Iran: The Enemy that Refuses to Follow the Rules

qasim-soliemaniThe article below in the Business Insider set me to write this blog. Actually it is the conclusion to a 9000 word presentation I plan to give at the ASMEA conference in Rosslyn VA. at the end of Oct.

Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa: ASMEA. Always an interesting ME group. None of the Palestinian and excessive arabophile hysterics one finds at the other organizational conferences such a the Middle East Institute or worst of all, MESA ( Middle East Studies Association).

As is all the rage now, the informed class, who probably do know Shinola from apple butter about Iran, are weighing in on how Iran isn’t really a threat and how if we rehabilitate the secret “Nuclear Deal” with Iran, all will be well. Other articles solemnly inform us that all this nasty business the Iranian regime is perpetrating is just defensive in nature….just like the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan or the Ukraine. One of the more self- congratulatory books I have read lately is the story of the deal, “The Back Channel; A Memoir of American Diplomacy and the Case for its Renewal” by its proud architect, Foreign Service officer Willian J Burns. His gushy depiction of secstate John Kerry is enough to induce vomiting among us Vietnam War vets.

He seems so proud that they were able to keep the deal secret from the American people and even the peoples representatives in Congress. ……..But who am I to question “the informed ones.” The usual suspects in the puzzle palaces of Washington gathered in the halls of the anointed, to applaud Burn’s and Kerry’s ( Under the most transparent administration in history) secret dealings. The fact that President Trump has disowned the “treaty,’ of course, has made it even more vital for it to be resurrected.

It was a very bad deal. It opened the gates for Iranian adventurism in the entire Middle East. Basically it boiled down to “If you cut back on your nuclear programs you  are free to continue your imperialism..just don’t use nucs.

Anyway the article……. And my conclusion

     Like  the strategy of Darius, every Iranian move will be backed up by intimidating threats, belligerent boasts of power, and a well-advertised military with videos of Iranians firing missiles, conducting military training operations, and a nuclear capability only coyly denied.    Meanwhile their well- funded lobbies and supporters in Western capitols, will always be available to disseminate enough doubt to sabotage any strong reaction to Iranian provocations. The elite of the Western world, comfortable in their cozy environment, seemingly will grasp any exculpating argument, however weak, to avoid confronting Iran.  The near bizarre Western non-response to the recent Iranian attack of a Saudi refinery is a prime example. Were they fired from Iran or from Iranian controlled militias in southern Iraq or Yemen?  In the broad scheme of things what difference would it make? There were a few days of journalists and observers weighing in with guesses and ideological arguments, and then it disappeared. The tepid Western response to the numerous provocations has not gone unnoticed by the Islamic leadership.

The Islamists regime in Iran will continue their expansionist drive. Their irredentism will not be a ham-fisted Turkey leveling Kurdish villages, and creating the image of the cruel and brutal Turk, which still resonates among the older people of the Levant.  Their  strategy will be a program featuring indirection, disorientation, diplomatic soft power, and the particular Iranian trait to be all things to all people, an approach which allows the Iranians to support a Sunni Hamas organization as the ruling regime in the Gaza strip, a regime   beholden to the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization that sees the Shi’a as little more than infidels. 

sailors abducted by Iran

Iranian humiliating the great satan American sailors under Iranian guard

The Persian extensively used intimidation and intrigue to separate Greek city states in order to divide and conquer, and following this example, the Iranians infiltrated units into Iraqi Shi’a populated towns and villages to stir up resistance against the Iraqi Ba’athist regime.  The infiltrated units were used not to attack Iraqi army positions but more to act as agent provocateurs and distribute arms to the Iraqi Shi’a opposed to Saddam’s regime. 

