Sunday, February 9, 2020

A different perspective on Iran


Over the last month I put up a number of OPs on the subject of Iran in the wake of the US killing their top military guy Soleimani:
  1. America “You can't do anything against us" (آمریکا هیچ غلطی نمی تواند بکن)
  2. USA v Iran: What WON'T Happen.
  3. USA v Iran: What Iran will do.
  4. USA v Iran: What the USA will do
Now over at the Kiwipolitico blog, "Pablo" - aka Paul Buchanan - has linked to two articles he has written for the Australian Institute of International Affairs:
In both cases Paul brings to bear his qualifications in geopolitics and international relations, plus his experience in the belly of the US military and diplomatic beast and I recommend both of them to be read.

Some key quotes from the first article:
The key strategic concerns of the Iranian state are to ensure the integrity of the nation, preserve the theocratic regime, promote domestic development and economic prosperity, ensure domestic peace and external security and be recognised as a legitimate regional power. 
Iran’s primary external threats come from its western and southern land and sea borders, but cross-national threats emanating from Afghanistan and Pakistan are in the mix as well. 
[They have] 523,000 active duty military personnel...., including 350,000 ground troops, 30,000 air force, and 18,000 naval personnel, plus other constabulary and intelligence services) and another 300,000 in reserve.
... it follows the doctrine of plausible deniability by allowing proxies and Quds Forces to undertake decentralised, autonomous operations at the discretion of field commanders.
As a balance, Iran maintains close ties with China, Russia, and Syria as well as Shiite groups throughout the world, and cordial relations with a number of other states, including India.
And from the second:
The ideological element in Iran is twofold: it sees itself as a global defender of Shiia Islam, to include defending against “Crusader” and Sunni Muslim encroachments on traditionally Shiite land and people; and it is anti-imperialist in its rejection of distant (again, Judeo-Christian) great power interference in the Middle East. 
The influence of the ideological element ebbs and flows depending on the level of threat perceived by the regime and the specific policy arena in question. 
Iran wants to demonstrate a nuclear weapons delivery capability so as to deter aggression by its enemies, especially the US and Israel. 
Iran has publicly renounced a first-strike option for its nuclear weapons and has instead spoken of using nuclear weapons only if attacked (unlike the US, which has not renounced the pre-emptive first-strike option). However, the international community fears that an Iranian nuclear weapons capability will precipitate a nuclear arms race with Sunni Arab countries and/or a pre-emptive attack by nuclear-armed Israel.
I don't agree with some aspects of this, but it's interesting stuff. Most of all I do not agree with the basic idea that we should treat the Islamic Republic of Iran - a nation that has since its inception explicitly advocated exporting its nutty Shiite Islamic Revolution - as anything less than an enemy of the West, An enemy that should not be fought in an active war with, but an enemy nevertheless.

Like any other nation Iran's leaders may well want to ensure "the integrity of the nation,....promote domestic development and economic prosperity,...ensure domestic peace" - but just as with the old Communists all of that is subservient to the idea of the Revolution, in this case, a religious one.

To that end Iran is willing to sacrifice much of those other things, including the lives of its own subjects. Ensuring "domestic peace" alone has required a domestic body count that was bad during the 2009 protests against the election and even higher in the 2019 protests (some 1500 deaths by most accounts), let alone over the last forty years - and not counting all those souls rotting in prison and tortured before being released.

My main contention with Paul is that such complex and sophisticated analysis, while necessary, often obfuscates the simple differences between good societies and bad societies and leads to detente with the bad in the hope that it will become less bad over time. So with his his suggestion that the Soleimani killing offers:
....an opportunity to test classic concepts in international relations. Notions of misperception, miscalculation, brinkmanship, bluffing, escalation, and reputation, and how they make for the possibility of war, are all at play in the stand-off.
That's all true. But I'm reminded that the same sort of analysis was applied to the Cold War, the decades-long struggle between the USA and the USSR, and was held to be the only way forward in living in a world with the USSR. And this basic disagreement can be seen with another quote:
... the “all stick, no carrot” approach adopted by the US under the Trump administration ignores the history of successful diplomacy with Iran and encourages the dominance of hardliners in internal debates about how Iran should engage generally and respond specifically to external events and conditions.
I'm not aware of any diplomacy with Iran that ever bent their ideological trajectory in the direction of behaving better internationally, which is surely what diplomatic "success" should be all about.

