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WAR WITH IRAN? A Geopolitical Backgrounder

WAR WITH IRAN? A Geopolitical Backgrounder

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WAR WITH IRAN? A Geopolitical Backgrounder

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  1. WAR WITH IRAN?A Geopolitical Backgrounder Dr. Zoltán Grossman Member of the Faculty (Geography & Native American Studies) The Evergreen State College, Olympia, Washington

  2. Iran and Iraq Ethnicity: Iran has Persian majority, Iraq has Arab majority Religion: Iran and Iraq both have Shi’a Muslim majorities (past Iraqi rulers were Sunni) Interwined histories: Shi’ism, oil, monarchies, wars, British/U.S. control, “Axis of Evil” “I'm not sure I can tell you the difference in Iraq and Iran.” --Alan Jackson

  3. Iran more geopolitically pivotal Iran “may well prove as large a threat to U.S. interests in the Gulf as Iraq has.” -- Project for the New American Century

  4. Persian/Iranian Empires Crossroads of empires, conquerers, religions, ethnicities Islamic control in 637-651 Rule by succession of Shah (king) dynasties

  5. Political map

  6. Shi’a and Sunni regionsShi’as in dark green. The holiest Shi'ite cities of Karbala and Najafare within Iraq; Iraqi Ayatollah Sistani was born in Iran.

  7. Ethnic map Azeris Xxxxxxx Xxxxxxx Xxxxxxx xxxxxx Turkmen Kurds Persians Persians Luris Bakhtiaris Arabs Luris Persians Qashqai Baluchis

  8. Persian (Farsi-speaking) core Persians 51% Azeris (Turkic) 24% Kurds 7% Arabs 3%

  9. Ethnic minorities straddle boundaries Azeris Kurds Arabs Baluchis

  10. Ethnic groups & energy resources Xxxxxxx Xxxxxxx Xxxxxxx xxxxxx

  11. Western Iran

  12. Persia never a colony?

  13. Anglo-Persian War, 1856-57 Ahvaz (Khuzestan) fell to British, 1857 Arabs lived in SW region since 642.

  14. Anglo-Russian “Great Game” spheres of influence, 1907 Russian Empire Afgh. Ottoman Empire Kuwait British India

  15. British take oil in Arab region, 1908 British had engineered “protectorate” status for “Arabistan” region in SW Persia, 1897 Oil discovered by British in Arabistan, 1908 Start of Anglo-Persian Oil-- the future British Petroleum (BP) British and Russians occupy Persia during World War I

  16. Oil economy 10% of world reserves (2nd to Saudi Arabia) Most oil in SW, in Arab minority region of Khuzestan

  17. Reza Shah, 1921 Reza Shah emphasizes pre-Islamic imperial glories, Persian core Nationalist but also modernizer, Pahlavi dynasty offends clerics Retakes control of Arabistan, renames Khuzestan, 1925 Renames Persia as Iran, 1935

  18. World War II Reza Shah flirts with Nazis British and Soviets invade, force him into exile, 1941 Install son Mohammad Reza Pahlevi as Shah British reoccupy Khuzestan oil fields; Soviets occupy Azeri NW Iran

  19. After World War II Mahabad Republic in Azeri/Kurdish region, 1945-46 Truman threatened nuclear weapons to force withdrawal of Soviet troops from NW Iran, 1946 Anglo-Iranian has stranglehold on Khuzestan oil fields

  20. Mossadegh elected, 1951 Premier Mohammed Mossadegh, Parliament nationalizes British oil holdings, 1952 U.S. portrays nationalist leader as a Communist

  21. CIA coup, 1953 CIA agent Kermit Roosevelt directs military coup, installs Shah as supreme leader in Operation Ajax Mossadegh ouster was turning point U.S. joins British in control of oil

  22. Shah Reza Pahlavi West sees as bulwark vs. Communism, Arab nationalism, (later) Islamist fundamentalism Emphasized glorious past, huge palaces, kleptocracy Nuclear bombers stationed after Iraqis ousted monarchy, 1958 U.S. sold nuclear technology to Shah, who wanted a Bomb

