by Tom Shackleford
Primer on Iran
Iran is a nation with a long and proud history, dating back to the Persian empire. It is about the size of Western Europe and has a population in excess of 80 million. Iran also has the 3rd largest reserves of conventional (cheaply extracted) oil in the world and the 2nd largest natural gas reserves. Iran is clearly a force to be reckoned with. As such, it considers itself the protector of Shi’a Muslims, who often live under extreme Sunni repression throughout the region. No amount of US pressure has succeeded in halting the “protector” policy.
This self-conception has led it to become the principal backer of Hezbollah, and thus the primary impediment to Israel’s broader ethnostate aspirations. Hezbollah, the Shi’a militia operating on Israel’s northern border, demonstrated the martial competence to repel the Israeli military during a 2006 incursion into Lebanon, known to them as the “Divine Victory.” Since then, it has significantly improved its military capabilities, particularly missiles, with extensive Iranian support. Israel regards this group as an existential threat to its survival.
Iran has now made substantial progress in developing a nuclear energy sector. Its enemies fear that it will be channeled into a weapons program that could eventually be used against them. Even without an attack, it constrains their military options against Iran and its proxies.
Victory in Syria
Syria has a close alliance with Iran. Thus, when a US/Sunni/Israeli-backed jihadist insurgency seemed poised to topple President Assad, the Iranians delivered massive support to counter the terrorists. Most alarmingly for the West, it did so in tight coordination with Russia. Eventually, the insurgency was routed. As the conflict in Syria began reaching a close, embarrassing revelations about its origins emerged that had previously only been disclosed in the West through sources like WikiLeaks. Most notably, former Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani recently admitted in a TV interview that his and other Arab monarchies had been supplying it from the start. Thus, an appalling jihadist rampage covertly launched to contain Iranian influence has achieved precisely the opposite result.
Iran Moving Forward
Iran’s position is the strongest it has been in recent memory. Its economy, which had been severely inhibited for decades, is poised for substantial growth. Iran has a youthful, educated labor force and an independent supply of hydrocarbons and other natural resources. It also offers low labor costs comparable to a place like Vietnam. Iran will be a linchpin in China’s ambitious “One Belt One Road” trade network. It will also be able to conduct transactions with key partners like China and Russia free of the Dollar, using new mechanisms such as a gold-convertible crude oil futures contract denominated in Yuan and China’s CIPS international payment system, which will make the use of SWIFT against Iran irrelevant.
Unlike the Arab monarchies that are totally screwed once their conventional hydrocarbon reserves dwindle, Iran has a massive supply that was under-exploited thanks to the sanctions. It also has tremendous economic potential beyond collecting oil checks, which (except for beheadings) is pretty much all the Arabs are good at. The specter of peak oil coupled with the defeat in Syria has the Saudis and their Israeli partners quite spooked.
Syria and Hezbollah are only part of the picture. The Iranians exercise strong influence over their Shi’a coreligionists in Iraq. They comprise two-thirds of the population. The US unleashed them by wrecking their country, which had been kept stable by Saddam Hussein’s Sunni dictatorship. Next door in Saudi Arabia, the Shi’a comprise a very angry 15% of the populace. They’re concentrated in the Eastern Province along with most of the oil. The Saudis are currently engaged in a desperate struggle in neighboring Yemen against the Houthis, a primarily Shi’a movement. The Israelis aren’t thrilled about them either. One of the inscriptions on their flags reads “Death to Israel, Curse on the Jews.” This prolonged conflict is incredibly bloody. Even though the Saudis have few qualms about killing much of Yemen’s civilian population in order to prevail, they haven’t achieved much.
The efforts of Israel and the Sunnis to counter Iranian influence have come to naught. This is fueling a profound sense of desperation. If Iran is already strong enough to counter them both right now, then what will they be confronted with years down the road, when the Iranian economy is much healthier? In contrast, the Arabs will be grappling with the massive costs of subsidizing their burgeoning populations with declining oil reserves. If they are going to smash Iran, it must happen soon. What’s already crystal clear: they won’t be able to stop the Iranians on their own.
In July 2015, a multinational agreement, The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was concluded at the behest of the Obama Administration. Among other provisions, the agreement lifted a variety of sanctions on Iran in return for limiting its nuclear program in order to inhibit the development of weapons and allowing inspections for compliance. This sounds like a reasonable course of action, since the last thing we need in the Middle East is more fireworks. However, it would be a mistake to attribute that much agency to an affirmative action puppet like Obama.
