Wednesday, January 15, 2020

USA v Iran: What Iran will do after the killing of Soleimani

Wait! Have I've seen this before?
Honestly, what is it with Iranian crowds shouting "Death To America" while their leaders ride around in Chevrolet trucks? The above photo is of Ayatollah Khomeini - sadly not his remains - returning to Tehran in 1979.

But getting back to 2020: what happens next from the Iranians is very easy to predict.

Iran trashes the nuclear deal (JCPOA)
Actually not a prediction now as they announced the other day that it's dead. But it's been dead anyway since Trump withdrew the US from it in 2018 and put sanctions back on Iran. And all this was irrelevant since the deal was a joke from the start in preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons, for which it applied only a ten year window. Why not twenty years? Why not permanently?

That people are still defending this nonsense deal is a mystery given that window of time. Did they think something dramatic would change in Iran over the next ten years? That the fundamental drivers of Iran's need for nuclear weapons would vanish and that it would not re-start a nuclear weapons program then - assuming it was not cooking away underneath anyhow? I can only put it down to a fading worship of Obama, "statesmanship", fine phrases issued from sober gentlemen, and Kellogg–Briand Pact fantasies that never die.

A topic for another day, the JCPOA was completely unlike past nuclear agreeements that had seen actual caps and even reductions or total elimination of nuclear weapons, plus complete destruction of the programs that could produce them, as happened in Ukraine, South Africa and Libya. All backed up by actual inspections of all military, scientific and production sites, something most definitely not the case with the JCPOA.

In any case the deal ignored the fundamental factor, which was that the Iranian government observed three nations giving up their nuclear weapon programmes, Iraq, Libya, and Ukraine, being attacked anyway: Libya and Iraq by the USA, Ukraine by Russia. All this while a bigger basketcase of a nation, North Korea, remains inviolate - with its nuclear weapons.

Iran will do more of the same
Iran will use its covert armed services, primarily the Quds Force and other elements of the IRGC, to assassinate Americans and their allies, kidnap them, strike military bases and economic targets, sack embassies, and send out militias to crack down on adversaries.

The reason it's easy to predict these actions is that they've been doing all this for decades now anyway. It won't be a "reaction" or even an escalation in the sense of something new and different.

I do expect an increase in the tempo of such warfare and attempts to attack the US outside of the ME, but for all the face-saving needed by Iran it's going to be carefully calibrated to avoid the US striking back in a way that really hurts.

Iran knows how weak it is in the context of conventional, symmetrical warfare. And not just in terms of inadequate military hardware and dependence on limited, easily destroyed infrastructure, but also in terms of having an economy to support military efforts.

That economy was already in trouble before the Trump sanctions, and all the billions of dollars unlocked by Obama for Iran in 2015 made no difference - mainly because billions went into an increased public military budget while more vanished into off-the-books covert support for foreign wars. And it will get worse irrespective of the contest with the US. Today Iran has five workers of prime-age (25-64 years) for every citizen over 65 and its pension systems are already bankrupt. By 2050 the ratio will crash to just 1.8 working-age Iranians per retiree, assuming constant low fertility, which has been the status quo for three decades now. But Iran’s economy will crunch long before then even at ratio of 3:1.

Iran’s only hope of maintaining regional hegemony is to expand the Shia presence in Mesopotamia and the Levant, through Shia militias like Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the 80,000-strong mercenary militias it supports in Syria, staffed mainly by Afghan and Pakistani Shia. That's why its regional strategy has long rested on a combination of irregular warfare using those militias in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, with some strategic cover provided by the primary Iranian military, especially their ballistic and cruise missiles. Iran's leaders think this has worked well to date in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen and there's no reason to change it.

In terms of the wider war against the US, Paul Buchanan at Kiwi Politico argues that the Iranian strategy against the USA is to cause death by a thousand cuts. But the US is simply too powerful for that to work even at the regional level of the ME.

Different day, same Iranian shit
More likely will be a focus on applying those thousand cuts specifically to the Trump administration in 2020 and hoping for another Obama in 2021. The same idea the Confederacy had with Lincoln in 1864: the Iranians shall have a new President to treat with.

