World Politics (aka the Greek Peace Summit)

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Re: World Politics (aka the Greek Peace Summit)

Post by Huojin » 19:15:03 Wednesday, 11 January, 2017

Red John wrote:
OYID wrote:Updates and expanded the shit list. Thinking of making a list of leftist orgs and folks I actually like if there's enough interest. :P
Woah there, Jeremy 'One man vanguard' Corbyn most assuredly was not a remain campaigner. He completely failed to do anything meaningful for the campaign, and seemed to want out himself.
He was a half-assed Remain campaigner, in that he himself clearly wanted Brexit but was pressured by the rest of the party to align with Remain. Still, by half-assing it he both helped assure a Brexit victory and failed to present a left-wing narrative for Brexit, allowing the entire movement to become co-opted by the right wing, immigrant bashing, expert-denying bunch.

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Re: World Politics (aka the Greek Peace Summit)

Post by OYID » 19:48:25 Wednesday, 11 January, 2017

Huojin wrote:
Red John wrote:
OYID wrote:Updates and expanded the shit list. Thinking of making a list of leftist orgs and folks I actually like if there's enough interest. :P
Woah there, Jeremy 'One man vanguard' Corbyn most assuredly was not a remain campaigner. He completely failed to do anything meaningful for the campaign, and seemed to want out himself.
He was a half-assed Remain campaigner, in that he himself clearly wanted Brexit but was pressured by the rest of the party to align with Remain. Still, by half-assing it he both helped assure a Brexit victory and failed to present a left-wing narrative for Brexit, allowing the entire movement to become co-opted by the right wing, immigrant bashing, expert-denying bunch.
Quite. This from the man who built his brand on rocking the boat. Guess he's not such a troublemaker when it actually matters.

I forgot to mention it but he's part of what I call "the rotten old socdem mummies revived by global capitalism to co-opt the emergent revolutionary movement", a category in which I include him, Bernie Sanders and the current phase in the carreer of Mexico's López Obrador. The name is pretty self-explanatory.

Don't trust old white dudes anymore, is what I'm getting at.
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Re: World Politics (aka the Greek Peace Summit)

Post by Huojin » 21:57:51 Wednesday, 11 January, 2017

OYID wrote:Don't trust old white dudes anymore, is what I'm getting at.
Was there a time when we were supposed to trust them? Because I think we've been pretty hard done by if that's the case.

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Re: World Politics (aka the Greek Peace Summit)

Post by Coin » 12:49:30 Thursday, 12 January, 2017

Huzzah for leftie racism ;)

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Re: World Politics (aka the Greek Peace Summit)

Post by Serenissima » 14:24:19 Thursday, 12 January, 2017

I'm no fan of Corbyn, but the Brexit situation is far more complicated than that. I don't think that the man is up to any good, but for different reasons - while the "anti immigration" thing he was supposedly going to announce was anything but, he essentially fails entirely at holding the government and the Blairites to account (and as most of Labour's MPs are also Blairite and doing their best to sabotage their own party constantly, it's no surprise). I do feel a bit sorry for him, as the hugely right-wing media prefers to devote column inches and airtime to calling him scruffily dressed, or saying he didn't respect the war dead, or whether he found a seat on a train or not, rather than even mentioning what the Tories are doing ever.

Essentially, he focuses on the wrong things and is far too unfocused, thus turning off the majority of voters one way or another by chasing tangents. He would really need to hammer the Tories on what they are doing to the health service, the abuses in the welfare system, the continual sale of the country to foreign interests via privatisation, the Orwellian mass surveillance regime, and so on, but instead he's dithering about over issues that most voters either don't care about or know about enough to have an independent opinion on (solidarity for Palestine, which the media instantly calls anti-Semetic and has witch hunts launched) or actively disagree with because it's idealistic cloud cuckoo lander type stuff (maybe if we ask nicely, stop resisting, and negotiate with them, IS will lay down their arms).

