Author Topic: Iran  (Read 370774 times)




ccp

  • Power User
  • ***
  • Posts: 10813
    • View Profile
Re: Iran
« Reply #1003 on: June 01, 2019, 09:42:58 AM »
"AG Barr needs to act on this ASAP. "

Agreed .  We need Horowitz's and the parallel Barr investigation into the Deep State too.

Scheister Schiff is publicly demanding everything Barr has while we speak
so his scheister lawyers can find ways to pick apart  get the talking points ready for the propaganda wing of the Demafiacrat Party - the jornolisters before Barr comes out with the proof of the Deep State we all know exists.

in this case the Brennan Lynn Comey Jarrett Biden Clinton and Obama ring we all know existed.

Crafty_Dog

  • Administrator
  • Power User
  • *****
  • Posts: 51751
    • View Profile
Re: Iran
« Reply #1004 on: June 01, 2019, 12:39:13 PM »
"Scheister"="Shyster"?

ccp

  • Power User
  • ***
  • Posts: 10813
    • View Profile
what we need is more diplomacy
« Reply #1005 on: June 05, 2019, 07:37:44 AM »
http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/264205

That said let me be clear " all options are on the table!!!"

what a joke

 :roll .  :x

DougMacG

  • Power User
  • ***
  • Posts: 12689
    • View Profile
Re: Iran, tankers attacked in the Gulf
« Reply #1006 on: June 13, 2019, 06:53:06 AM »
2 oil tankers damaged in suspected attack in the Gulf of Oman, crew evacuated
https://www.foxnews.com/world/uk-maritime-groups-warns-of-incident-in-gulf-of-oman

(Knowledgeable sources say it had to be Iran.)
-----------------------------------------------------------
https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/gulf-of-oman-tanker-attacks-everything-you-need-to-know
« Last Edit: June 13, 2019, 08:21:19 AM by DougMacG »

ccp

  • Power User
  • ***
  • Posts: 10813
    • View Profile
Re: Iran
« Reply #1007 on: June 13, 2019, 07:04:59 AM »
First and most important CD corrected my spelling :

"Scheister"="Shyster"?

Thanks CD !

does not Iran have electric subs?
https://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/iran-building-its-own-submarines-torpedoes-the-us-navy-cant-21091

Perhaps the plane loaded with an acre of cash paid for their own military buildup - thanks BROCK.

Well we were warned last week and attack was "imminent" though this is not on US forces I guess:

http://www.thetower.org/7400-senior-u-s-commander-iranian-threat-on-u-s-forces-imminent-and-real/

The only other thing it was a Saudi attack designed to look like Iran to get us into this but that seems far less likely and I would think , or at least hope our intelligence would be able to sort this out.  We don't want another farce like "remember the Maine" which looks like was not a deliberate attack on US navy and nothing more than a on board accidental explosion from with we used as an excuse to start a war that totally changed history.

I bet TR would still not have changed a thing as it made his a hero
I don't know if getting PR was good for us or not
Guam is nice for vacation  I guess
and the Philippines are sovereign now.

 

DougMacG

  • Power User
  • ***
  • Posts: 12689
    • View Profile
Iran, Walter Russell Mead, Trump is right to use restraint
« Reply #1008 on: June 18, 2019, 09:42:29 AM »
Mead:  "the administration counts on Iranian fear of conflict with the U.S. and its regional allies to curb Iranian provocations as sanctions bite. "

I like Mead but for the above deterrence to work, there must military assets available and a credible willingness to use them.  How do you prove you are willing to use them...
-------------------------
https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-case-for-restraint-in-the-gulf-11560813331

The Case for Restraint in the Gulf

So long as U.S. ships aren’t struck, Trump should stick with his current Iran strategy.
 
By Walter Russell Mead
June 17, 2019

As Iran increases tensions with attacks across the Middle East, the United States continues to make diplomatic inroads towards a new, stricter nuclear deal with Iran.

The latest crisis with Iran illustrates an important but widely neglected point about world politics: Amid all the talk about American decline, American power in the international system has actually grown. Even five years ago the U.S. could not force Iran out of world oil markets without causing a devastating spike in oil and gas prices that would destabilize the world economy. Today, world energy markets are so robust that Brent crude prices have fallen since the first set of attacks on oil tankers in May.

Simultaneously, the U.S. has developed the ability to globalize unilateral sanctions. Washington doesn’t need the support of its allies to isolate Tehran economically, because “secondary sanctions” can effectively compel other countries to comply with the U.S. effort. That the administration has accomplished this while also engaged in trade battles with nearly every important American trading partner underscores the magnitude of U.S. economic power and the administration’s determination to bring it fully to bear on Iran.

As the shades of Robert McNamara and McGeorge Bundy can testify, however, great power does not automatically confer wisdom. Having demonstrated an impressive ability to squeeze Iran, North Korea and Venezuela, the Trump administration now needs to translate raw power into policy success. This goal remains elusive with all three countries so far, and the path forward is anything but clear.