It may be that - knowing the war weariness of the US voters - Iran was already trying this with the attacks in Iraq. The prospect of wearing down Trump over an Embassy hostage situation would have had great appeal, given what Iran did to the hapless Jimmy Carter.

However, these are not strategic successes but tactical ones, and they appear to have hit their limits, starting with Iraq, as noted by that hotbed of pro-Trumpism, The Independent in 2017:
But many Iraqis are not happy to see Iran working in their country through local armed groups. This is not just a sectarian issue, either. Many Shias want to see Iran’s influence limited. In addition to historical animosities and theological differences with Iran, most Iraqis – Sunni and Shia alike – are exhausted by decades of conflict, and worry that Iran’s meddling will promote confrontation.
And it has not got better for the Iranians since then:
It is little surprise to see social media videos of Iraqi protesters dancing in the streets of Baghdad last night in jubilation at the news that the man who had butchered hundreds of their brethren was dead. Nor was it surprising to see the celebrations in Idlib, Syria, home to 3 million people, the vast majority of them refugees from Aleppo, Douma, Darayya, Madaya, Homs, Hama, Daraa and every other city and town Soleimani had brutalised, besieged and starved before their forced displacement.
Including Iran itself:
Demonstrators were reportedly heard yelling slogans like "The people are begging, the clerics act like God". Protests have even been held in Qom, a holy city home to powerful clerics. 
There is also anger at Iran's interventions abroad. In Mashhad, some chanted "not Gaza, not Lebanon, my life for Iran", a reference to what protesters say is the administration's focus on foreign rather than domestic issues.
Similar things are happening in the Lebanon, where local politicians - as with Assad in Syria - are wary of being too much under the thumb of the Iranians. And the Iranian people themselves are pushing back against their leaders because of domestic failures, witness the huge, nationwide protests late in 2019 as well as smaller protests in the wake of their admission about stupidly and mistakenly shooting down a Ukranian airliner near Tehran Airport and killing 176 people.

Ironically, given that the charge is most often laid against the USA, it is Iran that is suffering from Imperial Overstretch.


Anonymous said...

Now why haven't you mentioned the $80 million bounty on Trumps head. Some serious people have no doubt made expressions of interest and protocols arranged.

It is no longer political or ideological, it is business.

Nor have you mentioned the weak link of the chain, Trumps resorts and golf courses around the world.

It is no longer political or ideological, it is personal.


Tom Hunter said...

Now why haven't you mentioned the $80 million bounty on Trumps head.

Already dealt with five days ago in the last part of my OP, USA v Iran: What WON'T Happen After Soleimani's Killing.

I even included a photo of moronic Cathy "Comedian" Griffin making her bid for the money.

Tom Hunter said...

You're not actually a big reader are you " 'arry"? More a scan-the-headlines-and-go kinda a guy!

Anonymous said...

And you are not much of a big writer either, more the state the bleeding obvious kinda guy (eye roll). Try more summarising and less quoting other people out of context and dump the italics. I wont be long before you are using comic sans at this rate.

You are nor serialising your world view so anything you wrote last week is instantly forgettable.


Tom Hunter said...

... so anything you wrote last week is instantly forgettable.

Oh so that's your excuse for such a moronic taunt in your opening comment.

I wont be long before you are using comic sans at this rate.

If you supply an email address NoMinister has a service whereby we can email our OP's to you in whatever form can best help your recall.

For you we'll make sure it's large letters in crayon. And bright red.

Anonymous said...

The nadir of your debating skills has been reached. Not even tempted to engage in repartee at this level.


Tom Hunter said...

The nadir of your debating skills has been reached.

Pfft. If you're either unable or unwlling to make arguments in direct relation to the points in the OP but instead go hairing off on some dingbat off-ramp based around your uncaring ignorance of what I'd written earlier, then you're not going to get anything more from me than repartee.

It's called debating. Argument. You never even got off your backside to make any here, as usual. And now you're whinging about repartee. You're lucky you got any response at all.

Anonymous said...

Your right about the Chevys Tom, the Iranains got no taste or idea at all, even the US special forces drive Toyotas rather than crap yank tanks.

The Mechanic