Reminds me of crappy old Natalie Bennett of the Green Party, who made herself and the party a bit of a laughing stock in the debate by, on the topic of human rights, responding (paraphrased) "Human rights? What about animal rights?!" In short, the left - the actual left - would really need to begin by competing on issues that immediately apply to most people and pointing out just how bad things are with who pays taxes and who doesn't, the ideological nonsense of austerity, and so on. EDIT: What I'm saying, to clarify, is that they've allowed the far right to falsely claim the mantle of 'actually cares about people in this country', but not only that, with the far right's narrow definition of 'people in this country' excluding anyone who isn't a racist white person.

But right now, they're just seen as a bunch of people who won't stop appearing to be "self-hating", because of the focus on the welfare of people abroad, animals, disarmament for the UK because we're evil (but not for that trustworthy Mr Putin of course). I'm not against international aid, think that we should be taking lots of refugees, and am heavily in favour of animal rights, but I recognise that campaigning on these issues rather than the voters' welfare is not a way to be seen as anything other than 'loony left'. And Corbyn fails at that. To me, it's something we ought to focus on after we win, rather than trying to make things that people simply don't care about election issues.
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Re: World Politics (aka the Greek Peace Summit)

Post by OYID » 00:48:52 Friday, 13 January, 2017

Palestine is important, and should be defended no matter what slander the Zionists throw at you.

Other than that holy shit!!! :o :o :o Thanks for the rundown, Seren. Laid out like that it's clear that social-democracy is not only a sham, but a sad and pathetic one at that. You're completely right: if the Left isn't fighting for the immediate human needs of working folk, then what the fuck is it good for.

Also, he sounds like he's a shit populist*: haters should fuel him, not drive him towards the loony issues. Oh! And this Bennett woman sounds a lot like Jill Stein. I think Huojin mentioned her once.

*In 2017 political lingo it probably means something akin to internet troll.
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Re: World Politics (aka the Greek Peace Summit)

Post by Huojin » 01:01:59 Friday, 13 January, 2017

OYID wrote:Also, he sounds like he's a shit populist*: haters should fuel him, not drive him towards the loony issues. Oh! And this Bennett woman sounds a lot like Jill Stein. I think Huojin mentioned her once.
She's somehow even more idiotic.

Have a listen to this interview (3mins45secs) if you can:


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Re: World Politics (aka the Greek Peace Summit)

Post by Serenissima » 13:50:00 Friday, 13 January, 2017

OYID wrote:Palestine is important, and should be defended no matter what slander the Zionists throw at you.
All I'm saying is that it isn't an election issue for the vast majority of British people, and that Corbyn focusing his attention on the bad things the Israeli state is doing is diluting attention from the bad things the British state is doing (which campaigning on might actually attract some support). Sad as it is, the voters largely don't care about it or even have an opinion, and going on about it as a priority, instead of powerfully opposing the Tories' far-right economics, is just making Labour look out of touch. It's a failure to address important issues (like capitalism) due to a fear of losing the centre ground, while trying to look left wing for the left-wing base by chasing other causes. It all ends up not really standing for anything. I don't believe the Blairite nonsense about how going too far left will alienate voters. If Labour and the left were to offer a real alternative with UBI and actually taxing fairly rather than putting the burden exclusively on the working people, I think they would do better.
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Re: World Politics (aka the Greek Peace Summit)

Post by Tellos » 05:44:21 Sunday, 15 January, 2017

I disagree Seren, issue is the image of the left is same as issue of image on the right. go too far and you reach crazy land. trouble is the "real alternative" is always at least here jsut somebody insanely on one sides edge. Trump was the "real alternative."
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Re: World Politics (aka the Greek Peace Summit)

Post by Huojin » 19:57:01 Tuesday, 09 May, 2017

Just for record-keeping so I don't forget, MoO and I have a bet as to whether there'll be major protests (defined as 500,000+ out on the streets in one day) against Macron in the first six months since his election.

