no longer help prop up un-democratic and anti-Islamic autocrats. We might lose a few US embassies and a McDonalds or two but we would survive. If Tony tried to take the UK into another war the story might be different.

dan's right that the whole idea is insane, but so was invading Iraq.

Other than that the system dynamics seem about right.

billmon

"I agree with Billmon but for Baluchistan which is covering the southeastern part of Iran, south Afghanistan and significant parts of Pakistan."

Sure. And Khuzestan (Iran's Arab-majority province) could also be problematic, as well as the Kurds (as always, caught between two millstones.)

But these are peripheral regions - and their destabilization could threaten our purported allies in Pakistan, Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan as much or more than they threaten Tehran.

I actually don't think Iran WANTS chaos on its borders, and particularly not in Iraq. War is not really in their interests, since they are doing quite nicely at extending their influence without it. (If the Iranians really wanted to give the U.S. Army trouble, they wouldn't be giving the insurgents better IEDs, they'd be slipping them some of those anti-tank missiles Hizbullah has been using to make chopped liver out of Merkavas.)

But if it comes to a full-scale hot war, I think chaos works for Tehran. At this point you'd have to be a true-blue Jonestown Kool-Aid drinker (or a Weekly Standard editorial writer, which is pretty much the same thing) to believe otherwise.


"I would still rate the likelihood of a US military attack on Iran as being very, very low, and becoming more unattractive to everyone bar the hard-core delusional by the day."

The problem, of course, is that the hard-core delusional are currently running the U.S. government.

Dimitar Vesselinov

The New Middle East
http://www.armedforcesjournal.com/2006/06/1833899

dan

Colman:

Iraq may well have been insane - but a lot of people failed to recognise this as they bought in to the essentially cost-free nature of the enterprise.

Iran is demonstrably not cost-free, and I suspect that those who would have to give their assent for the endeavour to proceed have baulked at the bill. There has already been notable push-back for the idea from the US foreign policy and realist establishment, the US military brass and key allies. Absolutely no one bar the hard-core neocons want to do this - although I don't see legions of Heritage/AEI interns or Eustonauts signing up to be airdropped into Teheran with backpacks stuffed with cash to get the ball rolling.

Michael Tanji

Iran could avoid going Humpty-Dumpty if we’d spent the last few years lubricating the substantial pro-US dissident population. Unlike Iraq, Iran’s regime-haters - if not exactly tolerated - are not aggressively oppressed wholesale a’la the Saddam approach. Having our “puppet regime” ready to go ahead of time could mean a smoother and faster transition, but then we’re not exactly known for our skill at operating in police states.

The Iranian version of the “dead enders” will of course follow the course you describe, though it remains to be seen how well GGs will fare in a land where much of the population is aware of and has a favorable view of the US. Of course, bomb the s*** out of enough neighborhoods and that can change . . .

A question I have not seen anyone else ask: all things being equal, if we did Iran “right” – call it the Shinseki approach – would the outcome be different than Iraq?

. . . and I was just about to post a comment about going old-school in the Middle East, but I see Dimitar has posted Ralph’s probably superior treatment of the subject. !$**!#&%

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