Friday, February 3, 2017

Iran and Strategy

Things are heating up with Iran via the proxy war in Yemen between Iran and Saudi Arabia (and Saudi Arabia's ally, the United States, which exempted Saudi Arabia from the Muslim Ban).

I went out on a limb a prepared a helpful map for those of you who are confused by the situation in the Middle East!

There's a lot more to the Middle East than this, but if you just can't handle complexity, this map is not bad.  Share it with your friends!

See the green countries?  Those are large, stable countries with formidable militaries capable of sending troops into or backing armed client groups in neighboring countries.  The green countries are in this for themselves and may or may not have incentives or either team up with each other or fight each other.  Saudi Arabia and Iran in particular are bitter enemies.  Israel has done a good job over the years teaming up with Saudi Arabia and/or Turkey from time to time, but these alliances are never especially warm.

Previously, Iraq was a green country, capable of checking the aggression of Iran primarily, but also Saudi Arabia or Turkey, but then we destroyed Iraq in the Operation Iraqi Freedom and ever since Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have been free to duke it out in the remains of Iraq.

Donald Trump is correct when he says this:

Later, President Trump posted on Twitter that “Iran is rapidly taking over Iraq,” its neighbor, “while the U.S. squandered three trillion dollars there. Obviously long ago.”

(I take the above quote and much else in this post from this NY Times article.) 

Iran is, in fact, de facto "taking over" much of northern Iraq, as you'd think logically it would do, given that it borders Iraq and then much of northern Iraq shares a faith - Shiism - with Iran.

Imagine that the government of Mexico just collapsed.  That there was nothing in Mexico but the cartels.  The central government was destroyed.  There was a renewed Zapatista movement, etc.

Does anyone in their right mind think that the United States would hesitate to -- using proxy armies most likely, with logistical and armament support from the American military proper -- "take over" northern Mexico, at least?  

The United States, in this scenario, would not be evil to do so.  It would be a responding to a legit security concern.  Forget immigrants stealing our jobs -- this would be a collapse of society on our border.  The United States would take over a big swath of Mexico at least, and other nations might cry foul, but most Americans would not lose a lot of sleep over the subject.

Iran has stepped into the chaos of northern Iraq to impose order there.  GOOD.  Iran is a devoted enemy of ISIS, which is composed in large part of former Saddam Hussein loyalists.  Iran is also a country with many scary external trappings and yet with a status quo that is not all that bad for America:

Until two weeks ago, Iran’s clerics felt comfortable leading worshipers in a chorus of “Death to America” while simultaneously signing a $16.6 billion deal with Boeing. Now, that status quo seems very long ago and the establishment is treading carefully, with even most hard-liners concerned that the smallest provocation could lead to military conflict.

What matters more here -- the chants of the mob or the deals being made?   Sounds like Iran is a good deal for manufacturing workers employed by Boeing.  Make America Great Again!

To return to the rest of Donald Trump's quote above -- did we waste three trillion dollars on Operation Iraqi Freedom and the subsequent fallout therefrom?  Yes.  We destroyed a stable check on Iran, thus creating a situation in which Iran was free to expand its power.  Now we face a situation where the remnants of the army we never fully destroyed (Saddam Hussein's army) have joined a new, terrifying force, ISIS.  We not only wasted three trillion dollars, we helped create an active disaster for ourselves and others for three trillion dollars.

Ah, but do Trump and his pals want to make that six trillion dollars?  Because if we invade Iran, the total bill will come to something like that.  

If we take on Iran and ISIS, we are fighting two enemies at once: never a good move.  If we're serious about destroying ISIS, then the correct move is: partnership with Iran.

Now, lastly: take another look at that map.  What country do you not see on that map?

That's correct.  The United States of America is nowhere near any of these countries.

Given that oil is cheap as hell and poised to stay that way and we are all amped up about opening our national parks to drilling these days, let's skip any continued fighting in the Middle East.  What is the point?  Iran and Syria belong to the countries bordering them now.  Let Russia putz around in Syria if it sees fit.  Israel is a nuclear power and can defend itself.

What does the United States gain from our involvement here? 

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