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Re: World Politics (aka the Greek Peace Summit)

Post by Gesar » 20:03:09 Tuesday, 09 May, 2017

Huojin wrote:Just for record-keeping so I don't forget, MoO and I have a bet as to whether there'll be major protests (defined as 500,000+ out on the streets in one day) against Macron in the first six months since his election.
Put me down for four months and the 'yes' side.
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Re: World Politics (aka the Greek Peace Summit)

Post by Huojin » 20:10:15 Tuesday, 09 May, 2017

Gesar wrote:
Huojin wrote:Just for record-keeping so I don't forget, MoO and I have a bet as to whether there'll be major protests (defined as 500,000+ out on the streets in one day) against Macron in the first six months since his election.
Put me down for four months and the 'yes' side.
Winner gets to decide the loser's avatar, user title and signature for a week, just so you know~

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Re: World Politics (aka the Greek Peace Summit)

Post by Zar » 21:41:52 Tuesday, 09 May, 2017

Sign me up for no.
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Russia: A Permanent Struggle (CC&P)

Post by Pager » 00:46:09 Sunday, 25 June, 2017

Russia's defining characteristic is its indefensibility. Unlike the core of most states that are relatively defensible, core Russia is limited to the region of the medieval Grand Principality of Muscovy. It counts no rivers, oceans, swamps or mountains marking its borders — it relies solely on the relatively inhospitable climate and its forests for defense. Russian history is a chronicle of the agony of surviving invasion after invasion.

Traditionally these invasions have come from two directions. The first is from the steppes — wide open grasslands that connect Russia to Central Asia and beyond — the path that the Mongols used. The second is from the North European Plain, which brought to Russia everything from the Teutonic Knights to the Nazi war machine.

Russia — modern, medieval or otherwise — cannot count on natural features to protect it.

That leaves buffers. So long as a country controls territory separating itself from its foes — even if it is territory that is easy for a hostile military to transit — it can bleed out any invasion via attrition and attacks on supply lines. Such buffers, however, contain a poison pill. They have populations not necessarily willing to serve as buffers. Maintaining control of such buffers requires not only a sizable standing military for defense but also a huge internal security and intelligence network to enforce central control. And any institution so key to the state's survival must be very tightly controlled as well. Establishing and maintaining buffers not only makes Russia seem aggressive to its neighbors but also forces it to conduct purges and terrors against its own institutions in order to maintain the empire.

The geography of the Russian Empire bequeathed it certain characteristics. Most important, the empire was (and remains) lightly settled. Even today, vast areas of Russia are unpopulated while in the rest of the country the population is widely distributed in small towns and cities and far less concentrated in large urban areas. Russia's European part is the most densely populated, but in its expansion Russia both resettled Russian ethnics and assimilated large minorities along the way. So while Moscow and its surroundings are certainly critical, the predominance of the old Muscovy is not decisively ironclad.

The result is a constant, ingrained clash within the Russian Empire no matter the time frame, driven primarily by its size and the challenges of transport. The Russian empire, even excluding Siberia, is an enormous landmass located far to the north. Moscow is at the same latitude as Newfoundland while the Russian and Ukrainian breadbaskets are at the latitude of Maine, resulting in an extremely short growing season. Apart from limiting the size of the crop, the climate limits the efficiency of transport — getting the crop from farm to distant markets is a difficult matter and so is supporting large urban populations far from the farms. This is the root problem of the Russian economy. Russia can grow enough to feed itself, but it cannot efficiently transport what it grows from the farms to the cities and to the barren reaches of the empire before the food spoils. And even when it can transport it, the costs of transport make the foodstuffs unaffordable.

Russia, then, has two core geopolitical problems. The first is holding the empire together. But the creation of that empire poses the second problem, maintaining internal security. It must hold together the empire and defend it at the same time, and the achievement of one goal tends to undermine efforts to achieve the other.