Administration critics charge that the current Iran policy represents an attempt by inveterate hawks to plunge the U.S. into a war with the Islamic Republic. It would be more accurate to say that the administration counts on Iranian fear of conflict with the U.S. and its regional allies to curb Iranian provocations as sanctions bite. Until recently, this appeared to be working; Iran continued to comply with the terms of the nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration, and its activities in the region were no more nefarious than usual.

That seems to have changed. The recent attacks in the Gulf of Oman, together with Iran’s announcements that it will exceed the nuclear deal’s limits on its supply of enriched uranium this month—and accelerate its enrichment program in July—signal that Tehran is trying some brinkmanship of its own. Iranian authorities may believe that President Trump is constrained politically, and that for all his bellicose rhetoric he is deeply reluctant to involve the U.S. in another war in the Middle East.

Attacks on ships engaged in peaceful commerce in international waters are immoral and illegal and threaten the web of commerce on which the U.S. and its allies depend. But as long as no Americans are killed and no American-flagged carriers are struck, it will not be immediately clear to much of Mr. Trump’s base why the U.S. should retaliate militarily for attacks on Norwegian and Japanese ships—particularly since those nations are not clamoring for a response.

Moreover, many U.S. allies—alarmed at the nature of American Iran policy and appalled at their inability to influence the administration’s decision making—blame the White House rather than Tehran for the instability. If the situation escalates, U.S. allies might grow even less willing to confront Iran over its nuclear-deal violations.

As long as the flow of oil from the Middle East is essentially unaffected by pinprick attacks and Iran refrains from an all-out nuclear effort, there is a strong argument for military restraint in Washington. The status quo is weakening Iran and improving the American bargaining position. The U.S. cannot ignore Iranian provocations, but it also should not allow them to deflect it from a policy that is working. While taking all necessary action to keep traffic moving freely in international waters, the administration’s best option for now is to concentrate on tightening sanctions on Iran and its proxies.

The greatest danger is an Iranian miscalculation. Mr. Trump is not eager for war, but there are provocations that would ignite his Jacksonian base and make the pressure for war hard to resist. In the current atmosphere, any attack on U.S.-flagged ships or servicemen could force a strong military response.

Adding to the uncertainty is Tehran’s read of the political situation in the U.S. Iran’s leaders may overreach if they believe that Mr. Trump is a paper tiger or that the U.S. is too divided to strike back. Yet they also may hope they will get better terms if a Democrat defeats Mr. Trump in 2020. Why risk a devastating war now if relief is only 19 months away?

Despite the white-knuckle tension in and around the Persian Gulf, the potential for U.S.-Iranian peace may be higher now than in the past. The Trump administration’s willingness to tolerate and even enter partnerships with nondemocratic regimes like those in Egypt and Saudi Arabia suggests that a pragmatic relationship with a less revisionist Iran could be possible.

Tehran’s imperial ambitions—not ideological hostility in Washington—are at the root of this conflict. Iranian negotiators genuinely interested in a modus vivendi would get a hearing in Washington. That might seem unlikely now, but both countries and the region would benefit enormously from even a cold peace.

Subscribe at https://store.wsj.com/


ccp

  • Power User
  • ***
  • Posts: 10813
    • View Profile
Re: Iran
« Reply #1010 on: June 20, 2019, 05:59:50 AM »

we should do nothing....

might as well till they get nukes.

then the real fun begins

we need to take out their nuclear facilities

funny how they are good with nuclear energy
while in the western world the greens have pushed us to endless seas of solar panels and windmills

last year driving outside San Francisco I could not believe the eye sore giant windmills.

in NJ they would have to build them on top of concrete
where I live now they just covered 33 % of a lake I walk my dog around with solar panels that float .
supposedly first in the country .

funny - we saw a little raft with two people on it last weekend floating ten feet away .

what a date that must have been
 looking at a sea of solar panels

but I digress
we should please Iran with offers of building solar panels and windmills - if only they would give up their peaceful nuclear energy program

 :wink:

DougMacG

  • Power User
  • ***
  • Posts: 12689
    • View Profile
VDH: U.S. Holds All the Cards in Showdown With Iran
« Reply #1011 on: June 20, 2019, 10:29:46 AM »
https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2019/06/20/us_holds_all_the_cards_in_showdown_with_iran_140597.html
By Victor Davis Hanson   June 20, 2019
U.S. Holds All the Cards in Showdown With Iran

In May 2018, the Donald Trump administration withdrew the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran, popularly known as the Iran nuclear deal.

The U.S. then ramped up sanctions on the Iranian theocracy to try to ensure that it stopped nuclear enrichment. The Trump administration also hoped a strapped Iran would become less capable of funding terrorist operations in the Middle East and beyond, proxy wars in the Persian Gulf, and the opportune harassment of ships transiting the Strait of Hormuz.

