Iran -- An Overview

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by Desertrat, Aug 2, 2008.

  1. Desertrat macrumors newbie

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    #1
    I found this article by John Mauldin to provide a better overview of Iran than much of what's given in the news. It seems to me to provide some better explanation of a lot of the "why" for events in the region.

    http://www.1913intel.com/2008/07/24...an-holding-the-center-of-a-mountain-fortress/

    "For Iran, its ultimate problem is internal tensions. But even these are under control, primarily because of Iran’s security system. Ever since the founding of the Persian Empire, the one thing that Iranians have been superb at is creating systems that both benefit other ethnic groups and punish them if they stray. That same mindset functions in Iran today in the powerful Ministry of Intelligence and Security and the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). (The Iranian military is configured mainly as an infantry force, with the regular army and IRGC ground forces together totaling about 450,000 troops, larger than all other service branches combined.)

    Iran is, therefore, a self-contained entity. It is relatively poor, but it has superbly defensible borders and a disciplined central government with an excellent intelligence and internal security apparatus. Iran uses these same strengths to destabilize the American position (or that of any extraregional power) around it. Indeed, Iran is sufficiently secure that the positions of surrounding countries are more precarious than that of Iran. Iran is superb at low-cost, low- risk power projection using its covert capabilities. It is even better at blocking those of others. So long as the mountains are in Iranian hands, and the internal situation is controlled, Iran is a stable state, but one able to pose only a limited external threat.

    The creation of an Iranian nuclear program serves two functions. First, if successful, it further deters external threats. Second, simply having the program enhances Iranian power. Since the consequences of a strike against these facilities are uncertain and raise the possibility of Iranian attempts at interdiction of oil from the Persian Gulf, the strategic risk to the attacker’s economy discourages attack. The diplomatic route of trading the program for regional safety and power becomes more attractive than an attack against a potential threat in a country with a potent potential counter.

    Iran is secure from conceivable invasion. It enhances this security by using two tactics. First, it creates uncertainty as to whether it has an offensive nuclear capability. Second, it projects a carefully honed image of ideological extremism that makes it appear unpredictable. It makes itself appear threatening and unstable. Paradoxically, this increases the caution used in dealing with it because the main option, an air attack, has historically been ineffective without a follow-on ground attack. If just nuclear facilities are attacked and the attack fails, Iranian reaction is unpredictable and potentially disproportionate. Iranian posturing enhances the uncertainty. The threat of an air attack is deterred by Iran’s threat of an attack against sea-lanes. Such attacks would not be effective, but even a low-probability disruption of the world’s oil supply is a risk not worth taking."
     
  2. skunk macrumors G4

    skunk

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    The only surprising thing is that the White House has been seemingly unaware of the position, and has been posturing vacuously for so long in apparent ignorance of the consequences. The biggest mistake was deposing Mossadeq in 1953, but almost everything since then has been a clusterf*ck of misjudgments.

    You should catch Persepolis at the cinema if you can. Very instructive.
     
  3. Desertrat thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Seems to me that the Mossadegh deal must be looked at in the context of the Cold War. Without the expansionist policies of the USSR in seeking a warm-water port, it wouldn't have been at all necessary. As it was, it was a major part of the containment effort. Mossadegh was making nice with the Soviets, so he had to go.
     
  4. skunk macrumors G4

    skunk

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    "The Mossadeq deal" must above all be looked at in the context of Big Oil. British Petroleum (the AIOC) had been expropriating Iranian resources on a massive scale without even the 50/50 deal which Aramco had agreed in Saudi. When they refused to renegotiate in good faith, Mossadeq threw them out. Enter a Republican administration in the States, and his fate was sealed. The whole affair had little to do with the Russians.
     
  5. Desertrat thread starter macrumors newbie

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    You're correct, in a limited sense. You ignore the West's fear of greater control by the Tudeh, as well as their views of full nationalization of the oil facilities.

    Total thread drift :): Take an unused area. The locals have no clue that anything of value is there. So here comes a geologist, looking for gold or looking for oil or whatever. He finds it, and then here come the exploiters. Okay, fine. So: What's "fair" to the locals? They have no means, themselves, to take advantage of a resource. All the knowledge, investment capital and technology come from outside.

    Now, basically, I'm all in favor of a royalty system. That's the history of the oil business in Texas, with which I grew up and therefore take pretty much for granted. But, here in the U.S., we own the private lands and the resources on and under it--not the government.

    Anyhow, without the outsiders the locals have nothing. They're risking nothing, "as is". The outsiders are taking financial risks, in that there might not be any profitable recovery. The world is full of dry holes.

    I guess that's why "nationalization" sticks in my craw.

    You can see one example of an end result, in Mexico. They nationalized, and over time have encoded an Mexican-only body of law for oil exploration and development. Now, they don't have the expertise/technology to continue further development. The emotions of uber-sovereignty are precluding any meaningful change--so they're on the verge, in a very few years, of a possible economic collapse.

    To come back to Iran, they've done little with their oil infrastructure since the fall of the Shah. They ship crude across the Gulf for refining, and ship gasoline back to Iran for rationed use at a subsidized price. It seems to me that Iran is as vulnerable to interruption of waterborne access to oil products as any country using the Straits of Hormuz for the shipment of crude.

    Interesting times.

    'Rat
     
  6. skunk macrumors G4

    skunk

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    You don't pay royalties on dry holes, and all the Iranians needed was a fair deal for their sovereign resource, as the Saudis had. Had BP dealt fairly with them, the whole affair would probably not have blown up.
     
  7. Desertrat thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Dry holes still aren't freebies. I agree that BP probably should have done better by Iran, moneywise, but the fact remains that in the Cold War context, there was much fear of Tudeh influence, perceptions of Socialism on the part of Mossadegh, and the known desire of the USSR for access to a warm-water port.

    Hindsight's wonderful, but the perceptions at the time of events must always be taken into account.

    What's interesting is that Mossadegh favored increased secularization (per Wikipedia) and that's a major part of what got the Shah in trouble with the mullahs. That aspect of division in the society still exists.

    What's troublesome (puzzling?) to me about modern-day Iran is that there is justification for nukes as a source of electricity. Their oil is not infinite, and their oilfield output is declining. Some estimates of known reserves state twenty years. If they'd quit worrying about Israel and quit the hostile posturing, they'd have no need for any worry about outside hostility toward their territory. As it is, the behavior and oratory gives credibility to the view that the present government is seeking to gain political power over the entire region.

    'Rat
     
  8. skunk macrumors G4

    skunk

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    #8
    Every government seeks to extend their political power, especially when confronted by a hostile superpower occupying the two largest neighbours and having undue influence over a third. Why should they "quit worrying about Israel and quit the hostile posturing"? The US overthrew their government, installed a savage regime in its place, armed and abetted a neighbouring dictator in an eight year war which killed one million Iranians, shot down one of their civil airliners, declared them to be part of an "Axis of Evil", and has made continual overt military threats, either directly or by proxy. What reason have they to be unworried?
     

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