Geopolitical Imperatives

To secure the Russian core of Muscovy, Russia must:

• Expand north and east to secure a redoubt in climatically hostile territory that is protected in part by the Urals. This way, even in the worst-case scenario (i.e., Moscow falls), there is still a “Russia” from which to potentially resurge.

• Expand south to the Caucasus and southeast into the steppes in order to hamper invasions of Asian origin. As circumstances allow, push as deeply into Central Asia and Siberia as possible to deepen this bulwark.

• Expand as far west as possible. Do not stop in the southwest until the Carpathians are reached. On the North European Plain do not stop ever. Deeper penetration increases security not just in terms of buffers; the North European Plain narrows the further west one travels making its defense easier.

• Manage the empire with terror. Since the vast majority of Russian territory is not actually Russian, a very firm hand is required to prevent myriad minorities from asserting regional control or aligning with hostile forces.

• Expand to warm water ports that have open-ocean access so that the empire can begin to counter the economic problems that a purely land empire suffers.

The greatest extension of the Russian Empire occurred under the Soviets from 1945 to 1989. Paradoxically, this expansion preceded the collapse of the Soviet Union and the contraction of Russia to its current borders. When we look at the Russian Federation today, it is important to understand that it has essentially retreated to the borders the Russian Empire had in the 17th century. It holds old Muscovy plus the Tatar lands to the southeast as well as Siberia. It has lost its western buffers in Ukraine and the Baltics and its strong foothold in the Caucasus and in Central Asia.

The Soviet Union was a landlocked entity dominating the Eurasian heartland but without free access to the sea. Neither the Baltic nor Black seas allow Russia free oceangoing transport because they are blocked by the Skagerrak and the Turkish straits, respectively. So long as Denmark and Turkey remain in NATO, Russia's positions in St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad, Sevastopol and Novorossiysk are militarily dubious.

It can be said that no one intends to invade Russia. From the Russian point of view, history is filled with dramatic changes of intention, particularly in the West. The unthinkable occurs to Russia once or twice a century. In its current configuration, Russia cannot hope to survive whatever surprises are coming in the 21st century.

Muscovy was offensive because it did not have a good defensive option. The same is true of Russia. Given the fact that a Western alliance, NATO, is speaking seriously of establishing a dominant presence in Ukraine and in the Caucasus — and has already established a presence in the Baltics, forcing Russia far back into the widening triangle, with its southern flank potentially exposed to Ukraine as a NATO member — the Russians must view their position as dire. As with Napoleon, Wilhelm and Hitler, the initiative is in the hands of others. For the Russians, the strategic imperative is to eliminate that initiative or, if that is impossible, anchor Russia as firmly as possible on geographical barriers, concentrating all available force on the North European Plain without overextension.

Unlike countries such as China, Iran and the United States, Russia has not achieved its strategic geopolitical imperatives. On the contrary, it has retreated from them:

- Russia does hold the northern Caucasus, but it no longer boasts a deep penetration of the mountains, including Georgia and Armenia. Without those territories Russia cannot consider this flank secure.

- Russia has lost its anchor in the mountains and deserts of Central Asia and so cannot actively block or disrupt — or even well monitor — any developments to its deep south that could threaten its security.

- Russia retains Siberia, but because of the climatic and geographic hostility of the region it is almost a wash in terms of security (it certainly is economically).

- Russia's loss of Ukraine and Moldova allows both the intrusion of other powers and the potential rise of a Ukrainian rival on its very doorstep. Powers behind the Carpathians are especially positioned to take advantage of this political geography.

- The Baltic states have re-established their independence, and all three are east and north of the Baltic-Carpathian line (the final defensive line on the North European Plain). Their presence in a hostile alliance is unacceptable. Neither is an independent or even neutral Belarus (also on the wrong side of that line).

Broader goals, such as having a port not blocked by straits controlled by other countries, could have been pursued by the Soviets. Today such goals are far out of Russian reach. From the Russian point of view, creating a sphere of influence that would return Russia to its relatively defensible imperial boundaries is imperative.