The sanctions are clearly destroying an already weak Iranian economy. Iran is now suffering from negative economic growth, massive unemployment and record inflation.

A desperate Iranian government is using surrogates to send missiles into Saudi Arabia while its forces attack ships in the Gulf of Oman.

The Iranian theocrats despise the Trump administration. They yearn for the good old days of the Obama administration, when the U.S. agreed to a nuclear deal that all but guaranteed future Iranian nuclear proliferation, ignored Iranian terrorism and sent hundreds of millions of dollars in shakedown payments to the Iranian regime.

Iran believed that the Obama administration saw it as a valuable Shiite counterweight to Israel and the traditionally American-allied Sunni monarchies in the Gulf region. Teheran assumes that an even more left-wing American administration would also endorse Iran-friendly policies, and so it is fishing for ways to see that happen in 2020 with a Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren or Joe Biden presidency.

Desperate Iranian officials have already met secretly with former Secretary of State John Kerry and openly with Sen. Diane Feinstein, likely to commiserate over Trump's cancellation of the nuclear deal and to find ways to revive the Obama-era agreement after Trump leaves office.

To that end, the Iranians wish to disrupt world oil traffic while persuading China, Russia and the European Union to pressure the U.S. to back off sanctions.

Iran hopes to provoke and embarrass its nemesis into overreacting -- or not reacting at all. If Trump does nothing, he looks weak to this Jacksonian base of supporters. But do too much, and he appears a neoconservative, globalist nation-builder. Either way, the Iranians think Trump loses.

After all, Iran knows that Trump got elected by flipping the blue-wall states of the Midwest -- in part by promising an end to optional interventions in the Middle East. Accordingly, Iran hopes to embarrass or bog down the U.S. before the 2020 elections. In Teheran's view, the challenge is to provoke Trump into a shooting war that it can survive and that will prove unpopular in the United States, thus losing him the election.

Iran, of course, is not always a rationale actor. A haughty Tehran always magnifies its own importance and discounts the real dangers that it is courting. It harkens back to its role in the 2003-2011 Iraq War, a conflict that proved that U.S. efforts could be subverted, hundreds of American soldiers could be killed, public support for war could be eroded, and a more malleable American government could be transitioned in.

But what worked then may not work now. The U.S. is not only the world's largest producer of oil and natural gas, but soon to become the largest exporter of energy -- and without getting near the Iranian coast. Likewise, American allies in the Middle East such as Israel are energy independent. America's Arab friends enjoy seeing competing Iranian oil all but off the market.

Time, then, is on the Americans' side. But it is certainly not on the side of a bankrupt and impoverished Iran that either must escalate or face ruin.

If Iran starts sinking ships or attacking U.S. assets, Trump can simply replay the ISIS strategy of selective off-and-on bombing. The U.S. did not lose a single pilot to enemy action.

Translated, that would mean disproportionately replying to each Iranian attack on a U.S. asset with a far more punishing air response against an Iranian base or port. The key would be to avoid the use of ground troops and yet not unleash a full-fledged air war. Rather, the U.S. would demonstrate to the world that Iranian aggression determines the degree to which Iran suffers blows from the U.S.

Of course, Tehran may try to stir up trouble with Israel through its Syrian and Palestinian surrogates. Iran may in extremis also stage terrorist attacks in Europe and the U.S. And it may lie that it has already developed enough fissionable material to launch a nuclear missile.

But the truth is that America has all the cards and Iran none in its game of chicken.

Because Iran is losing friends and money, it will have to escalate. But the U.S. can respond without looking weak and without going to war -- and without ensuring the return to power of the political party responsible for giving us the disastrous nuclear deal that had so empowered Iran in the first place.
------------------------

[Doug] If you work in an Iranian munitions plant, refinery or nuclear facility, you may want to call in sick after each Iranian attack on the US until the disproportionate response is complete.


ccp

  • Power User
  • ***
  • Posts: 10813
    • View Profile
Re: Iran
« Reply #1013 on: June 23, 2019, 06:54:55 AM »
some good points
I am always suspicious of anyone writing for Bloomberg news

I wonder how Gosh knows Iran is not proceeding with their nucs
or downsizing their hamas hezbollah support or proxy war in Yemen etc

once they get nucs it is different game, no?

G M

  • Power User
  • ***
  • Posts: 18060
    • View Profile
Re: Iran
« Reply #1014 on: June 23, 2019, 09:55:34 AM »
some good points
I am always suspicious of anyone writing for Bloomberg news

I wonder how Gosh knows Iran is not proceeding with their nucs
or downsizing their hamas hezbollah support or proxy war in Yemen etc

once they get nucs it is different game, no?

