Monday, March 19, 2012

The true dangers of Iran & our cultural inability to grasp them

            A decade ago, as the hawks were beating the drums of war, yours truly was an undergrad student, and took part in many conversations in regards to the impending invasion of Iraq.  I tried often (in vain) to explain the dangers associated with igniting a regional war, which we would not be able to handle.  It is hard however for North Americans to understand the complexities of the Old World. The regional war I feared did not materialize, but neither did the conflict turn out as many have hoped as we all now know.

            Now a decade later, while one US war just ended and another one is just in the first phases of winding down, without any significant lasting achievements having been secured in either one, we are already talking of another adventure.  I, or anyone else for that matter, who is outside the decision making circle, cannot know for sure whether the beating of the war drum is just a negotiating technique.  I personally hope very much that to be the case, because if it is not, we have a serious problem.

Threat of a regional war:

            Most American elites stress the danger that a potential armed conflict would pose to shipping in the Persian Gulf.  They also stress the importance of Iran’s own oil to the market.  These are all dangers that we can deal with, even if they were to pose a risk to our economic well-being in the short term.  Saudi spare production, even if it is far less than officially stated, coupled with periodic releases from the strategic stockpiles, can help us get past such emergencies, because we can solve them through military intervention.  I hope they are also thinking of the danger, which they do not talk about.

            During the Iraq war, regional powers like Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia did not shy away from pursuing their own interests, even if they were against the wishes of the mighty US of A.  Iran wanted Iraq to become exactly what it did become, which is a Shiite dominated state, and their most important strategic partner currently.  Saudi Arabia wanted to prevent this from happening, so they provided support to the Sunni insurgency, which was responsible for the bulk of US casualties during the war.  Turkey went in militarily to prevent the Kurdish north from becoming an independent state, which would pose a threat to their own territorial integrity, since their current boundaries include the bulk of the Kurdish population in the region, which despite being a large ethnic entity of about 25 million souls, was not endowed with a state, when the great powers divided the world, very unwisely in the aftermath of the first world war.  Even though Turkey is a NATO member, they were not eager to defer the pursuit of their own interests in favor of appeasing the US.

            I hope that our elites currently have the benefit of advisors knowledgeable enough of the situation to explain to them just how easy and desirable it would be for Iran to start a civil war in Iraq.  This time, the lines would be drawn slightly differently than the last one that the US just withdrew from.  Currently the central Shiite dominated government is trying to persecute a member of the Sunni minority’s political elites, and Iraq’s vice-president, Tariq al-Hashemi.  There was only one place out of the reach of the central government within Iraq, which is the autonomous Kurdish region, so that is where he took refuge.  The fact that the Kurds are willing to protect him is a clear olive branch that is being offered to the Sunni Arabs, which in my view signifies that the next internal conflict will have a Sunni-Kurdish coalition pitted against the Shiite majority.  Like I said, Turkey cannot afford a potentially oil rich Kurdish state to become reality.  The Saudis will support the Sunnis, which means that Turkey, which is likely the most powerful militarily in the region, will be aligned with Iran, against the Saudis, who will in turn have as allies the twin “great Satans”, in the form of Israel and the US.  Even their own population will be against them on this one.

            About 15% of Saudi Arabia’s population is Shiite, and they live in the general area where the oilfields also happen to be.  They were mistreated in the last few decades, which means, that it would not take much encouragement by outside forces to get them to rebel.  This effectively means that aside from the 5 mb/d of petroleum exports that we would loose as a result of exports from Iran and Iraq being disrupted, there is a good chance of an additional 7 mb/d being lost from Saudi Arabia.  There is also a danger of 1 mb/d being lost from Azerbaijan, if they feel adventurous enough to take advantage of the chaos, in order to take territory from Iran, which they consider to be rightfully theirs, because it is inhabited by Azeris.  In turn, Armenia could try to profit and with support from Russia, they might venture into Azerbaijan in order to take the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is inhabited by ethnic Armenians.  So the danger to us adds up to a loss of up to 13 mb/d indefinitely, because such a wide conflict could take decades to sort itself out.  There is of course a slight danger of another 5 mb/d being lost, due to potential disruptions to Kuwait’s and UAE exports, which also passes through the Persian Gulf.  The US the EU, Russia and China could make the situation worse by picking sides and aiding them.  In short, this is one Humpty Dumpty, which we will have a very hard time putting back together again, if ever.

            It should be important to also note, that a concerted effort to destabilize Iran, through covert operations and sanctions, can have the same effect of sparking a regional war as a military strike.

So why are we willing to risk so much?

            It is not easy to relate this information to people belonging to western culture.  Most were taught for generations now about the “evil doer” authoritarian leaders, who are always dangerous, because they have a predisposal to wanting to destroy freedom, and so on.  Looking back to my own childhood experience and reflecting on the situation, I have to say that, it is a much distorted image of these people.  The distortion is not accidental; it serves the purpose of lending legitimacy to our own leadership, by claiming that being democratically elected automatically makes them more ethical.  That of course may not necessarily be true.

