Friday, July 27, 2007

Know Thy Enemy - An Iranian View

It is always instructional to try to look at things from the point of view of you adversary. In that spirit I have been reviewing the news posted on several Iranian news websites. My interest in Iran should be obvious, and you should be interested too, since, without question the Iranians are deeply involved in Iraq, certainly advising, and almost certainly training and arming insurgents who use that knowledge to kill Americans.

  • AP: The U.S. military has noted a "significant improvement" in the aim of attackers firing rockets and mortars into the heavily fortified Green Zone in the past three months that it has linked to training in Iran, a top commander said Thursday.
  • ... the sophisticated weapons being used against U.S. troops in Iraq “were provided by the Quds Force,” a paramilitary arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)
  • Sergeant Grumpy's own post Hezzbollah leaders capture ties Iran to Iraq
  • Milbloggers and military writers in Iraq are beginning to note improved aim, and less spray and pray from the insurgents they confront "They have attacked multiple targets simultaneously, and often target follow-on forces and first responders, such as medical personnel ... Some of their snipers are deadly and elusive. I've taken almost as much accurate machine-gun fire as inaccurate."
But don't take my word for it, here is what the "Supreme" (really, have anything but despots called themselves Supreme?) Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a televised speech on Saturday commemorating the birthday of Imam Ali (the first Imam of Shia Muslims)"The Zionist regime (Israel) and the American government are the main enemies of Iran, and hatred for America is deepening every day around the globe"

On to the Iranian view. Much like the USSR did in the Cold War, Iran sees itself beset by enemies on all sides - America occupies countries to the east and west, the Gulf to the south is dominated by Sunni states, including rival Saudi Arabia (look at the reaction in Iranian press to the Wahhabi Fatwa for the destruction of Shiite's holy sites and shrines.)
Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi on Thursday urged Muslims to maintain vigilance to thwart the US and global arrogance conspiracies at regional and international scenes.

"The global arrogance, led by the US, intends to destroy culture of the Islamic nations in line with its ominous goals," he said.
In this view there is a global conspiracy to destroy "Islamic" culture. The logical response to this threat is for Muslim nations to band together in defence. For the Iranians, it is natural that this requires Iranian leadership ("Islamic Revolution" in the following quote.)
Impacts of victory of the Islamic Revolution on international equations are emerging under circumstances that the Muslim world has been turned into an international power against arrogance and enemies.

The end is around the corner and try what they may, the US and its surrogates including Israel are living on borrowed time
Iran also has cause to see itself under assault via covert action on the part of it's enemies:One point made surprised me somewhat, mainly because I haven't heard Islamists speak out against IT.
They wish to cause a change in typical structures and norms of the Islamic nations through information and communications technology (ICT) and military means.
This position aligns with others in the world who view the grip of Hollywood, and the access to information granted via the web as a plot by Washington to destroy local cultures.

So the narrative they tell themselves and attempt to sell to the rest of the Islamic world is that they are reacting in a logical manner in response to a real and pervasive threat to their religion, cultural heritage and way of life. Iran (in this narrative) is taking the lead in confronting the Arrogant West.
The geographic heart of the Islamic world is in Mecca and Medina. But, the political heart of the Islamic world is in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Iran is beloved among the Muslim nations and the Islamic Iran will strongly continue its way with the mottos of justice and people loving.
The ultimate goal is to "to turn the Muslim world into an international power through the next 50 years." Some advantages Iran notes this power has:
  • 1.35 billion population
  • 70 percent of the world's known oil resources and 48 percent of gas reservoirs are located in Islamic states (note the Iranian use of Islamic vice Muslim)
Of course, this largely ignores the Shia/Sunni schism that al-Qaeda is doing it's level best to aggravate. This is no small issue for Muslim society. It is entirely possible that a US exit from Iraq, coupled with al-Qaeda's murderous agenda, and Iranian-backed Shia death squads could plunge the area into an Islamic Civil War akin to the 30 Years War Christendom suffered in Europe.

Regarding their Nuclear program, Iranian news is at pains to show that Iran is in fact the victim of nuclear encirclement as well, and the development of a nuclear program (they will not say weapon until they detonate one) is purely logical from a perspective of self defense. Aside from the obvious nuclear threat from the US, Britain, France, and Russia there are nuclear programs being developed in Israel and Saudi Arabia. From the headlines of Iran Daily:
  • Saudi Arabia’s Secret Nuclear Program Exposed
  • Americans Helping Israel’s Nuke Plans
So what should we conclude from this? A few things - Iran is a State actor that sees itself as the ascendant leader of the Islamic World. Iran is not going to be intimidated, or made to cave in to pressure. That would violate their narrative. Iran will likely seek non-military confrontation with the West in order burnish these credentials. And while the US maintains forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran will seek to arm and train the insurgencies there, for good reason. It frustrates US plans, and it also allows Iranian agents to build networks and relationships to be leveraged later in the future struggles to topple Muslim regimes not in line with the messianic vision of Iran's Islamic Revolution.
Iran would not likely move to attack the West outside of the Middle East, at least not while they attempt to consolidate the Muslim world to their particular banner of Islam. That of course is not to say that Iran wouldn't build intelligence networks in Europe and the US, along with "sleeper cells" for use in any future conflict with the West.

How to deal with Iran? Many of the best minds are working on this, and I can't hope to be more articulate than them - Google the web for their thoughts. But one thing is clear to this Soldier - the Iranians do not respect restraint, it only emboldens them. Doing nothing is not an option.

However, because Iran is a State it is interested in self-preservation and therefore is more like the Soviet Union than al-Qaeda, and there is room for firm negotiations, just as with the USSR. And Iran is anti-Wahhabi and may be worked with to oppose al-Qaeda and it's ilk. (In fact al-Qaeda recently threatened to attack Iran.) It has been widely reported that Iran was prepared to help fight al-Qaeda and was rebuffed by the neocons in the Administration. Quite possibly Iran can be contained and co-opted, given the right mix of threat of force and incentive for cooperation. Or, if we navigate this challenge poorly, we could end up in a 3-way US-Iran-Sunni Islamist fight. Either course of events promises to be difficult and historic.