Obviously, forces in the peripheral countries as well as great powers outside the region will resist. For them, a weak and vulnerable Russia is preferable, since a strong and secure one develops other appetites that could see Russia pushing along vectors such as through the Skagerrak toward the North Sea, through the Turkish Straits toward the Mediterranean and through La Perouse Strait toward Japan and beyond.

Russia's essential strategic problem is this: It is geopolitically unstable. The Russian Empire and Soviet Union were never genuinely secure. One problem was the North European Plain. But another problem, very real and hard to solve, was access to the global trading system via oceans. And behind this was Russia's essential economic weakness due to its size and lack of ability to transport agricultural produce throughout the country. No matter how much national will it has, Russia's inherently insufficient infrastructure constantly weakens its internal cohesion.

Russia must dominate the Eurasian heartland. When it does, it must want more. The more it wants the more it must face its internal economic weakness and social instability, which cannot support its ambitions. Then the Russian Federation must contract. This cycle has nothing to do with Russian ideology or character. It has everything to do with geography, which in turn generates ideologies and shapes character. Russia is Russia and must face its permanent struggle.
Last edited by Pager on 12:52:14 Sunday, 25 June, 2017, edited 1 time in total.

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Iran: A Fortress Country (CC&P)

Post by Pager » 02:37:12 Sunday, 25 June, 2017

To understand Iran, you must begin by understanding how large it is. Iran is the 17th largest country in world. It measures 1,684,000 square kilometers. That means that its territory is larger than the combined territories of France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Portugal — Western Europe. Iran is the 16th most populous country in the world, with about 70 million people. Its population is larger than the populations of either France or the United Kingdom.

More important are its topographical barriers. Iran is defined, above all, by its mountains, which form its frontiers, enfold its cities and describe its historical heartland. To understand Iran, you must understand not only how large it is but also how mountainous it is.

Iran has about 800 miles of coastline, roughly half along the eastern shore of the Persian Gulf, the rest along the Gulf of Oman. Its most important port, Bandar Abbas, is located on the Strait of Hormuz. There are no equivalent ports along the Gulf of Oman, and the Strait of Hormuz is extremely vulnerable to interdiction. Therefore, Iran is not a major maritime or naval power. It is and always has been a land power.

Iran’s population is concentrated in its mountains, not in its lowlands, as with other countries. That’s because its lowlands, with the exception of the southwest and the southeast (regions populated by non-Persians), are uninhabitable. Iran is a nation of 70 million mountain dwellers. Even its biggest city, Tehran, is in the foothills of towering mountains. Its population is in a belt stretching through the Zagros and Elbroz mountains on a line running from the eastern shore of the Caspian to the Strait of Hormuz. There is a secondary concentration of people to the northeast, centered on Mashhad. The rest of the country is lightly inhabited and almost impassable because of the salt-mud flats.

The location of Iran’s oil fields is critical here, since oil remains its most important and most strategic export. Oil is to be found in three locations: The southwest is the major region, with lesser deposits along the Iraqi border in the north and one near Qom. The southwestern oil fields are an extension of the geological formation that created the oil fields in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. Hence, the region east of the Shatt al-Arab is of critical importance to Iran. Iran has the third largest oil reserves in the world and is the world’s fourth largest producer. Therefore, one would expect it to be one of the wealthiest countries in the world. It isn’t.

Iran has the 28th largest economy in the world but ranks only 71st in per capita gross domestic product (as expressed in purchasing power). It ranks with countries like Belarus or Panama. Part of the reason is inefficiencies in the Iranian oil industry, the result of government policies. But there is a deeper geographic problem. Iran has a huge population mostly located in rugged mountains. Mountainous regions are rarely prosperous. The cost of transportation makes the development of industry difficult. Sparsely populated mountain regions are generally poor. Heavily populated mountain regions, when they exist, are much poorer.