Iran has at least one nuke. It’s a matter of stopping them from creating a production line for nukes.

Crafty_Dog

  • Administrator
  • Power User
  • *****
  • Posts: 51751
    • View Profile
Re: Iran
« Reply #1015 on: June 23, 2019, 02:27:49 PM »
What is source for saying Iran has one nuke?


Crafty_Dog

  • Administrator
  • Power User
  • *****
  • Posts: 51751
    • View Profile
Re: Iran
« Reply #1017 on: June 23, 2019, 05:19:27 PM »
The 1978 article is less than fully persuasive, but the idea that Khan of Pakistan spread know how to Norks and Iran works for me, as do the idea that the Iranians have off shored their nuke work to the Norks while they continue developing their ICBMs until JCPOA expires at which point they unveil.

G M

  • Power User
  • ***
  • Posts: 18060
    • View Profile
Re: Iran
« Reply #1018 on: June 23, 2019, 05:50:32 PM »
The 1978 article is less than fully persuasive, but the idea that Khan of Pakistan spread know how to Norks and Iran works for me, as do the idea that the Iranians have off shored their nuke work to the Norks while they continue developing their ICBMs until JCPOA expires at which point they unveil.

https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/north-korea/2018-06-06/north-koreas-illegal-weapons-trade

Yup.




Crafty_Dog

  • Administrator
  • Power User
  • *****
  • Posts: 51751
    • View Profile
GPF: Why war with Iran is not a good idea
« Reply #1021 on: June 26, 2019, 10:36:00 AM »
The article, while intelligent, IMHO fails to address the central questions: 

a) What to do if Iran keeps fg with shipping through the Straits of Hormuz?

b) What to do if Iran goes for going nuke?


June 26, 2019



By Xander Snyder


Why War With Iran Isn’t in the United States’ Interests


The strategic calculus behind such a confrontation just doesn’t benefit the U.S.


The U.S.-Iran standoff continues to evolve quickly, yet the blow-by-blow commentary covering tanker attacks, a downed drone, and reversed orders for airstrikes from the White House fails to consider the strategic logic behind an intervention, if in fact the Trump administration decides to intervene. With that in mind, it’s worth taking a moment to imagine what a war between the two would actually look like.

By now, the U.S. should have learned a thing or two from the Vietnam and Iraq wars. Distant foreign conflicts are difficult to win without a well-defined case for what success looks like and an overwhelming military commitment, the kind the American public is usually unwilling to provide unless faced with a massive and immediate threat. Small-scale engagements accomplish little and are instead more likely to evolve into larger conflicts. Installing foreign governments in the American image is more difficult, costly, time-consuming and even deadly than leaders are likely to claim. Backing a local proxy is often unpalatable for the country’s sense of ethics, but U.S. adversaries often have no such qualms. Those proxies are often an ineffective substitute for a U.S. military presence when it comes to pursuing U.S. objectives. And without a substantial, long-term commitment of U.S. forces, such wars are more likely to open a power vacuum when the U.S. withdraws. The result: a collapsed government, an invasion by a neighbor, a revolution that creates new and uncertain structures – or some combination of these. In fact, the U.S. has had few true victories in the wars it has fought since World War II.


 

(click to enlarge)


Limited Airstrikes

Consider the U.S. government's options, then, for a war with Iran. If the U.S. chooses a kinetic response, the first and most likely option would be a limited strike, similar in scale to or perhaps somewhat greater than the strikes on Syria that the Trump administration ordered on Syria in April 2017 and 2018. But Iran is not Syria. Iran has a sophisticated air defense infrastructure and plenty of air denial capability, increasing the chance of U.S. casualties. Further, a limited air strike probably wouldn’t accomplish anything meaningful. It might take out a handful of radar and air defense installations, sending a political signal but affecting in no real way the strategic reality on the ground. The only time U.S. air power alone has significantly shifted the reality on the ground was in Kosovo, but Iran today is far more powerful than Serbia in 1999.

Instead, a limited strike has a good chance of working against US interests. Iran’s economy is hurting, and its society appears more divided as citizens continue to grow frustrated with the government. The U.S. has deployed sanctions as a strategy to hobble the economy enough to create social pressure on Tehran, forcing the government to spend less on its defenses and its funding of militias in Syria and Iraq. And so far, they’ve been effective. If the U.S. sustained this tactic, over time Iran’s domestic situation would worsen, and its citizenry would be more likely to blame its leadership for their problems. And that would likely intensify the divisions within the government that are already emerging, resulting in either a more Western-friendly government or one dominated by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Even limited U.S. airstrikes, however, would increase the probability of the IRGC consolidating power. Where sanctions may help create division, an attack would unite Iran’s hard-liners and reformers against the U.S. That unity would likely occur under the aegis of the hard-liners who have been warning all along that this day would come if Iran were foolish enough to trust the U.S. As the most powerful entity in the county, the IRGC would probably take over, and do so with popular support.