            Their main preoccupation by far is survival and self preservation, not dreaming up evil plots against the world, as our elites want to make us believe.  The people who are most likely to be hurt by them are their own citizens.  Only on rare occasion does starting a conflict figure into achieving their above mentioned desired objective.  In fact, democracies are as likely to start conflicts as authoritarian regimes.

            So once again, why are we so freaked out at the prospect of Iran possibly building the capacity to put together a nuclear weapon?  We were told, that surely Iran would use the weapon to “wipe Israel off the map”, or provide it to a “terror group”.  This fits in with the usual narrative that they (dictators) are always up to “evil doing”.  This narrative does not fit reality however.  An Iranian regime, which did all it could to survive for decades now, would all the sudden abandon the will to survive, by launching a nuclear warhead at Israel?  Not likely!!!

            There is of course that other argument, which is that Iran’s regime is different than the brutal Ceausescu regime I experienced, because of the religious fanaticism aspect of their elites.  Here I think people have a point, because I indeed believe that religious fanatics are a danger to our global well-being.  I think we are overly obsessed with the fanatics from the other side however, while the main and immediate danger to our wellbeing comes from our own fanatics (Zionist Christians like John Hagee come to mind here).

            The above mentioned dangers of war with Iran have a very good chance of coming to fruition imminently, if they are attacked or pushed in a corner.  On the other hand, a nuclear armed Iran, able to launch a strike against anyone else, is probably about a decade away, while the probability that they would actually attempt such a strike against anyone is low as I said.

            Truth is that Israel has little reason to fear a nuclear strike against them.  Furthermore, there is a very good chance that such a strike if it was to happen, can be deflected through missile defense technology that is already being deployed in the region, and will be ready before Iran can realistically launch a nuclear strike.  Iran on the other hand will not have missile defense technology to defeat the 200 nuclear warheads that Israel has at its disposal, which is enough to turn the entire Middle East into a radioactive wasteland.  Yet Israel is acting as if their destruction is assured and imminent.

            Aside from loosing the ability to push around a region, which provides the world with the fuel that keeps us humming, the religious fanatics from our own society are bothered by the fact that their own vision of the region would be less likely to be achieved.  Israel may be a democracy, which is often invoked to justify its actions, but it is a state dominated by religious zealots, not driven by logic.  Their beliefs and drivers of policy, include the concept of the holy land, given to them by god.  They therefore want to re-establish that biblical state, making achieving peace with its neighbors impossible, since they claim and are currently colonizing land currently inhabited by non-Jews.  The Zionist Christians mainly in the US, who are now very influential in US politics, as well as some Jewish-American groups, are 100% in favor of Israel’s pursuits, with complete disregard for its victims.

            The voices of reason within US society are efficiently silenced through the now very potent strategy of labeling anyone who does not pledge unconditional allegiance to the state of Israel, as an anti-Semite.  Thus, resistance to the will of our own religious fanatics has now become socially impossible, so when it comes to Iran, they are firmly in charge of our policy.  Ironically it is in no way in the interest of Israel to do what the religious zealots want. 

In the end, the Middle East will recover so will Asia, and Latin America, regardless of the intensity of the economic pain the world will endure if my prediction of the worst case scenario will come true.  The heavily indebted, leveraged to the sky, demographically dying western society cannot rise again from the ashes of an economic meltdown that would likely be worse than anything the world has ever experienced.  With our death, Israel will never again have such committed supporters as we have been in the past decades.  They may continue to have a deterrent from attack in the form of their nuclear arsenal, but there will be nothing to protect them from a possible economic and political isolation from the rest of the world.

            As for our own wellbeing; we seem to be content with allowing a religious movement to highjack our foreign policy, and shape it as they please.  We could have gone down a different road.  We could have offered the potential of a carrot, not only the threat of a stick.  Every step of the way, we made sure that nothing less than humiliating capitulation on the part of Iran would prevent the eventual boiling over of the situation to what it is today.  That capitulation was never going to happen, since we do not hold all the cards, as I already said, because Iran has plenty of opportunities to push back.  Our very aggressive, belligerent and often hypocrite attitude is in fact an incentive for them to build the bomb, because as I mentioned these guys are in the business of survival.

            We live in a very complicated world, and the more complicated it becomes the more sophisticated our approach has to be to most problems we face.  Instead of doing so, we move towards allowing religious zealots, armed with ideas from thousands of years ago, from a far simpler age, to steer us.  It was not long ago that US society accepted to be dragged into the failed adventure of Iraq by a politician, who claimed that God himself advised him to invade.  Now we once again seem to be willing to allow a group of fanatics, no less dangerous than their Muslim counterparts to drag us into something that can potentially turn out to be far worse.  This is cultural failure we simply cannot afford, because the cost will be the "ultimate price" for western society.


  1. Please don't confuse Zionist Christians with Christian Zionists. They are quite different. See here: Zionist Christians and Christian Zionists | Khanya

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