Iran’s geography and large population make substantial improvements in its economic life difficult. Unlike underpopulated and less geographically challenged countries such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, Iran cannot enjoy any shift in the underlying weakness of its economy brought on by higher oil prices and more production. The absence of inhabitable plains means that any industrial plant must develop in regions where the cost of infrastructure tends to undermine the benefits. Oil keeps Iran from sinking even deeper, but it alone cannot catapult Iran out of its condition.

Iran is a mountainous country looking for inhabitable plains. There are none to the north, only more mountains and desert, or to the east, where Afghanistan’s infrastructure is no more inviting. To the south there is only ocean. What plains there are in the region lie to the west, in modern-day Iraq and historical Mesopotamia and Babylon. If Iran could dominate these plains, and combine them with its own population, they would be the foundation of Iranian power.

Indeed, these plains were the foundation of the Persian Empire. The Persians originated in the Zagros Mountains as a warrior people. They built an empire by conquering the plains in the Tigris and Euphrates basin. They did this slowly, over an extended period at a time when there were no demarcated borders and they faced little resistance to the west. While it was difficult for a lowland people to attack through mountains, it was easier for a mountain-based people to descend to the plains. This combination of population and fertile plains allowed the Persians to expand.

Iran’s attacking north or northwest into the Caucasus is impossible in force. The Russians, Turks and Iranians all ground to a halt along the current line in the 19th century; the country is so rugged that movement could be measured in yards rather than miles. Iran could attack northeast into Turkmenistan, but the land there is flat and brutal desert. The Iranians could move east into Afghanistan, but this would involve more mountain fighting for land of equally questionable value. Attacking west, into the Tigris and Euphrates river basin, and then moving to the Mediterranean, would seem doable. This was the path the Persians took when they created their empire and pushed all the way to Greece and Egypt.

In terms of expansion, the problem for Iran is its mountains. They are as effective a container as they are a defensive bulwark. Supporting an attacking force requires logistics, and pushing supplies through the Zagros in any great numbers is impossible. Unless the Persians can occupy and exploit Iraq, further expansion is impossible. In order to exploit Iraq, Iran needs a high degree of active cooperation from Iraqis. Otherwise, rather than converting Iraq’s wealth into political and military power, the Iranians would succeed only in being bogged down in pacifying the Iraqis.

Underlying the external problems of Iran is a severe internal problem. Mountains allow nations to protect themselves. Completely eradicating a culture is difficult. Therefore, most mountain regions of the world contain large numbers of national and ethnic groups that retain their own characteristics. This is commonplace in all mountainous regions. These groups resist absorption and annihilation. Although a Muslim state with a population that is 55 to 60 percent ethnically Persian, Iran is divided into a large number of ethnic groups. It is also divided between the vastly dominant Shia and the minority Sunnis, who are clustered in three areas of the country — the northeast, the northwest and the southeast. Any foreign power interested in Iran will use these ethnoreligious groups to create allies in Iran to undermine the power of the central government.

Thus, any Persian or Iranian government has as its first and primary strategic interest maintaining the internal integrity of the country against separatist groups. It is inevitable, therefore, for Iran to have a highly centralized government with an extremely strong security apparatus.

Geopolitical Imperatives

For most countries, the first geographical imperative is to maintain internal cohesion. For Iran, it is to maintain secure borders, then secure the country internally. Without secure borders, Iran would be vulnerable to foreign powers that would continually try to manipulate its internal dynamics, destabilize its ruling regime and then exploit the resulting openings. Iran must first define the container and then control what it contains. Therefore,

Iran’s geopolitical imperatives:

1. Control the Zagros and Elburz mountains. These constitute the Iranian heartland and the buffers against attacks from the west and north.

2. Control the mountains to the east of the Dasht-e Kavir and Dasht-e Lut, from Mashhad to Zahedan to the Makran coast, protecting Iran’s eastern frontiers with Pakistan and Afghanistan. Maintain a line as deep and as far north and west as possible in the Caucasus to limit Turkish and Russian threats. These are the secondary lines.

