Friday, July 02, 2010

the iranian threat

zspace | what exactly is the Iranian threat? An authoritative answer is provided in the April 2010 study of the International Institute of Strategic Studies, Military Balance 2010. The brutal clerical regime is doubtless a threat to its own people, though it does not rank particularly high in that respect in comparison to US allies in the region. But that is not what concerns the Institute. Rather, it is concerned with the threat Iran poses to the region and the world.

The study makes it clear that the Iranian threat is not military. Iran’s military spending is “relatively low compared to the rest of the region,” and less than 2% that of the US. Iranian military doctrine is strictly “defensive,… designed to slow an invasion and force a diplomatic solution to hostilities.” Iran has only “a limited capability to project force beyond its borders.” With regard to the nuclear option, “Iran’s nuclear program and its willingness to keep open the possibility of developing nuclear weapons is a central part of its deterrent strategy.”

Though the Iranian threat is not military, that does not mean that it might be tolerable to Washington. Iranian deterrent capacity is an illegitimate exercise of sovereignty that interferes with US global designs. Specifically, it threatens US control of Middle East energy resources, a high priority of planners since World War II, which yields “substantial control of the world,” one influential figure advised (A. A. Berle).

But Iran’s threat goes beyond deterrence. It is also seeking to expand its influence. As the Institute study formulates the threat, Iran is “destabilizing” the region. US invasion and military occupation of Iran’s neighbors is “stabilization.” Iran’s efforts to extend its influence in neighboring countries is “destabilization,” hence plainly illegitimate. It should be noted that such revealing usage is routine. Thus the prominent foreign policy analyst James Chace, former editor the main establishment journal Foreign Affairs, was properly using the term “stability” in its technical sense when he explained that in order to achieve “stability” in Chile it was necessary to “destabilize” the country (by overthrowing the elected Allende government and installing the Pinochet dictatorship).

Beyond these crimes, Iran is also supporting terrorism, the study continues: by backing Hezbollah and Hamas, the major political forces in Lebanon and in Palestine – if elections matter. The Hezbollah-based coalition handily won the popular vote in Lebanon’s latest (2009) election. Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian election, compelling the US and Israel to institute the harsh and brutal siege of Gaza to punish the miscreants for voting the wrong way in a free election. These have been the only relatively free elections in the Arab world. It is normal for elite opinion to fear the threat of democracy and to act to deter it, but this is a rather striking case, particularly alongside of strong US support for the regional dictatorships, particularly striking with Obama’s strong praise for the brutal Egyptian dictator Mubarak on the way to his famous address to the Muslim world in Cairo.