Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Consider Iran

There is a lot of speculation right now about how things are going to play out between the United States and Iran. I admit to having some very troubling concerns myself, because the lack of thoughtful analysis applied to Iraq made a huge mess, and failing to consider wisely with regards to Iran would be even worse.

Size of the Country: Iran is four times the size of Iraq, for starters. It is comparable in size to Alaska. Iraq, on the other hand is the size of two Idaho's. In addition to a vast size, Iran also has a modern military, including a technologically up-to-date Navy. Iran has recovered from the Iran-Iraq war of the eighties, but Iraq never did. Iran has not been struggling under two decades of warfare and economic sanctions.

Demographics: In the wake of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, birthrates skyrocketed, and the country has as many males between the ages of 15-64 as Iraq had total population at the time the United States invaded. The average age of those men is approximately 25 years.

Culture: Iran has a strong cultural identity. Persian culture predates Islam by about 1500 years. Iraq was / is an artificial construct, carved from the remnants of the Ottoman empire on the eve of World War I. From 1917 to 1958, Iraq was occupied by Britain, having invaded under cover of World War I and staying on post 1920 under a League of Nations Mandate.

Iran was known as Persia until 1935, and has not been occupied in modern times.

Iraq is populated with diverse Arab groups, many more loyal to tribe than the nation. Iran is predominantly Persian in ethnicity and possesses a strong national identity that is founded in a shared history.

System of Government: Iraq has never evolved a self-determined system of government. Instead, a series of military strongmen have emerged since the "Republic of Iraq" was declared in 1958. Saddam was merely the last in succession. Iran, on the other hand is an Islamic Theocracy. The President is a figurehead, and toppling the figurehead would have no impact on the stability of the government. The real power of government rests with the 86 Clerics who comprise the Assembly of Experts. Iran would not be toppled as long as a single Mullah remained alive.

Smarter people than I maintain that if America would engage in a little nuance and exercise some patience, the Mullahs will enjoy another decade in power; but if America were to forge ahead with an ill-conceived war against Iran, it would cement the Mullahs in power for an additional 50 years, possibly a full century.

As those in charge have been absolutely wrong about absolutely everything up to this point, I see no reason why they should be trusted now, in this regard, when the stakes are even higher than they have been to this point.