Iranian soldiers

Iranian soldiers march during a military parade as they mark the country’s annual army day in Tehran, on April 18, 2019. – Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani called on Middle East states on April 18 to “drive back Zionism”, in an Army Day tirade against the Islamic republic’s archfoe Israel. Speaking flanked by top general as troops paraded in a show of might, Rouhani also sought to reassure the region that the weaponry on display was for defensive purposes and not a threat. (Photo by – / AFP) (Photo credit should read -/AFP via Getty Images)

U.S. Army literature on the Iranian methods of war-fighting concentrate on the conventional methods of war, just like we were opposing an Opfor Soviet military force, apparently from study of Iranian training and operational manuals, going into detail on Iranian tactical offensive maneuver concepts, and movement to assembly areas etc.   There is also the usual bean counting e.g., numbers of tanks, artillery pieces etc. This is largely a waste of time except as exercises for tactical intelligence operators.   The Iranians are not going to fight a conventional war unless forced to do so- as in the Iraq war. The grievous economic and human loss of the Iraqi war taught them the folly of that. Their culture and social/ economic structure cannot sustain one. 

In closing it is very likely that the Islamic rulers in Iran will continue to instigate many small and perhaps some major disturbances in the Middle East and worldwide. The Islam regime survives on their fuel fed by their real and fabricated enemies. They need an enemy and the promotion of violence in order to stoke the flagging spirits of the faithful.  To always assume they will act as rational actors is a debatable point. The preeminent American Middle Eastern scholar, Bernard Lewis made a point in a 2006 Wall Street Journal article surfacing the Shi’a belief in the apocalypse, and a world view that would allow the Iranians to use nuclear weapons, even if it meant the total destruction of Iran. Although this article was met with some ridicule, millenarianism has deep roots in both Sunni and Shi’a doctrine. But for the Shi’a and their belief in the “hidden Imam,” the doctrine takes on a more concrete reality. Iraqi General Makki gave an honest assessment of the Iranian combat capabilities and personality when he told the interviewers, “The Iranians are persistent, stubborn people, a factor which makes them good fighters. They are obedient to their superiors. When they have good leaders, they can achieve great things. They are not afraid of death.”

An old Kurd addressed his people after hearing a the great Persian Shah give fulsome promises of security and peace to his tribe.  (related in the great book describing the Persians, The Adventures of Hajji Baba of Isphafan).You have never had any dealings with them, and therefore you permit yourselves to be lulled into a sense of security by their flattering expressions and winning and amiable manners. But I have lived long among them and have learned the value of what they say. Their weapons are not such as you have been accustomed to meet in the bold encounter and open attack.; instead with spear and sword, theirs are treachery, deceit, falsehood…………Lying is their national vice.

Often American and Western military analysts underestimate Middle Eastern militaries, and then, when they demonstrate a degree of proficiency, the pendulum seems to swing in a different direction, and the experts then tend to overestimate their capabilities. Iranians will not march to Mecca or Karbela, and their tenure as overlords in Iraq and Syria may be declining, but they will continue to create dissension and instability in the region.  Because of their characteristic hubris and typically Iranian view of Western caution as weakness, they will quite likely precipitate wars they did not intend. Western indifference to their aggressive actions and Iranian thirst for recognition will accelerate Iran’s designs for world power status, and quite likely a war no-one wants.




About Tex

Retired artillery colonel, many years in a number of positions in the Arab world. Graduate of the US Military Academy and the American University of Beirut. MA in Arab studies from the American University in Beirut along with 18 years as Middle East Seminar Director at the JFK Special Warfare Center and School, Served in Vietnam with 1st Inf Division, Assignments in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, plus service with Trucial Oman Scouts in the Persian Gulf. Traveled to every Arab country on the map including Iraq, Syria, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.
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2 Responses to Iran: The Enemy that Refuses to Follow the Rules

  1. Connie Piper says:

    William Burns?! What a GOOF !! THANK YOU dear Tex for your usual HIGHLY INSIGHTFUL writing. You know I print all your articles and have them in a binder. I treasure them !! Give little Binty a kiss for me:)

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