3. Secure a line on the Shatt al-Arab in order to protect the western coast of Iran on the Persian Gulf.

4. Control the divergent ethnic and religious elements in this box.

5. Protect the frontiers against potential threats, particularly major powers from outside the region.

Iran has achieved four of the five basic goals. It has created secure frontiers and is in control of the population inside the country. The greatest threat against Iran is the one it has faced since Alexander the Great — that posed by major powers outside the region. Historically, before deep-water navigation, Iran was the direct path to India for any Western power. In modern times, the Zagros remain the eastern anchor of Turkish power. Northern Iran blocks Russian expansion. And, of course, Iranian oil reserves make Iran attractive to contemporary great powers.

The greatest threat to Iran in recent centuries has been a foreign power dominating Iraq — Ottoman or British — and extending its power eastward not through main force but through subversion and political manipulation. The view of the contemporary Iranian government toward the United States is that, during the 1950s, it assumed Britain’s role of using its position in Iraq to manipulate Iranian politics and elevate the shah to power.

Nevertheless, from the Iranian point of view, the primary danger of Iraq is not direct attack but subversion. It is not only Iraq that worries them. Historically, Iranians also have been concerned about Russian manipulation and manipulation by the British and Russians through Afghanistan.

The Iranian counter to all this has several dimensions:

1. Maintain an extremely powerful and repressive security capability to counter these moves. In particular, focus on deflecting any intrusions in the Khuzestan region, which is not only the most physically vulnerable part of Iran but also where much of Iran’s oil reserves are located. This explains clashes such as the seizure of British sailors and constant reports of U.S. special operations teams in the region.

2. Manipulate ethnic and religious tensions in Iraq and Afghanistan to undermine the American positions there and divert American attention to defensive rather than offensive goals.

3. Maintain a military force capable of protecting the surrounding mountains so that major American forces cannot penetrate.

4. Move to create a nuclear force, very publicly, in order to deter attack in the long run and to give Iran a bargaining chip for negotiations in the short term.

Iran is, therefore, a self-contained entity. It is relatively poor, but it has superbly defensible borders and a disciplined central government with an excellent intelligence and internal security apparatus. Iran uses these same strengths to destabilize the American position (or that of any extraregional power) around it. Indeed, Iran is sufficiently secure that the positions of surrounding countries are more precarious than that of Iran. Iran is superb at low-cost, low-risk power projection using its covert capabilities. It is even better at blocking those of others. So long as the mountains are in Iranian hands, and the internal situation is controlled, Iran is a stable state, but one able to pose only a limited external threat.

The creation of an Iranian nuclear program serves two functions. First, if successful, it further deters external threats. Second, simply having the program enhances Iranian power. Since the consequences of a strike against these facilities are uncertain and raise the possibility of Iranian attempts at interdiction of oil from the Persian Gulf, the strategic risk to the attacker’s economy discourages attack. The diplomatic route of trading the program for regional safety and power becomes more attractive than an attack against a potential threat in a country with a potent potential counter.

Iran is secure from conceivable invasion. It enhances this security by using two tactics. First, it creates uncertainty as to whether it has an offensive nuclear capability. Second, it projects a carefully honed image of ideological extremism that makes it appear unpredictable. It makes itself appear threatening and unstable. Paradoxically, this increases the caution used in dealing with it because the main option, an air attack, has historically been ineffective without a follow-on ground attack. If just nuclear facilities are attacked and the attack fails, Iranian reaction is unpredictable and potentially disproportionate. Iranian posturing enhances the uncertainty. The threat of an air attack is deterred by Iran’s threat of an attack against sea-lanes. Such attacks would not be effective, but even a low-probability disruption of the world’s oil supply is a risk not worth taking.

As always, the Persians face a major power prowling at the edges of their mountains. The mountains will protect them from main force but not from the threat of destabilization. Therefore, the Persians bind their nation together through a combination of political accommodation and repression. The major power will eventually leave. Persia will remain so long as its mountains stand.

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