Use of Ground Force

Ground force is a less likely choice for the U.S., even with limited objectives (like eliminating specific military equipment or securing passage through the Strait of Hormuz). But it would be more likely to achieve what the U.S. really wants: for Iran to recall its foreign militias so that they will defend the home front. But when a military force is rapidly removed without a replacement ready to take its place, it creates a power vacuum and, therefore, an opportunity for others to fill the void. In this case – the Islamic State and other jihadist groups. Timing matters too. The pace at which Iran withdraws its militias from Syria and Iraq, states that are already precariously fragile, will create an outsized risk to violently alter the regional balance of power.


 

(click to enlarge)


If the Islamic State moves back into the space vacated by Iran, it would be the U.S. that would have to again deal with this problem, which would require reoccupying parts of Iraq while fighting Iran. That, in turn, would likely entail support from Syrian and Iraqi Kurdish forces, which would again put pressure on U.S.-Turkey relations. But the Syrian Kurds may not see a long-term alliance with the U.S. as in its best interest after the U.S. threatened to leave them high and dry in December 2018. They could instead seek out a political resolution with Damascus, backed by Russia, that would protect them from Turkey. It’s possible that if the Islamic State re-emerged, Russia could step in to back Kurdish groups such as the Syrian Democratic Forces to fight back. But that would mean the U.S. would be depending on Russian assistance to cover its western flank, and in exchange for such cooperation Russia would likely demand U.S. concessions in places like Ukraine. In short, going all-in with Iran would require either a large-scale U.S. occupation or dependence on Russia in Syria and Iraq to prevent the Islamic State from coming back. Neither of those are appealing options for Washington.

If it’s regime change that the U.S. is after in Iran, the risks are even greater. The fallout would look much like that of the second Iraq war, but on a far greater scale. Installing a pro-American regime isn’t easy, but it can easily fail. The U.S. would have to commit to an indefinite occupation of Iran or again risk the emergence of a power vacuum. And it would still have to deal with the rest of the Middle East. In the best-case scenario, the U.S. would install a new head of government while facing a lengthy insurgency, which would likely include the vestiges of the IRGC and its heavy weaponry. After a long, costly occupation, the U.S. would withdraw, leaving Iran’s leaders to face opposition on their own. The half-life of U.S.-installed leaders in the Middle East is not long – just ask the shah of Iran.

Whether limited airstrikes or a full-scale invasion, a U.S. military confrontation with Iran would create more problems for the U.S. than it solves. As barbs are traded on the international stage, it’s these kinds of strategic considerations that Washington will need to consider before going to war.


Crafty_Dog

  • Administrator
  • Power User
  • *****
  • Posts: 51751
    • View Profile
Re: Iran
« Reply #1022 on: June 26, 2019, 10:38:28 AM »

Crafty_Dog

  • Administrator
  • Power User
  • *****
  • Posts: 51751
    • View Profile
Stratfor: Iran goes all in with Nuclear Chicken
« Reply #1023 on: July 14, 2019, 05:02:07 PM »


Iran Goes All in for a Game of Nuclear Chicken
By Matthew Bey
Senior Global Analyst, Stratfor
Matthew Bey
Matthew Bey
Senior Global Analyst, Stratfor
A handout picture provided by the Iranian presidency on July 7, 2019, shows Iran's government spokesman Ali Rabiei, left, and Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi during a news conference in Tehran.
(-/AFP/Getty Images)
Print
LinkedIn
Twitter
Facebook
Mail
Save As PDF
Bookmark
Listen
Highlights

    Iran has taken the provocative step of reaccelerating aspects of its nuclear program, yet its end goal is not necessarily to develop nuclear weapons but to increase its leverage and reenter talks for sanctions relief.
    Unlike North Korea, Iran is not structured to survive as an isolated pariah state, meaning sanctions will hurt Tehran much more than they would hurt Pyongyang.
    Iran has previously refrained from taking the final steps to construct a nuclear bomb, although its strategy has depended on refusing to rule out the possibility entirely. Tehran, accordingly, is likely to resume activities that make those final steps more attainable.
    Both the United States and Iran are walking a tightrope in the latest game of nuclear brinkmanship, but the latter appears to have calculated that it can accept the risk of a potential U.S. — or Israeli — strike inside the country.

Once again, the United States and Iran find themselves in a familiar position: a high-stakes game of chicken over the Islamic republic's nuclear program. Iran's announcement this week that it had begun enriching uranium to 5 percent, which is above the limits set by the 2015 nuclear accord with the United States and five other global powers, is likely just the start of Iran's move to (re)accelerate its civilian nuclear program. Among other measures, Tehran has said it could increase enrichment to 20 percent, which would drastically shorten the timetable for a nuclear breakout — the moment when a country acquires enough fissile material to construct an atomic bomb.