  23. Shah under fire, 1970s Persian Gulf passes from British to U.S. domination Iran-Iraq peace treaty--U.S. sells out Kurdish rebels SAVAK secret police repression Religious turn against him for secularism, ties to Israel, lavish coronation Increasing street protests, rebel attacks

  24. Revolution begins, 1978 Strikes by leftist Arab oil workers in Khuzestan Tehran protesters massacred Call for return of Ayatollah Khomeini from exile in France (had also been in Iraq)

  25. Shah overthrown, 1979 Shah driven into exile, seeks medical treatment in U.S., Panama Ayatollah Khomeini returns as a unifying figure for revolution

  26. Revolutionary pluralism Bani Sadr’s “negative equilibrium” vs. superpowers Leftists, ethnic minorities had voice Revolution against Western cultural imperialism; Secular women wear veil as protest vs. U.S.

  27. Hostage crisis, 1979-81 Students take embassy “spy den,” demand Shah’s return Carter’s helicopter/bombing raid fails to free hostages; they are released the moment Reagan is inaugurated Turning point: Crisis strengthened Iran & U.S. hardliners

  28. Islamic Republic Khomeini crushes pluralism, consolidates control, using U.S & Iraqi threats as pretext Executes leftists, Kurds, Azeris, and People’s Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI) Women’s rights restricted by religious militia Difficult for 1980s U.S. peace movement: no “good guys,” no Christian or leftist leadership

  29. Carter Doctrine “Carter Doctrine” formalizes U.S. access to oil fields; threatens nuclear attack if Soviets invade Iran Start of “energy war,” Central Command, draft registration, psychological conditioning of Americans for Mideast war

  30. U.S. Central Command “American vital interests in the Central Region are long-standing. With over 65% of the world’s oil reserves located in the Gulf states of the region— from which the United States imports nearly 20% of its needs; Western Europe 43%; and Japan, 68%--the international community must have free and unfettered access to the region’s resources.” --General J. H. Binford Peay III, Central Command (1997) Cited in Blood and Oil by Michael Klare (Metropolitan Books, 2004)

  31. Iran-Iraq War, 1980-88 Iraq seized Khuzestan oil fields after Iranian Revolution, backed secessionist Arab rebels (who also occupied London embassy) Fought to bloody stalemate: Use of trenches, human wave tactics, chemical weapons. Iraqi Shi’as fought for Iraq; Iranian Arabs fought for Iran Iranians Iraqis

  32. Iran-Iraq War, 1980-88 U.S. supported Iraq with intelligence, naval escorts Reagan also later supplied Hawk missiles to Iran in “Iran-Contra Scandal” (to illegally raise funds to fight Sandinista Nicaragua) Kissinger: “bleed both sides”

  33. U.S. naval war, 1987-88 U.S. Navy escorts reflagged Iraqi (Kuwaiti) oil tankers under Iranian missile threat U.S. battles with Iranian gunboats; attacks oil platforms “Accidentally” shot down Iranian civilian jetliner Fear of Strait of Hormuz closure; island disputes with Gulf states

  34. Rafsanjani presidency, 1989-97 Neutral in Gulf War, 1991; feared both U.S. & Saddam U.S. lets Saddam slaughter Iraqi Shi’a, falsely assuming they would back Iran Neutral in war between Christian Armenia, Shi’ite Azerbaijan (ethnic over religious ideology) Rafsanjani hardline at home, but not confrontational to West Accelerated nuclear energy program

  35. Khatami presidency, 1997-2005 Youth supported “moderate” President Mohammad Khatami; but faced police crackdown Some secular youth identify Islam with hardline regime Yet even anti-regime youth stand by regime on nuclear issues, standing up to West

  36. PipelinePoliticsIn a new “Great Game, ” Caspian Basin oil & gas routes contested by:Turkey (U.S.) Afghanistan /Pakistan (U.S.) Russia Iran(most direct)

  37. Bases for wars, or wars for bases? • Gulf War, 1991 2. Yugoslav Wars, 1995-99 3. Afghan War, 2001 4. Iraq War, 2003 “Their function may be more political than military. They send a message to everyone.” --Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, NYT 2002