In any case I heard precisely that reasoning about the USSR in the 1980's. US actions would strengthen the power of the hardliners - whereas it actually led to the rise of Gorbachev and his policies of Perestroika and Glasnost that, together with unaffordable military spending and a sheer loss of faith in Communism, eventually broke the USSR, which has improved our world greatly.

It was also the main argument about dealing with Russia that Obama used in 2008/2009; poor old Vlad was just reacting to the frightening warmonger Bush, hence the big "reset" button hit by Hillary. I don't think any Democrat feels that way about Vlad now. Funny that.

The difference with Iran is that there is not even the closed mechanism of a Politburo and an ideology of earthly materialism to allow the rise of "moderates" in the nation. Their government has cleverly played the "moderate" vs. "hardline" argument in everything from domestic elections to foreign policy. Most of the world continues to fall for it.

It is a sham. There are no moderates in Iran that count; examples include former senior politicians Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi who have been under house arrest for years with no trial. The Ayatollah is the Supreme Leader: it's why the IRGC and proxies such as Hezbollah ultimately report to him rather than the Iranian President, who can only be elected from a list of candidates approved by the Ayatollah and the Council of Guardians in the first place. That Guardian article revealed the sad truth even as it appealed to "President" Rouhani:
While acknowledging Rouhani’s limited ability to intervene in the affairs of the judiciary, which acts independently of his administration, the academics said the president should speak out to protest what they called a “grave miscarriage of justice”. 
When Ayatollah Khamenei dies he will be replaced by someone like him, just as he replaced the murderous thug Ayatollah Khomeini. That process presents only a faint hope for an Iranian Gorbachev to arise: depending on his age the likely conservative successor will maintain the same theocratic ideas for many years to come and push hard for them throughout the Middle East, with their violent proxy terrorist groups like Hisbollah as the stick.

By contrast, as I noted in an OP celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall, The People Win, President Reagan had a different take on the matter of dealing with such enemies:
“I’d like to tell you of my theory of the Cold War. Some people think that I am simplistic, but there is a fundamental difference between being simplistic and having simple answers to complex questions. So here's my strategy on the Cold War:  
We win, they lose."
Given the tensions of the day Reagan never said that in public. But it was an absolutely necessary idea in order to shake up an establishment that had, like the rest of us, grown used to the notion that Communist nations were forever.

Same with Iran. My take is also simplistic in that the Iranian people will be much better off once the current theocratic regime is destroyed and that the US and other nations should enable that to happen via sanctions and other non-military methods. Just as an aside, after all the gays they've publicly hanged from cranes over they years it would be justice to see the same thing happen to a few of the Mullahs and senior IRGC officers.

After Iran, Saudi Arabia and company come next, starting with cracking down on their export of the Wahhabist theology to the West as a way of keeping the fundamentalist knives from their own throats at home.

But with the same ideological objective to be kept at the forefront: we win, they lose.

16 comments:

Andrei said...

Your problem is Tom Hunter that you believe "free market capitalism" is the be all and end all of how human beings should organize their economic affairs and you are wrong like Francis Fukuyama was wrong when he declared the end of history at the end of the Cold War.

Iran's underlying philosphy is Shiia Islam, while the modern West's Secular Humanism which is just Marxism BTW and in case you hadn't realized that yet

The USA is not the "shining beacon on the Hill" it is a predatory nation that uses thuggery to loot the resources it needs from the third world. You have something they want, they say in Good Mafia fashion "nice little country you got here - shame if something happened to it" and if the leaders don't hand over the oil, gold, rare earth metals or whatever the USA wants but not cut a fair deal for and pay a fair price for then a coup is organized and they put their own puppet in. A quizling prepared to sell out his own countrymen for a cut of the loot

And if that doesn't work and the leaderhsip is withable to withstand their onslaught they send in a carrier group, and trash the place - then secure the resources the want using mercenaries which is what happened to Libya. And they lie about it - they pretend thay are doing it for humanitarian reasons - And they are good at lying after all despite banning Nazis from coming to the USA after WW2 they actually rounded up most of Joeseph Goebbels staff and resettled them in the USA to learn their propaganda techniques. A lot of Nazis with useful knowledge ended up in the USA after WW2. Werner Von Braun for example.