Although expanding its nuclear activities will only increase the probability of a military confrontation with the United States — or, at the very least, a limited military strike on its nuclear facilities — Iran has a clear objective in the long term: Restart negotiations with the United States to ultimately reach an agreement that would lift the sanctions while also safeguarding its national security. But with such a hawkish administration in the White House, Tehran's strategy may be fraught with risks — even as escalation may be Tehran's only feasible option for getting what it wants.
The Big Picture

In May 2018, the United States withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal, three months before it began reimposing sanctions on Iran. Initially, Tehran chose to continue implementing the deal in the hopes of obtaining some sanctions relief from the other parties to the agreement. But in May, the United States refused to extend any waivers for Iran's oil customers, prompting the Islamic republic to up the ante and resume some suspended nuclear activities that will only draw the ire of the international community.
See 2019 Third-Quarter Forecast
See Middle East and North Africa section of the 2019 Third-Quarter Forecast
See Iran's Arc of Influence
Compensating for Shortcomings

Tehran views itself as a regional hegemon that wants to project influence in its vicinity. Such a self-regard didn't develop with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Its immediate predecessor, the Pahlavi dynasty, held a similar view — as did previous Persian empires dating back to antiquity. Today, however, Iran is finding the deck stacked against it. Iran may boast a large economy and the biggest population in West Asia, but its conventional military power is limited. Prior to the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Iran relied heavily on its security partnership with the United States for military equipment, spare parts and training. But as a result of the anti-American tinge of the revolution, Washington naturally severed its relations with Tehran, imposing arms embargoes that have left Iran's conventional military arsenal decades behind its regional peers — if not in deep disrepair. Moreover, U.S.-backed Saudi Arabia and Turkey perceive Iran as a regional rival whom they are endlessly seeking to outmaneuver on the Middle Eastern chessboard. 

Unsurprisingly, Iran is attempting to compensate for its conventional military shortcomings through its defense and security strategy. Militarily, this means Iran supports both Sunni and Shiite proxies in the region, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, which harry America's biggest ally in the region, Israel (a strategy that is especially likely to reap rewards in the near future as Israel's relationship with Arab Gulf monarchies becomes more overt); it also means Tehran has sought to directly train militias and provide support in places in Iraq. Furthermore, it explains why Iran has invested so much on ballistic and cruise missiles, cyber warfare and ways to mine and disrupt shipping in the Strait of Hormuz. Ultimately, through each of these actions, Iran is seeking to increase its strategic deterrence by raising the costs for a regional foe or the United States to take military action against it.

Of course, such a strategy could culminate with the desire to develop nuclear weapons and build up a small arsenal. In so doing, however, Iran would have to consider the ultimate pros and cons of acquiring even a limited arsenal. Indeed, while Iran possessed a nuclear weapons program in the past (by all accounts, it ended its program in 2003, pursuing only tangential efforts to specifically develop a weapons program since), its actions have shown that it is not particularly willing to aggressively develop nuclear weapons and accept the associated risks — at least in comparison to North Korea.
The graphic shows a timeline of the breakdown of the JCPOA.
Why Iran Isn't Like North Korea

For Iran, there is a trade-off between pursuing an aggressive nuclear strategy — one that could eventually develop atomic weapons — and coping with the economic costs of the resulting sanctions. And unlike North Korea, Iran is simply not structured to survive as an isolated pariah state in the long term. For one, Iran's political system provides legitimate avenues for the populace to express discontent with the government — a factor that can shape policy. In this, Tehran does not possess an all-pervasive security state that can limit internal dissent to the extent that Pyongyang can. What's more, North Korea is a small country in the shadows of much larger nations — China, Russia and Japan — with little-to-no desire to project regional influence in the same way that Iran wishes to. The lack of a giant neighbor also means Iran has no immediate protector to shield it from the effect of sanctions, as North Korea does with China.

But perhaps most importantly, Iran's economy is deeply dependent on international trade. The country's oil exports remain the government's most critical source of foreign exchange, which Tehran needs to import half of its food, as well as many industrial products it cannot manufacture at home. Simply put, while Iran does want to limit its connections to the outside world, such as by controlling state media and the internet, the level of isolation that Iran can tolerate is more comparable to that of China than that of North Korea or even Cuba.
What Iran Hopes to Achieve

From a tactical perspective, the U.S. strategy to hurt the Iranian economy through sanctions is working. Iran is facing an economic contraction this year that could reach 6 percent of the country's gross domestic product. And inflation, which Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had previously succeeded in taming, is now running at around 50 percent. Nevertheless, the sanctions have yet to trigger a major economic crisis that would propel citizens onto the streets to demand change. Tehran, accordingly, feels like it has years to maneuver before that happens.

By upping the ante against Washington, Iran is trying to narrow U.S. demands and attain a better bargaining position so that its leaders can make cosmetic concessions during negotiations.

