Friday, January 19, 2007

An overextended Iranian Reich?

It appears that the Iranian Reich may have overplayed its hand. Its constant warlike rhetoric, consistently poor economic performance, and increasing international isolation are slowly but steadily wearing down the Mullahs in Teheran. Question is, is this all happening fast enough to serve American interests?

Consider the following snippets of information:

America Goes on the Offensive (via StrategyPage)

January 17, 2007: In the last month, Iran has become aware that the U.S. is deliberately hunting down Iranian agents inside Iraq. For most of the last year, Iran believed that it's high ranking contacts in the Iraqi government gave its men immunity. Certainly the Iraqi police would not touch them (the head of the national police, and Interior Ministry, was a pro-Iranian Iraqi Shia). But the Americans simply brush aside any Iraqi troops or police who get in the way, and grab Iranians. This is being done without much publicity at all. It's as if the Americans were just collecting evidence and building a case. A case for what?

U.S. Wonder Weapon Works Its Magic by James Dunnigan

January 18, 2007: The U.S. continues to use its dominant position in the world financial markets, to block Iranian attempts to maintain and improve its oil industry. Foreign companies interested in helping Iran maintain oil facilities, find themselves unable to arrange the financing. As a result, oil production is slowly declining, while local consumption (and very cheap prices) continues. At the current rate, Iran will have little, or no, oil to export in ten years. This kind of "weapon" does not work quickly, but it does work surely. Nuclear weapons could give the Iranians some muscle to help them block this stranglehold the U.S. has on them. It's not just the corruption of the religious dictatorship that is ruining the economy, its also the difficulty of bringing in foreigners to help fix it. With the threat of American financial regulators eventually nailing them, few foreign firms are willing to take the risk.

That American ‘wonder weapon’ seems to be having a noticeable effect on the Iranian economy. The Iranians are seeing it and they don’t like it.
In Iran, discontentment over president grows (AP via Newsweek)
Ahmadinejad's anti-U.S. focus and suffering economy has cost him support

Updated: 7:05 a.m. ET Jan. 18, 2007
TEHRAN, Iran - Prices for vegetables have tripled in the past month, housing prices have doubled since last summer — and as costs have gone up, so has Iranians’ discontent with hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his focus on confrontation with the West. Ahmadinejad was elected last year on a populist agenda promising to bring oil revenues to every family, eradicate poverty and tackle unemployment. Now he is facing increasingly fierce criticism for his failure to meet those promises. (more)

It seems a likely surmise that quietly, without fanfare, the Bush Administration has been waging diplomatic, financial and economic siege warfare against its main enemy in the Middle East, the 'Islamic Republic' of Iran. With the daily car bombings in Iraq grabbing all the headlines, however, such actions are largely invisible.

Clearly, more pro-active approaches that are still short of war are available to the US. Options such as providing covert aid to what can best be described as Iranian resistance groups (both armed and otherwise), waging psychological warfare, more aggressive actions against Iranian arms smuggling, terrorist support and intel gathering networks, and using more resources to subvert the Iranian theocracy (or their allies in Damascus) are certainly not off the table. It’s very much possible that such actions may be going on even now.

Even with these considerations, the Iranians will likely have their nuclear weapons operational within five years (or sooner). Will the American plan work in time to stop it? It’s anyone’s guess.

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