Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | August 17, 2010

Bushehr: And So It Begins, Part III

Parts I and II are here and here.  Part II’s ending included the following:

“An Iran mobilized and empowered, and unchecked by the United States, will force on the whole Eastern hemisphere confrontations and decision points that are only latent today.”

**********************************

But there’s another point that is almost never discussed, and it can be summarized thus:  geopolitics abhors a vacuum.  Iran is not a great enough power, even with nuclear weapons, to step into America’s shoes in the region.  Someone else will try to, and we don’t have to guess who.  It will be a competition between Russia and China, with Russia holding the lead at the starting line.  Turkey, seeing herself under Erdogan’s leadership as a resurgent regional hegemon, will seek to broker it.  Those four nations – Russia, China, Iran, and Turkey – will offer all the patronage they can to line up the other nations in their corner and block the advances of the other three.  They’ll cultivate each other as necessary to establish advantage.  They will have far less compunction than the US in their dealings with smaller nations and vulnerable peoples, as we have seen with Russia in the Caucasus, China in Tibet, and Turkey with the Kurds.  But the nations of the region will have no choice but to seek accommodation and alignment with them.  US power will be increasingly inert.

And borders will be breached at some point.  Can Iraq’s fledgling democracy survive in these circumstances?  Do Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan, Yemen stand a chance?  Whom will Libya and Algeria throw in with?  How will all this affect Europe, and the tradeways snaking through its junction with Asia and Africa?  And what will happen to Israel?

With the reactor being fueled at Bushehr, and assuming – with Moscow and Tehran – that Obama does nothing about it, we are moving beyond the static assumptions on which Jeff Goldberg’s piece was based.  The symbolism of Obama not stopping this event is far more important, politically, than the reactor itself.  Casting the issue as an Iran-Israel dyad is already outdated, but so is thinking only in terms of Iran acting against US interests in the context of current conditions.  Everything is about to change.

Sadly, it’s in this kind of situation that the cavalier approach of America’s leftists to using national power can be the most dangerous.  Obama’s apparent tendency to do “something, but not quite enough” – so much like Lyndon Johnson’s and Jimmy Carter’s – could put the US in painful, untenable, and bloody positions, if he seeks to take military action on the 1960s-era, limited-war principle of “demonstrating our determination.”

From the US perspective, it has always been the case that merely hitting Iran’s nuclear sites would provoke such a backlash that it wasn’t worth hitting only the nuke sites.  If the hornet’s nest was to be stirred up anyway, the cost demanded a higher payoff:  hitting the whole Revolutionary Guard infrastructure and crippling the national leadership.  The political hurdle that objective represents has been an enduring show-stopper – as, frankly, it should be, at least up to a point.

Obama and his senior advisors, however, are fond of taking clever intermediate actions, which they characterize, regardless of their likely effectiveness, as “using all the tools of smart power.”  If any president is going to use not-enough military force against Iran – if any president is going to decide to pursue a “calibrated” payoff that’s not worth the cost – it will be Obama.  I’m not as convinced as Caroline Glick is that Obama won’t do anything about Iran.  What I do predict, however, is that he won’t wield force in a way that justifies its use with a sufficiently decisive political outcome.  I suspect that whatever he does will accelerate the deterioration of security conditions in the region.

If he were to slow down Iran’s pursuit of a bomb for a few months or a year, that would not, as they say, be nothing.  Certainly it would be meaningful to Israel, as well as to many of the other nations of the region.  But the Middle East, and perhaps most of the world, is headed for the chaos of a major realignment – and our president, who poses no obstacle to the politically-freighted light-off of the Bushehr reactor, is the same one who will decide America’s responses as the drama intensifies.  If you’re a praying citizen, now would be a really good time.

Last of three parts.

Cross-posted at Hot Air.


Responses

  1. You’re right, that Obama will try some token effort, like the Clinton attack on the Iraqi Mukharabat, or
    the passel of cruise missiles, fired at the Sudan, and Afghanistan, when a more comprehensive strike at
    not just the reactors, but the leadership bunker,
    missiles batteries of the IRCG will be required

  2. Is it just me or could it be possible that Barry 0 is Moscow’s man in Washington?

    I’ve never been a conspiracy theorist, but if that’s Mister Peanut’s natural tendency anyway, why not get paid for it?