  38. Iraq War strategy:Encircling Iran? “The whole reason for the war is to get American troops into the region to put pressure on other governments. This is going to be the main American military base in the region” George Friedman/ Strategic Forecasting Tallil air base, Iraq

  39. U.S. & Iranian strategies in Iraq Military strategy: U.S. invaded Iraq, lost 1000s of soldiers, stuck in unpopular quagmire, saw its influence (and its favored exile candidates) rejected by Iraqis. Political strategy: Iran watched its 2nd-greatest enemy eliminate its 1st enemy, advised its Iraqi allies to play along so their candidates could run in elections, then saw the Shi'ite parties come to power--all without firing a shot. Iraqi Shi’ites not wanting to emulate Iran’s theocratic rule, turn youth against religion

  40. Ahmadinejad victory, 2005 Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was populist mayor of Tehran Built alliance of poor with religious conservatives Bush placing Iran in “Axis of Evil” strengthened conservatives in Iran

  41. “Search for Enemies”Ex-CIA official John Stockwell analysis:U.S. government creates Third World enemiesto distract attention from domestic problems Qaddafi (Libya) Castro (Cuba) The regimes of most “demonized” leaders have stayed in power longer than any others. They can blame U.S. for internal economic problems & dissent. Noriega (Panama) Ho (N. Vietnam) 2000s: Chávez or Ahmadinejad? Ayatollahs (Iran) Saddam (Iraq) Kims (N. Korea)

  42. Nuclear program Israel has had nuclear weapons since 1970s; Pakistan since 1998 All Iranian presidents say nuclear technology only for energy Ayatollah Ali Khameini issued fatwa vs. nuclear weapons, 2005 U.S., Israel, EU do not believe Iran; IAEA critical of Iranian program

  43. Uranium Enrichment (3.5% for energy; 90%+ for weapons-grade) Nov. 2004: Iran voluntarily suspends enrichment Aug. 2005: Iran rejects EU proposal to provide enriched uranium fuel for reactors March 2006: IAEA “has not seen indications of diversion of nuclear material to nuclear weapons.” April 2006: Iran successfully enriches uranium to 3.5% (energy-grade)

  44. Possible attack on nuclear program Bush could bomb underground Iranian nuclear facilities Or Israel may strike, like it bombed Iraq nuclear plant, 1981

  45. Ideological preparation Threat of “Iranian nuke” deeply embedded in Hollywood Justifying use of U.S. nukes to counter Iranian nuke? Seymour Hersh exposing White House discussion of use of nuclear “bunker busters” vs. Iran

  46. Staging grounds for invasion? Iraqi Shi’a leaders would not allow military assault on Iran. But U.S. can launch strikes from aircraft carriers, or Kuwait, Afghanistan, Turkey, Azerbaijan. Ex-weapons inspector Scott Ritter: U.S. building up capabilities in Azerbaijan (Iran's NW border), sponsoring PMOI rebel bombings. Pentagon does not think strikes alone will destroy Iran’s facilities, opposes nuclear option

  47. Difficulties in invading Iran “Invading Iran would likely make the bloody quagmire in Iraq look like a picnic. Iran has nearly four times the territory and three times the population of Iraq. Also, Iran's terrain is much more mountainous than Iraq's and even more ideal for guerrilla warfare.” --Ivan Eland

  48. xxxxxx ExploitingethnictensionsAzeri protests,May 2006Arab protests,April, Nov. 2005Kurdish rebelattacks, 2006-07Baluchi Sunni rebelattacks, 2006-07

  49. Stimulating ethnic revolt? U.S. Marine intelligence teams hooking up with ethnic rebel groups in Iran (Financial Times 2/26/06) American Enterprise Institute hosts conference, 2005 Timing of Western interest in ethnic grievances coincides with larger desire to pressure & isolate Iran. U.S. & U.K. have a long history of championing the rights of an ethnic minority against an “enemy,” then abandoning the minority when it is no longer useful.