Still, Tehran knows it must engage with the United States and/or pressure other countries enough to introduce mechanisms that allow Iran to evade U.S. sanctions. Right now, the prospect of engagement with Washington is unappealing, especially as hawkish elements in the Trump White House are still calling for a strike on Iran. Indeed, shortly after the United States abandoned the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May 2018, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo presented 12 stringent conditions to end the sanctions, demanding that Tehran abandon its nuclear program and radically alter its regional strategy, among other measures; ultimately, from Iran's perspective, the demands were tantamount to calls for regime change. Moreover, even though the vast majority of potential Democratic challengers to President Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential elections have promised to rejoin the JCPOA if they win, the U.S. Senate will likely remain in the hands of Republicans who will push for a strong line on Iran. What's more, many of the JCPOA's sunset clauses will have already entered effect, thereby removing or reducing some restrictions on Iran's nuclear activities. In such a situation, any new U.S. president, regardless of party, would almost certainly demand either an extension of the JCPOA or a new deal, rather than merely rejoin the Iranian nuclear deal.

By reducing its commitments and returning to the nuclear game of chicken reminiscent of the Mahmoud Ahmadinejad era, Tehran's strategy is twofold. First, it is hoping to push the European Union to rapidly provide a mechanism to guarantee Iranian trade or cajole the United States into again extending small-scale waivers for Iran's oil customers. Second, it builds up leverage for future, and likely inevitable, talks with Washington over Iran's nuclear program and other issues. By upping the ante against the United States, the Islamic republic is trying to narrow Washington's demands and attain a better bargaining position so that Iranian leaders can make cosmetic concessions during negotiations, all while obtaining sanctions relief and protecting more essential objectives: supporting regional militias and maintaining its ballistic missile program.

In fact, Iran effectively succeeded with such a strategy before the JCPOA, as it whittled the Obama administration's position down so that the eventual deal focused solely on Iran's nuclear program, completely omitting any discussions about ballistic missiles. As it is, the agreement permitted Iran to maintain a limited level of uranium enrichment and lifted a U.N. embargo on weapons sales to the country in exchange for robust monitoring.
This graphic show charts Iran's stockpile of uranium.

For Iran, there have even been signs that the strategy — particularly when coupled with the country's aggressive actions in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman — is working with Trump, if not with all of his advisers. Notably, Pompeo and Trump are no longer demanding that Iran accept the 12 demands outlined last year. In his tweets and statements, Trump has suggested that his main demand is that Iran not develop nuclear weapons. Of course, the goal posts could shift once negotiations start given the presence of figures like national security adviser John Bolton in the White House, yet Iran must prepare for possible negotiations in a potential second Trump term.

This notwithstanding, there is still a risk that the United States could launch a military strike on Iran, particularly given the many hawks in the White House who have supported such a policy in the recent past. But Iran's actions — both with its nuclear program and its attacks on tankers and an unmanned U.S. aerial vehicle in the past two months — has shown that it is willing to accept that risk. And in some ways, a limited strike on a set of Iranian nuclear facilities could actually reinforce popular support for Iran's leadership at home by allowing it to play the nationalist card in the face of economic pressure.
Tehran's Next Steps

In its contest with the United States, Iran will maximize its leverage the closer it comes to a nuclear breakout. To develop a nuclear weapon, Tehran essentially has two routes it can follow: pursue uranium enrichment or acquire plutonium. The former would likely be Iran's easiest course of action. To build one bomb, Iran would need to produce just over 25 kilograms of weapons-grade uranium that is enriched to at least 90 percent. The JCPOA was designed to block this route in several key ways. First, it limited Iran to only enriching uranium to 3.67 percent (mainly for use in power plants) and capped its stockpiles at just 300 kilograms. On July 1, however, Iran announced that its stockpiles had begun to exceed the JCPOA's limits; seven days later, it said it would enrich uranium up to 5 percent. Second, the nuclear deal also capped the number of centrifuges that Iran could use, limiting its operations merely to unreliable, outdated centrifuges. The agreement stipulated that Iran could only use 6,104 IR-1 centrifuges and not more advanced IR-2m, IR-4 or IR-6 centrifuges, which are more efficient at enriching uranium.
This graphic shows the number of Iran's centrifuges.

Iran has yet to announce that it will install more centrifuges or use more advanced versions in the future, but it has threatened to increase the level of enrichment to 20 percent — a level that is crucial to enrich uranium to weapons-grade level. Before the JCPOA, Iran had been producing 20 percent enriched uranium (about 250 kilograms of which is needed to produce 25 kilograms of weapons-grade uranium), but the deal barred Iran from continuing to do so.
This map depicts the location of various Iranian nuclear facilities and uranium mining sites.