  3. I lean toward Glick’s view that Obama will, in the end, do nothing. If he however does do something, I agree that it will be too little, too late and singularly ineffective.

    In Part II’s comments, I laid out what I believe to be the Iranian strategy for re-establishing an Iranian led, nuclear armed Caliphate. One incidentally, that will hold an absolute chock-hold on the worlds oil supply because they could drive the price through the roof whenever they wished, effectively holding the Western economies hostage.

    I don’t give the same weight to Russia and China gaining the same influence in the region that the US currently holds, as in my view, they both lack the logistical capabilities to effectively do so.

    But I don’t think that for either Russia or China gaining widespread influence in the region is either a serious prospect or their primary goal. A covert strategy of aggression using radical Islamic terrorism is the tactic they are using to reduce American military and diplomatic influence in not only the M.E. but also in the Asian and Eastern European regions, where their primary interests lie.

    It’s obvious that the Russians and Iranians are using each other and even the most rudimentary knowledge of the region confirms that the Iranians are never going to allow the Russians to gain undue influence.

    It’s true that Iran is not a great enough power to replace the US but an Iranian led alliance, a new nuclear armed Caliphate would be great enough and so far, Iran’s actions are consistent with that strategic goal.

    The Saudi’s will be isolated and their wealth will hold little attractiveness when compared to the dream of a new Caliphate that Iran, the new strong horse in the region, holds out to other Muslim nations.

    Some will argue that the Sunni-Shia rivalry will prevent accommodation and mutual cooperation but if that were truly an insurmountable barrier, Turkey a Sunni nation, would not already be on board and they are now fully committed to that Iranian led vision.

    So the nations of the region will find that they have little choice, militarily or theologically ( a tremendous social influence in the M.E.) but to seek accommodation and alignment with the new ‘alliance’.

    Everything is about to change.

    • You seem to prefer visions of doom to reality, Geoffrey. Iranian dominance holds no attraction for the other nations in the area and Turkey is quite far from “on board” with Iran. Turkey’s new foreign policy is based on leveraging Turkey’s economic power, traditions and position to maximize Turkey’s political influence and not that of Iran.

      • Accusing me of a “the sky is falling mindset” is a fine way to keep your head in the sand fuster.

        As far as Iranian dominance not holding attraction, I refer you to the “strong horse-weak horse” dynamic and the middle eastern folk saying, “Me and my brother against my cousin; me, my brother, and my cousin against the other.” Turkey is fully on board with Iran for anyone able to read the “tea leaves” knows, when subsequent events prove me right, I fully expect you to ascribe it to pure luck.

        You might surprise me though, read this with an open mind and consider that it’s the paradigm with which you’re viewing events that prevents you from appreciating the obvious.

  4. The Russians did fight Persia, back in the 1820s, this is how they got Azerbaijan, and they do think of themselves as czarism redux

    • and the Russians fought the Iranians in the 1940s in the Iranian parts of Azerbaijan and Kurdistan.

  5. Yes, it’s a bug not a feature, McFrog

  6. Captain Dyer: Can you cross post your “Contentions” piece here? I remain a fan of Ayan Ali Hirsi, one of many unwelcome luminaries at a site I used to frequent, and where Mister Peanut, that marvelous product of collaboration, was born. Also, Putin On The Ritz was born there too, a crying shame, if you ask me, my frems!

    • ZN — I’ll get back to you shortly on this. Having car “issues” that are rather eating into my time this week.

      I won’t be able to cross-post things from contentions, as I provide exclusive content there. But I’m looking into ways to make this blog more interactive and enable regular readers to comment on contentions posts by doing a separate feed and maybe a wall (if I can figure that out. I’ve got a lead). Our old comrade Peter Shalen asked me a while back about Facebooking my contentions posts and I’ve been behind the curve in making that happen, but I’m sure there’s a way to make it all interactive for folks.

      • Get an Acura. I never had such a wonderful car.

  7. […] course, neither Riedel, nor Saeed al Shehri, nor you, nor me, nor Jeffrey Goldberg, nor our former colleague JE Dyer, nor Robert Wright, nor 100 war-gamers, nor anyone else really can predict the future blow by […]


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