Having read some articles and blogs with Iran as the focus I have noticed a somewhat unsettling trend among the community. Many people have tried to imagine the course of action the Iranians would take if attacked by either Israel or the U.S. Some of the more popular conclusions are that Iran will send ground troops into Iraq in order to further destabilize the situation or that they will send Shiab missiles into Israel for mass casualties to the population. A deeper understanding of the goal of Iran shows that both of these responses are inefficient and unlikely. Regardless of the weaknesses in the American military that have been exposed to the world through the Iraqi insurgency America remains by far the most powerful militarily body in the world; and Israel is by far the most sophisticated military in the region, not to mention they have the full support of the American military should any major threat surface. Any overt attack by Iran, even if it is a response to a pre-emptive strike on their nuclear facilities, will be met with overwhelming military might and would leave them in a situation that no international body would be able to bail them out of. In short, any overt militarily response by the Mullahs would have them meet their demise. Iran is, however, not without options.
More Below …
The Goal of Iran
Before determining what the likely response would be, one must first understand the goal of the Mullahs. In the broadest understanding of Iranian foreign policy Iran’s goal is to be a counter balance, in the region, to the American “super power”, Israel and eventually Europe(When America’s ambitions prove to be unrealistic and unsustainable). Iran’s goal can be broken into three basic ideas, strengthening their moral authority across the greater Arab and Muslim world, unifying those nations, and Building a military that can be responsive to international threats.
Consider some of Mullah Khamenei’s more recent calls for resistance against the US’ Middle East plan:
It may not be immediately evident as to what the connection is with the Iranian goal but reading between the lines there should be an understanding that Iran thinks that Islam and its teachings should have a major impact on how the world at large in governed.
It is should be pretty well understood that the Iranian military in itself cannot be a counter balance to American might but if we have learned anything from the church in Vatican city it is that if you have the ear of the people and if you hold the moral authority over the masses you have a voice that is not easily equaled by any military power.
The Mullah’s understand the American goal in the Middle East to be the above statement because that goal is not dissimilar from the goal of Islam and the Mullahs. Iran remains the only nation in the region who has the moral strength & stability as well as the military power to lead the greater Arab world into a coalition of nations, not unlike the European Union. In times past this goal remained unrealistic because of Iraq’s role as a burdensome stone but with Saddam Hussein, the one who ensured that the Arab world would never unite, out of the picture Iran can now work closely with a Shiite dominated Iraq. A coalition between these two nations states could prove troublesome to American interest in the region consequently the US might find in short order that Saddam Hussein was their greatest strategic ally in the Middle East.
In the eyes of Iran Islam must be a dominant force in world politics
I suspect Iran to continue playing to the ear of Islamic nations and trying to unify these nations and build support in the near future. A coalition held together by Islam and strengthened by proliferation of weaponry and military knowledge.
A Realistic Goal?
Do Mullah’s have enough support amongst its own people to carry out such a bold policy, the uniting of Arab and Muslim nations? That, to me, remains their biggest obstacle. If they are able to gain the full support of their own people this goal is a realistic goal but if internal pressures continue to tug at the heart of Iran then their regime, not only their goal of unifying Islamic nations is in trouble. Logically one might ask, even if they are successful of gaining the support of their people is it realistic to assume they can get the full support of other Islamic and Arab nations in their current state? Short Answer: NO with a “but”.
While governments in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Morocco, Jordan and to a lesser extent Egypt (To name a few), remain friendly to the Americans, a Zogby Poll from July ’04 and others shows us that the vast majority of Arabs in the region remain Anti-American. Even those who seem, at first glance, to be pro American, are so because of their desire to be economically friendly with the Americans. However, if there were a government in the region who was openly Anti-American and still had the support of the international community; that is to say they were not under the threat of international sanctions and their regime was still clearly able to sustain power, that regime would be very popular in the Middle-East. This statement becomes even more valid if the regime is a military threat to any opponents, external and internal (There is a certain amount of pride and respect that goes along with military power). It seems improbable at best to have such a Middle Eastern coalition when there are so many governments in the region that still fully support American policies, or at the least are willing to live with them so long as they have the support of America to preserve the status quo. Enter the Iranian response; destabilize and conquer. Such a reaction will eventually give Iran what it has long desired: A unified Middle East (And parts of Africa) under the banner of an Islamic Republic.