And it is bizarre - just before Christmas. (December the 6th, St Nicholas' Day) a simple electrical circuit was created consisting of a generator, a switch and a human being called Lee Hall who was wired in as a resistance. The Generator was fired up, the switch thrown and Lee Hall and following Ohm's Law cooked from the inside out. Barbarism - a more sophisticated euivalent of the medieval punishment of boiling in oil. You really believe they are more enlightened than Iran or are they just more degenerate Gay "Marriage" for example which transforms an institution designed for the orderly nurture of children into the validation of sodomy

Whatever - I can guarantee you like all empires before it the USA will fail sooner or later and that is as certain as death and taxes

Anonymous said...

One of the good things about opinion pieces is that they are..well, opinions. Or in Toms case somebody else's opinions. The bad thing about opinion pieces is that someone may take them at face value and believe them.

The biggest loser in the the cold war was the US military industrial complex which had survived and prospered by having an enemy. The same could be said of the USSR whose politburo stayed in power because of the supposed enemy. It was mutually beneficial for both sides to rattle sabres once in a while particularly when defence budgets were to be announced.

It only got a bit hairy when one side broke the unwritten rules of he game ie. the Cuban missile crisis.

It is pointless having an opinion on Iran if you fail to mention Russia which has a border through it's client state Azerbaijan and a direct sea route on the Caspian sea that is sanction free, No pesky US warships there I'm afraid. Putin is keeping Iran afloat.

It is Russia that is dictating the moves in that part of he world not the US and I just can't see the difference in the US trying to destabilise parts of Sth America that were unfavorable to US business interests and Iran doing he same where it can.

The other thing about opinion pieces is that they are usually very shallow and only skim the surface and we have no idea what is going on behind he scenes which is far more important. Basically we are only told what is suitable for us to know and nationalistic tub thumping in the name of unity is usually misplaced

For example have been constantly told that Henry V's plucky little ENGLISH army inflicted a heavy defeat on the FRENCH army at Azincourt. There are three things wrong with that sentence. I'll let you work it out but a clue is that when the news reached Paris the good citizens were greatly cheered.

All is never as it seems and to use opinion pieces to incite a dislike of another culture is usually self defeating in the end.

Petri Dish










Tom Hunter said...

The biggest loser in the the cold war was the US military industrial complex which had survived and prospered by having an enemy.

Far Left analysis fresh from the 1970's, and as dumb as it was even then. That framework of "thinking" - derived from the classic Marxist analysis of the USA as a war economy in peacetime - also predicted the Cold War would never end as the Pentagon would never allow it too. It just staggers me that people, presumably somewhat old people, still drag out this garbage.

The same could be said of the USSR whose politburo stayed in power because of the supposed enemy.
Communist regimes are always creating new enemies, including among their own people. They have to in order to survive their own mistakes. Hence Stalin's "wreckers": the dialectic forces them on to that path. Read 1984.

It was mutually beneficial for both sides to rattle sabres once in a while particularly when defence budgets were to be announced.
Every year leading up to September then, when the US budget is supposed to start. Naturally you have a timeline that supports your theory rather than it just being another assertion pulled from the butt.

you fail to mention Russia which has a border through it's client state Azerbaijan and a direct sea route on the Caspian sea that is sanction free, No pesky US warships there I'm afraid.
You think the sanctions on oil are being enforced by warships? Iran can ship the oil wherever it likes: selling it and getting the money is their problem.

Putin is keeping Iran afloat.
With an economy smaller than Italy's let's hope not, for the sake of the Russian people.