Although the deal was accompanied by public displays of angst, a paper titled “Which Path to Persia?” from the Saban Center of the Brookings Institution is far more revealing. Here’s an excerpt:
“The ideal scenario in this case would be that the United States and the international community present a package of positive inducements so enticing that the Iranian citizenry would support the deal, only to have the regime reject it. In a similar vein, any military operation against Iran will likely be very unpopular around the world and require the proper international context— both to ensure the logistical support the operation would require and to minimize the blowback from it. The best way to minimize international opprobrium and maximize support (however, grudging or covert) is to strike only when there is a widespread conviction that the Iranians were given but then rejected a superb offer—one so good that only a regime determined to acquire nuclear weapons and acquire them for the wrong reasons would turn it down. Under those circumstances, the United States (or Israel) could portray its operations as taken in sorrow, not anger, and at least some in the international community would conclude that the Iranians “brought it on themselves” by refusing a very good deal.”
Ominously, this paper was published in June of 2009. The authors include several prominent Jewish swamp creatures. One, Kenneth Pollack, was a CIA analyst and member of Clinton’s NSC. A notable advocate of the Iraq invasion, he wrote an entire book on why that horrific disaster would be a terrific idea. Another, Martin Indyck, was an AIPAC researcher who went onto become US Ambassador to Israel, and later an envoy to the Middle East for Obama. Worst of all, another Jew, Bruce Reidel, was actually employed as an adviser to Obama.
I’ve found that papers like this can provide grim insights into our next blunder. The first one I ever bothered reading was “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” by another Jewish think tank, The Project for a New American Century. It was floating around the dark reaches of the internet during the buildup to the Iraq War. It laid out a completely terrible idea for invading Iraq without any realistic consideration of the consequences. I became alarmed because my foray had been prompted by reading They Dare to Speak Out: People and Institutions Confront Israel’s Lobby by former Congressman Paul Findley. It detailed the power of AIPAC, the negative consequences of its control over our legislative process, and why the MSM won’t discuss it. I recommend checking it out because AIPAC and its tentacles are more powerful now then when the book was first published in 1985.
During the 2016 campaign, candidate Trump criticized the JCPOA. That’s not really a big deal from a rhetorical standpoint. It’s commonplace politics to take the opposite position of your opponents whether you mean it or not. Where things started getting heavy was an October 13th speech. The speech labeled Iran as a “rouge regime” whose “hostile actions” have “spread death, destruction, chaos around the globe.” Hmm.
Here’s where it takes a turn for the worse: it claimed that Iran’s government “forced a proud people to submit.” That is, we should free them. So, just like the Iraqis, Libyans, and Syrians, their lives ought to be enriched with liberty.
Then it gets really crazy: Shi’a Iran “harbored high-level terrorists in the wake of the 9/11 attack.” Al-Qaeda, a Sunni organization, both professed and acted upon homicidal hatred for Shi’a Muslims. Iran was pretty weak in 2001. Why would they invite ruin from a trigger-happy Bush administration by abetting Sunni terrorists, who have gone on to commit atrocities within their own country? Moreover, the speech went on to make the absurd claim that the Iranians “condoned Assad’s use of chemical weapons,” you guessed it, “against helpless children”. We’ve seen this all before, and it never ends well.
Perhaps worst of all, it references “Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program.” By all accounts, Iran is abiding by the limited terms of the deal and has allowed inspectors to verify their actions as such. After reading this transcript, I felt 15 years younger. It’s almost like they’d recycled something written for George W. Bush and then handed it to Trump.
Let’s think back on the JCPOA. What was the practical effect? First, it gave an excuse for a huge increase in military funding to Israel, mainly in the form of free F-35s. Netanyahu was even brazen enough to lecture Obama in the Oval Office on world television, and the pathetic puppet just had to take it. You could see the humiliation on his face. If you have any doubts about America’s lack of sovereignty, watch that video. Now, a false claim that Iran has reneged on “the spirit of deal” is a pretext for war under Trump, who is surrounded by Neocons and his helpful Jewish son-in-law, Jared Kushner. The potential for something very bad to happen is enormous. In the next article, we’ll take a look at the factors that point to war.