Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Iran And The U.S.

Reza Aslan is always worth a read. Today his piece in Slate talks about (a) the fear in Iran over a possible attack by the U.S. and (b) how damaging U.S. actions are to its own goals in the country. As Aslan points out, if the U.S. actually wants a fully functional and moderate democracy in Iran, the best thing to do is leave it the hell alone. Any threats of military action, or military action itself, only strengthens the clerical regime's hold on power. Any attempts to aid "democratic forces" (NGOs, opposition figures, pissed off dissidents and exiles etc) to bring about regime change will backfire, because those forces will forever be tainted by their association with the U.S. So essentially, if the U.S. doesn't want to say or do anything nice, it shouldn't say or do anything at all.

I also think those pushing for military action against Iran within the establishment in the U.S. underestimate just how badly an attack on Iran will affect its interests in the region. The prevailing wisdom or logic, if one can call it that, seems to follow thusly:

1. Iraq is in the midst of a civil war between Sunnis and Shias (this is partly true).
2. Sunni states such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt are weary of a powerful Iran in the region (this is also partly true).
3. Ergo, attacking Iran won't cost the U.S. any public relations points in the Middle East or the broader Muslim world because Sunnis and Shias don't like each other and the Sunni states and their citizens will quietly support a U.S. attack on Iran (this is completely and utterly wrong).

Launching an attack on Iran, even if it is just a sustained air assault without ground forces (which is what it would be), would prove hugely damaging to America's already tattered reputation and would compromise its ability to meet its goals in other areas in the region (Iraq and Israel/Palestine just to name two for starters). Combine that with the fact that attacking Iran wouldn't actually accomplish anything from America's perspective (no serious analyst believes that strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities would completely dismantle the program - more likely is the scenario that it is set back about 5-7 years), and you can see why I can't understand why this is even an option for the U.S. leadership. Usually when some action has enormous strategic costs and no strategic benefits, it is discarded as a serious option. Not for these guys.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

a final reason might be that trying to hit iran might actually lead to painful military consequences in terms of retaliation.

as a friend once put it, rather politically incorrectly, 'those irani's beat themselves silly, imagine what they'd do to invaders'.

Moss J said...

Hahaha.. i think you might be a little off brother.

While I would like nothing better than for Iran to put up a bloody fight, I dont really see that happening unless it is a ground assault.

I think Ahsan is right that it will be a sustained aerial assault. By the way Ahsan, i dont know if ud know this, but what is the status of Iran's anti-aircraft defense system. Im sure they have some sort of infrastructure if theur nuclaer program is so advanced.

Anonymous said...

the invasion/attack itself is not the arena where iran would inflict its damage anyway though...

iran would retaliate on its terms, on the thousands of US ground troops stationed in kuwait, iraq, afghanistan... either directly or by proxy.

there are enough us troops sitting like ducks on almost each of iran's borders to seriously dissuade the US from trying anything too belligerent...

Ahsan said...

anonymous: i addressed this in the post just after this one.