And you have the cheek to talk of "shallow" analysis. Pfft!

Tom Hunter said...

Your problem is Tom Hunter that you believe "free market capitalism" is the be all and end all of how human beings should organize their economic affairs

Actually I'm relaxed about so-called mixed economies that have free (or as close as possible to free) markets for private sector work and trading, plus some public services hanging on their back. The arguments are about how much actual freedom there is in markets and the public/private proportions.

As such I was more focused on the democracy aspect of Iran: if a new government replaces the religious nutters they have now and they want to develop a more socialist economy I'll think they're idiots but it will still be better than the theocracy they have now.

Iran's underlying philosphy is Shiia Islam,....

Which is more political, cultural and - as you say - philosophical than economic, which is why free-trading bazzars have always been such a big part of Islamic nations. They seem to have trouble enlarging that to national levels and industries but I don't think that has much to do with Islam, Shiia or otherwise.

while the modern West's Secular Humanism which is just Marxism BTW and in case you hadn't realized that yet.
Secular Humanism had been around a whole before Marxism appeared, which is why the latter is another derivation of it.

The USA is not the "shining beacon on the Hill" it is a predatory nation that uses thuggery to loot the resources it needs from the third world.

What's funny about this is that it's a classic Marxist analysis of the capitalist West and the USA in particular, much of it deriving from the theories of imperialism pushed by the likes of Luxemburg, Lenin and pushed further by Marxists like Singer and Baran. And you unloaded that right after lecturing me about "which is just Marxism BTW and in case you hadn't realized that yet.".

And if that doesn't work and the leaderhsip is withable to withstand their onslaught they send in a carrier group, and trash the place - then secure the resources the want using mercenaries which is what happened to Libya

If you want to craft conspiracy theories couldn't you do better than 1960's/70's Left Wing agitprop from the KGB?

How about this: the US needs oil at $US 50/barrel to keep its fracking industry alive. Therefore it has to reduce the supply of oil from other parts of the world, which is why it's trashed Libya and Venezuela and now placed Iranian oil under sanctions.

Cool, eh?

The only problem with this theory is that raising the price of oil also benefits Vlad, who needs it to be at $US 100+ / barrel just so the Russian budget will balance. Maybe he's in cahoots with the US?

Andrei said...

So the USA didn't bomb Libya? And Western Oil companies are not taking Libyan oil?

And the USA is not occupying Syrian oil fields and selling the oil?

Tell me Tom Gunter what provision of international law gives the USA the madate to occupy Syria's oil fields and facilities and sell the oil? Or is this just an example of might makes right and outright THEFT?

Tom Hunter said...

So the USA didn't bomb Libya?

Oh dear. This - again. Okay, Andre - I'll write the same reply with the same points that I've made before.

Along with France, Britain and Italy the USA did bomb (actually it was mainly cruise missiles) Gaddafi's airfields and military installation - mainly at the behest/pressure of those "allies", who said it had to be done or Gaddafi was going to use that military the way Assad has in Syria; killing as many civilians as possible to stay in power.

You may recall there was all this stuff about the United Nations "R2P" (Requirement To Protect) about civlians in war zones, crafted in the wake of the Rwandan genocide and pushed very hard by Obama's UN rep Samantha Power. I suppose you could accuse her of doing it for the oil (you seem capable of making any accusation against the USA) but given her twenty year background in studying genocide and her books such as A Problem From Hell she seemed genuine in thinking the US and the UN could help protect Libyan civilians from the likes of Gaddafi. Personally I disagreed in the wake of Afghanistan and Iraq.

I suppose they could done what the Russians have done in Syria since 2015 and just bombed anything that looked like a house but the Yanks take pride in precision weapons.

And in any case your argument is that Obama bombed Libya for US control of the oil there, which I have pointed out to you multiple times, with links, as being a stupid argument.

