The steady success of ISIL in carving out a secure territory in Syria and Iraq is upsetting some old geopolitical equations. Iran, seen by some as the likely “savior” of Iraq (or, at least, of its current government), is lobbing threats at the Kurds. Turkey, meanwhile, long fearful of a Kurdish state, now considers embracing an independent Kurdistan to serve as a buffer against Iraqi violence and Iranian power. The offshore power broker – the US – does not know what to do, because what might turn out to the best choice is also unthinkable: Iran is currently the greatest threat to American interests in the region, and the force most likely to take the fight to the Iranians and to halt their geostrategic progress is, in fact, ISIL. ISIL is closely (if complexly) affiliated with the al Qaeda organization with which the US has been at war since 9/11/2001 (and, arguably, for much of the decade prior to that as well). It would be a nearly impossible sell to the American public – especially to the veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much for the last decade and a half – but at some point it may well be in America’s best interest to throw its support behind ISIL in order to thwart Iran.
Archive for the ‘Iran’ Category
From a recent Iran Pulse:
The November 24th Interim Nuclear Agreement between Iran and the Six Powers provides for the limited easing of trade restrictions on strategic items such as petrochemicals products, aircraft parts, and precious metals, accounting for up to US$7 billion of trade over the next six months. With the prospect of even wider Iranian trade in the near future, India’s construction of Iran’s first deep-water port to meet modern shipping standards will radically transform Iran’s geo-strategic position, breaking the international economic pressure on Tehran and transforming Iran into the key transit link for the most cost-effective transportation corridor for European-Indian Ocean trade. While Iran and India traditionally have been allies in Afghanistan against Pakistan, New Delhi’s drive to construct a deep-sea port at the Iranian city of Chabahar along with transportation corridors running northward has been motivated by New Delhi’s economic rivalry with Beijing. For Iran, it means a centrally important position in the emerging pattern of trade between Europe and an ascending Asia.
Daniel Lee at the American Foreign Policy Institute takes a detailed look at Iran’s strategic naval needs and capabilities. He concludes that Iran is most likely to remain a littoral threat to Persian Gulf shipping, but unlikely to build a blue water navy that will venture deep into the Indian Ocean. In either case, they remain a threat to regional and world peace and prosperity, and their maritime forces cannot be overlooked as the world focuses on their nuclear ambitions.
The more I think about it, the more I believe that future generations will come to call the early 21st century wars in Southwest Asia the Wars of the Kurdish Unification.
The US led Iraq War was the First War of Kurdish Unification, creating a de facto autonomous Kurdish state within the dysfunctional Iraq.
There is a very good chance that the Syrian Civil War will result in a partial dissolution of that nation, with the Allawite and Kurdish regions forming their own mini-states. This will be known as the Second War of Kurdish Unification.
The Third and Fourth Wars will involve Turkey and Iran (one or both of these will also spill over into Armenia and Azerbaijan). Turkey is in the most difficult spot, with an active Kurdish opposition combined with a demographic time bomb – regions of majority Turkic ethnicity have declining birthrates while regions of mainly Kurdish ethnicity have growing birthrates.
That leaves Iran, which has a heavy Kurdish minority of its own, primarily in its eastern provinces.
The first two of these wars have already encompassed a full decade of sporadic warfare; the final two will take even longer, but it is very likely that a child born anywhere in Greater Kurdistan today could celebrate its 25th birthday as a citizen of the new State of Kurdistan.
At one time, Persia was the greatest empire in the world, stretching from the Indus River in the east to Libya in the west. From its height of power around 500 BC, Greater Persia gradually receded through the centuries as it was alternately conquered by outside powers or reasserted sovereignty through a succession of “empires.” But, as late as the 19th century, Persia was a much larger nation than it is today. Beginning with an ill fated war with Russia, Persia steadily lost bits and pieces of its territory to Western nations or their local surrogates.
The current leadership – or more precisely, a possible future iteration of the current regime – seems to want to reverse this trend. Ayatollah Sayyid Mohammed Bokiri Kherrozi is currently the head of the Hezbollah organization in Iran and is running for the national Presidency this spring, has declared his intention of reclaiming for Iran the lands of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and parts of Tajikstan which were lost in the 19th century. The Iranian government has officially disavowed Kherozzi’s statements, but clearly there is a market for such expansionary nationalism in Iran. If Iran gets nuclear weapons (or if perhaps it already has them) then its neighbors – especially those to which Iran has territorial claims or pretensions – should be very worried – the shield that the US military provides would be a lot less formidable when facing a nuclear opponent.
For all it’s bluff and bluster, the only real strategic military options that Iran has are Hamas and Hezbollah. If Israel or the US attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, the main retaliations will come first via an attempt to close the Straits of Hormuz and second via attacks by Hamas and Hezbollah. It is only the latter that directly impacts Israel.
For that reason, it seems to me that an Israeli assault on Gaza would be a necessary (though not sufficient) precursor to a strike on Iran.
Last month, I listed the seven Keys that Lock Up the Energy World, a list of the chokepoints that potentially constrict and therefore control the flows of oil and natural gas from producing to consuming regions. This post presents a look at the most critical of those five keys, the Strait of Hormuz, through which as much as 35% of the world’s crude oil and 20% of natural gas must pass in order to reach markets.
Earlier this month, the Financial Times published a detailed examination of the likelihood that Iran would try to close the straits. Iran has threatened the straits for decades, but have usually had their threats dismissed as empty bluster – they need the straits as much or more as anyone else, as most of their imports and exports must also pass through them. However, as sanctions bite down harder and harder and internal dissent grows, the notion of closing the straits might change from strategic folly to political necessity.
Would they be able to accomplish this feat? It would require a remarkable David vs. Goliath victory, as the Iranian Navy’s swarm tactics would try to defeat two different US Navy Air Craft Carrier Task Forces currently in the area. Raytheon has already supplied the Navy with a new system designed to counteract presumed Iranian tactics, and one would assume that Boeing’s new CHAMP missiles would be deployed very early any such battle, shutting down much of Iran’s capability and blinding the rest.