Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Iran: A Cast of Characters

A while ago I wrote that it was amazing how hell-bent everyone seemed on bombing Iran. Luckily, that has not yet happened, and it's clear there are plenty of people who are trying to prevent it. Many, many good articles have come out on this topic, and a pretty clear picture is emerging.

In some ways the easiest way to understand the current situation is to simply list and discuss the main protagonists. So here's a simplified, but I think useful, effort at doing this.

  • Iran: Iran's real goal is to establish itself as an internationally recognized actor in the region. It attempted to do this by negotiating with the US in 2003, and was summarily rebuffed by the neocon controlled administration. It is currently trying to use nuclear power as a wedge to achieve the same goal. While it would like to have nuclear weapons, it is a fairly stable, if oppressive, government and does not pose a regional threat, either directly or through terrorist organizations.

  • The Neocons: The neocons, which still have the bulk of control within the administration, are adamant that there must be "regime change" in Iran, and are currently using covert action of various kinds within Iran to attempt to achieve this. Given the likelihood that this will fail, they are pushing for a bombing campaign to move things along. There is no real reason to think bombing will work, but they have that "when in doubt, bomb" doctrine. Their ultimate goal is to control all of the energy resources in the Middle East in order to ensure Western corporate hegemony and America's status as the world's sole superpower, their long stated aim.

  • The Realists: The "realists", old guard Republicans who advocate a more moderate foreign policy, want to simply negotiate with Iran and achieve a workable diplomatic solution. Because of the failure in Iraq they hold more sway than they used to, but it's not clear they have enough clout to actually stop the bombing.

  • Israel: The Israeli right is pushing for the bombing option, and feels they may have to take the initiative themselves should Washington not go that route. They want desperately to remain the only nuclear power in the area.

  • The Military: The military is strongly opposed to the bombing. They understand how foolish it is, but it's unclear how long they can stand up to their civilian leadership.

  • The Democrats: The Democrats, while not loving the idea of attacking Iran, are, for the most part, under the sway of the right wing AIPAC lobby, which is adamant that we bomb. So they will offer very little opposition.

  • The Media: The mainstream media is dutifully playing along, tying the words "defiant Iran" and "crisis" together every chance they get so that people will think something really needs to be done.

  • Europe: Europe wants some sort of negotiated settlement; they are working with America ostensibly to restrain Iran but really are more concerned with limiting America's destructive actions.

  • Russia and China: Russia and China are trying to organize a counterweight to the overtly imperialistic American goals and are using the SCO, along with a general arms buildup, to achieve this. There is no question they will do anything short of war to try to stop the expanding US influence, and thus the ratcheted up rhetoric against them.

  • The Dollar: Iran, by selling oil in euros, and Russia, by selling in rubles, are trying to set up alternatives to the dollar for global reserves and weaken the US financially. China, of course, could cause a dollar collapse by selling its dollar holdings but that would create a worldwide recession that would cripple everyone, so it is reluctant to do this and is even resisting US pressure to loosen its currency.

At least the good news is that the vast majority seem to understand that bombing would accomplish virtually nothing positive and has a huge number of negatives. Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail.


Blogger Leo said...

"Iran's real goal is to establish itself as an internationally recognized actor in the region."

That's not an end in itself though, it's a means to an end. What do you think that end is?

6:54 AM  
Blogger Leo said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:54 AM  
Blogger Mopso said...

Good question.

I think the answers are the straightforward ones: security, power, and influence. They have understood since 2003 that they have been in the crosshairs and are trying to avoid being attacked; they understand that uranium enrichment is a pretext for this attack, not the cause of it, and they are trying to achieve security while strengthening popular support for what had been a not so popular theocracy. They also know that bombing could work in their favor in this regard.

If they can get past that stage and get normalized international relations, they become a dominant power in the region. They already have huge influence with the Shiite majority in Iraq, and by standing up to America and allying with China and Russia their energy resources can make them a significant world power. They also want to build a pipeline to India (which the US is trying to stop) to furthur increase their sway.

It's exactly because of this that the neocons, who really are fixated on controlling the world through its energy resources, are so focused on them.

I'm not sure if this completely answers the question, but it's the best I can give for now.

One of the better sources for decent analysis on Iran is the Asia Times - they have a mixed bag of opinion pieces, but they're typically more objective and informative than the "defiant Iran" nonsense pieces seen in the American media.

8:03 AM  

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