And Western Oil companies are not taking Libyan oil
Links or it didn't happen. And by Western do you mean the former colonial power Italy? France? Or just US oil companies.

what provision of international law gives the USA the madate to occupy Syria's oil fields and facilities and sell the oil? Or is this just an example of might makes right and outright THEFT?
You may remember a group called ISIS? As it happens it was not just the Mighty And Pure forces of Russia, Syria and Iran that fought against them but also the USA and their allies - including the Syrian Democratic Forces and the Kurds - which Vlad and company did not complain about, busy as they were with ISIS in Western Syria.

The US-backed forces took back control of those Eastern Syrian oil fields from ISIS and until some arrangement can be made with the Syrian government they'll stay in the control of the SDF/Kurds/USA in the same way that Western parts of Syria are now controlled by Iran with Russian-backing - might being right in that case apparently.

But don't worry Andrei: even the small withdrawal of US troops from Syria to date has resulted in the SDF/Kurds saying that it's a stab in the back, not to mention howling from the US Democrats and even Lefty commentators here at NoMinister. Perhaps they're all in the pay of Western oil companies as well?

Andrei said...

Do you actuallyt believe the BS you post Tom Hunter?

There is this thing called International Law that the USA just gives the finger to and relies on useful idiots such as yourself to propagate the BIG LIE that there motivation is humanitarian.

Libya was the richest nation in Africa whose people enjoyed the highest standard of living on the continent until Nato's illegal "humanitarian" intervention and now people are risking their lives to cross the Mediterraean to get away from the place

Tom Hunter said...

Libya was a shithole ruled by a meglomaniac who, backed by the USSR, pissed away bilions of dollars of oil wealth on five year plans that delivered all the usual, dreary Soviet concrete crap.

And on top of this he ruled like an emperor with his stupid all-female bodygaurds and Sgt Pepper's uniforms. A childish clown who was good at killing people to maintain an authoritarian dictatorship.

Prior to the rise of your little KGB hero, all of the above was denied only by the same Western Leftists you otherwise despise and condemn.

Once again - as I have before - here's an article written in 2006 that describes in great, eye-witness detail what a dump Libya was then after decades of one-man rule by that twit: In the Land of the Brother Leader. I know you'll reject it, as you have before, but at least it's out there for others to read.

As far as your claims that Obama did it for US oil, I've defended him enough and will let others who thought he was a great President deal with your conspiracy theories about him and Libya.

Andrei said...

What is the most tyrannical regime on the planet Tom Hunter?

The medieval Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would be my guess - you know that nation where most of the 9/11 terrorists originated and where owning a bible is illegal.

And why don't those avid promoters of "freedom and democracy™" go after them
I wonder? Why do they sell them modern weoponary to keep their citizens under tyranny and in servitude. In fact the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has the 4th largest military expenditure in the world After the USA itself, China and Russia and an expenditure way out of line with its oppressed population.

The USA actually props up the House of Saud keeps them in power - amazing huh?

See that is how I know what you are saying is BS

Tom Hunter said...

What is the most tyrannical regime on the planet Tom Hunter?.... The medieval Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would be my guess

BZZZZT. Wrong. It's North Korea by a country mile.

And why don't those avid promoters of "freedom and democracy™" go after [SA]

Same reason the USA did not go after South Korea and Taiwan when they were both military dictatorships and not that different from North Korea and Communist China respectively. Least-worse choice with a path to improvment, and the USA got exactly the same criticism about that stance back then. As time has passed it has proved to be the correct decision as both US-backed countries moved to open democracy - while their opponents continue to languish as authoritarian states.

Similarly the Saudi's are "freenemies" of the USA, which is to say they have some negatives:
- Sunni Islamic society with Sharia Law.
- An even worse offsoot of that, being Wahhabist fundamental Islam faction that they buy off by exporting to the West with mosque building and other money support.
- A corrupted system of government with payoffs to thousands of princes.
- Some of those groups hate the US and have directed money to terrorist groups that attack the USA or its other allies.
- They're not much a military ally and as Obama once noted, are crap at building proxies compared to Iran.