While their have been reports which refer to the fact that Iran’s military isn’t exactly modern ( see righnation’s report), they remain in a geographically powerful position and the goals of their nation resonates well in an Anti-American region. Thus, if attacked Iran will not just bombard Israel or send troops into Iraq to further destabilize it but they will act much more discreetly by attempting to slowly destabilize the region through a series of attacks over a wider period of time. It is my conclusion that Iran would find its responses in trying to bring down some of the governments that have long been known to go against the grain of their people. Iran would do well trying to bring down the house of Saud as well as President Musharraf of Pakistan as an initial response. The security gap that would arise would be one that even the US military would find difficult to take on given their already stretched military and the UN’s security forces cannot even keep Haiti relatively calm so that doesn’t seem like an effective option.
Pakistan is one assassination away from falling back into the category of rogue state (i.e. Anti-American). The Pakistani opposition seems to be fairly well organized and they do have support. Who knows just how far the opposition would go in terms of helping “the enemies of America” get the weapons they need.
Considering that the opposition finds it inconceivable that A.Q Khan should be placed under any scrutiny whatsoever
I would be wary of a Pakistani government that is more in tuned with the wants of its people.
Opposition law makers called on Friday for a debate on the minister’s remarks, warning that “such irresponsible behaviour” could threaten national security.
Hardline Islamist leader Qazi Hussain Ahmed said the minister’s statement had put the entire nation on the defensive.
Even the act of putting AQ Khan, the father of the Islamic nuke, under house arrest for his proliferation of nuclear technology has been a risky move for General Musharraf as he has been seen as bending to the will of America rather than doing what is in the best interest of his country.
Even without a push in that direction it seems to me that Pakistan is on the brink of radicalism (All the while America is strengthening the Pakistani military”).
Saudi Arabia, Jordan & Egypt have more embedded leadership, that is to say these leaders have been in power for quite sometime and a few terror attacks may not topple them but they would all prove to be wise targets for the Mullah’s. A covert terror strike would be fairly simple against any of the aforementioned nations and though it may not topple them immediately it would certainly help to put the squeeze on some fairly important American Allies in the region. I think it is fair to stress how volatile Saudi Oil is to Al-Qaida attacks; such strikes could only be more taxing when sponsored by Iran.
I am aware that a response like this flies square in the face of what others have been saying and what Iran themselves have said but I hold firm to the fact that it is a very plausible solution for Iran.
Iran tells the world that it is ready and willing to go head on with American and her allies because of the current geo-positions of the US Military. As Yahya Rahim Safavi said:
The U.S. and the Zionist regime (Israel) do not have the power to confront us and we will hand them bone-breaking blows
Iraq is getting more unsafe everyday for America anyway
[If] The Zionist regime had a satanic thought and attacked Iran, we would not leave one point safe in the entire Zionist territory
Such rhetoric cannot be completely overlooked but I think they realize that they cannot overcome American military might in a “fair” war.
The Oil Option
American’s of late have been complaining about the cost of gasoline at the pumps and some companies are already being forced to pass on the higher cost of doing business to the American consumer so oil prices are beginning to have an effect on the US but how much worst could it get if Iran is attacked? It could be more than simply losing Iran’s daily production as Iran has warned that the Gulf Arab oil would be endangered by any U.S attack on the Islamic republic. That would be a horrific response and could prove detrimental to the world economy.
Teheran could easily block the Straits of Hormuz and use its missiles to strike tankers and GCC oil facilities. Within weeks, the rest of the world would be starving for oil and the global economy could be in danger.
I am not an economist but I’m quite confident that such a move would be tough on the average American to say the least. I’m just as confident that the stock market would take a massive hit. There is no telling how deep such wounds would go. The world has already lost the 1 million barrels per day that Iraq produced and prices are hovering around $50 per barrel, what would the prices be if 40% of the world’s crude oil was cut off?
The possibilities for retaliation are endless and the common proposal of direct and immediate retaliation seems least likely if not least profitable for the Mullahs. If Iran is attacked an unconventional retaliation is a conceivable response. Whether it is through their own intelligence agencies, Hezbollah or other militant groups the end goal remains the same. Destabilize and Conquer.