But they also have some positives:
- They're not running around screaming "Death To The Great Satan".
- They're not running around screaming "Death To The Little Satan".
- They're more widely supported by their own people than the Iranian theocrats, admittedly largely due to buying off the population with free stuff. But overall they do seem more competent.
- They're right in the middle of the Arab world and the Sunni world, which means they are a lynchpin for both. No doubt Russia and Iran would love the USA to blow that up, but the Yanks are not that stupid.
- Despite differences with the USA they've been willing to cooperate in hunting down the terrorists threatening the USA. By contrast Iran is more than happy to exploit such groups as long as they don't also threaten Iran (see Death To The Great Satan)

And as I said in the article: first things first. Get Iran's goverment to improve / moderate / vanish - and then move onto pressuring the Saudis to improve, just as Taiwan, South Korea and others were pressured to improve.

you know that nation where most of the 9/11 terrorists originated
And you should know (and probably do) that Osama Bin Laden deliberately chose those men as a warning signal to the Saudi government about the support Al Queda had in the country. It was a threat to SA as much as to the USA, an also designed - like your comments - to try and pry SA and the USA apart for Al Queda to exploit (and Russia and Iran also).

To be fair - once the current Iranian government is tossed on the ash heap of history I think the Iranian people have a much better chance of building a more liberal and civilised society than Saudi Arabia and their ilk - thanks to a thousand years of Persian civilisation. If that ever happens I'll be more than happy to see the USA tell the Saudis to go fuck themselves.

Andrei said...

Iran is a democracy Tom Hunter probably more Democratic than the USA if the truth be known

Tom Hunter said...

If it was anybody other than you, Andrei, I'd say they were trolling, but you probably truly believe that.

Given that The Supreme Leader is not elected at all, that the President can only be elected from candidates chosen by the Council of Guardians, that they report to the Supreme Leader and that the core parts of Iranian security report to him rather than the Majlis or the President...

...your claim is beyond being a joke. It is of course, just another piece of FSB/Putin propaganda.

Anonymous said...

It's your opinion piece and it should be treated with courtesy. By calling other peoples opinions "garbage" you are doing yourself and this blog no favours.

You are revealing your true colours now.

I think confusing oils origins and payment methods are quite easy given this set up

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/five-countries-bordering-the-caspian-sea-met-to-split-up-its-oil-riches-2019-08-12

If you think that topping the "military guy" has fazed the Iranians then you are misreading the situation. Iran was a competitor to the Roman Empire and way back before BC fought the Greeks and Romans, seen off invasions by the Mongols, Turks Macedonians, Arabs and sundry others.

It gave us the modern version of Chess and they are masters at playing the long game. It suits your narrative to portray them as just out of the stone age and rather simple. They are not.

In the Gorbachev era George Arbatov said to the US.. "We are going to do something terrible to you, ..You will no longer have an enemy."


The US needs an enemy and Iran is being singled out for that honour now that the "war on terror" and ISIS are history.. Everybody knows this except you.

Petri Dish

Tom Hunter said...

It's your opinion piece and it should be treated with courtesy.

I call that the "civility bullshit" argument, because the commentators here who treat my posts "with courtesy" are few and far between - and you ain't one of them, "Petri".

Besides, this is the blogosphere where we don’t have a tradition of civil discourse - particularly when people recycle ancient theories long since discredited - but do have one of ad hominem attacks, snark and hyperbole,

And cat pictures.

Tom Hunter said...

It suits your narrative to portray them as just out of the stone age and rather simple. They are not.

Oh, and BTW, that's a pathetic strawman that's as primitive as all those 1970's-era Lefty jibes you unloaded earlier. You might want to look at my comment about a 1000 years + of Persian history.

But that is not the same as the more recent imposition of Islamic barbarity, and if you'd ever worked with any Iranians in your life you'd know that.

Anonymous said...

You are a very unhappy man/boy Tom. you are full of anger and righteousness and it does you no credit at all when you abuse others for having the temerity to demolish your arguments.

Now about those 1970's lefty jibes, I'm at a complete loss, refresh my memory.

My recent surgeon is Iranian as was my grandsons girlfriend, unhappily he has moved on to an Australian now.

Petri Dish