Iran may have more difficulty in developing plutonium — which can be obtained by using natural uranium in a heavy water reactor, obtaining the spent fuel and then extracting the pure version of the element through reprocessing — as the JCPOA featured more comprehensive measures to dismantle the necessary facilities and equipment. Iran's Arak Heavy Water Reactor could have produced enough plutonium for about one bomb per year, but as part of the JCPOA, Iran agreed to modify the facility's design so that it would become a light water reactor, which produces far less plutonium in its spent fuel rods, thereby requiring the country to build up years of stockpiles to recover enough material for one device. Iran also agreed to pour cement into the reactor's core, rendering it inoperable. As part of the current standoff, Iran has threatened to alter the Arak reactor's design back to the original, although it has yet to take action. And while it has exceeded its limits on heavy water stockpiles, it would need to conduct more research on reprocessing, obtain assistance from an outside actor and build related facilities if it wished to pursue the plutonium route to construct an atomic bomb.
This graphic charts the steps Iran would need to follow to construct an atomic bomb.

Over the past 15 years, Iran has refrained from pursuing a nuclear program that is solely oriented toward the military; nevertheless, the technology it is using is dual-use, while the country is currently taking steps that make a nuclear breakout possible at some point. The JCPOA, however, delayed the timetable for doing so, meaning Iran is at least one to two years away from acquiring enough material for a nuclear test. Moreover, if Iran were to attempt to covertly obtain a sufficient amount of material for a test, it would have to develop a whole nuclear supply chain in secret as the international community continues to strictly monitor Iran's declared nuclear facilities as part of the JCPOA.

Iran has taken clear, methodical steps that will give it the option of one day developing nuclear weapons but, in contrast to past years in which it concealed its activities, it has acted transparently in communicating its intent to the world. In so doing, Iran is hoping that it will accumulate leverage in a public manner, as it essentially tells the world that it does not intend to develop weapons surreptitiously. But barring a diplomatic breakthrough with the Europeans and the United States agreeing to a partial reduction in sanctions, Iran is likely to continue playing its long-term game of chicken. The question may ultimately center on whether the Trump administration is willing to acquiesce to Iran's activities or strike back. Iran has steeled itself for the latter prospect, but such a strike could ultimately ignite a broader conflict in the Middle East and draw in neighboring countries — and convince Iran to ultimately to take the fateful step to develop nuclear weapons capabilities.

Crafty_Dog

  • Administrator
  • Power User
  • *****
  • Posts: 51751
    • View Profile
GPF: Iran's Miscalculation
« Reply #1024 on: July 22, 2019, 12:11:02 PM »

July 20, 2019



By Jacob L. Shapiro


Iran’s Miscalculation in the Strait of Hormuz


Iran is disrupting freedom of navigation at a critical chokepoint in the oil trade. That’s something the U.S. can’t accept for very long.


On Friday afternoon, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized two U.K.-affiliated oil tankers – the British-flagged Stena Impero and the British-owned Mesdar. After a couple of hours – and, according to Iran, a warning about environmental regulations – the Mesdar was released. The Stena Impero has not been so lucky. An IRGC statement on the Stena Impero said the ship had switched off its GPS system, was moving in the wrong direction in a shipping lane and had ignored repeated Iranian warnings. The statement stretches the bounds of credulity, considering that the Stena Impero was en route to Saudi Arabia and that maritime tracking data showed the ship making an abrupt change in course toward the Iranian island of Qeshm before its transponder was turned off at 4:29 p.m. U.K. time.

But a flexible sense of credulity is necessary in attempting to understand why Iran and the U.S., neither of which has an interest in fighting a war against the other, seem intent on hurtling down that path anyway.

According to Northern Marine, a subsidiary of the Stena Impero’s Swedish owner Stena AB, the Stena Impero’s sudden change in course was in response to a “hostile action.” The company said the ship was approached by unidentified small craft and a helicopter while in international waters. That does not square with the version of events offered by the IRGC, which claims the Stena Impero was violating international maritime law, or the head of Iran’s port authority, who was quoted by Tasnim News Agency as saying the Stena Impero was “causing problems” and was being routed to the Iranian port at Bandar Abbas.

However interesting Iran’s motivations and justifications may be, they ultimately do not matter a great deal; the reality is that Iran has seized a British-flagged ship in the Strait of Hormuz. This poses a double challenge to the United States, whose primary objective in the Middle East under the Trump administration has been to weaken Iran. By seizing a British-flagged ship (even if there were, as it appears, no British nationals aboard), Iran eschewed a direct confrontation with the U.S., preferring to confront a weaker U.S. ally. Indeed, Britain’s foreign secretary, while threatening “serious consequences” for Iran, also said the U.K. was not currently considering military options but was searching for a diplomatic solution to the situation. (The Telegraph reported that a British frigate, the HMS Montrose, had been dispatched to aid the Stena Impero but inconveniently arrived minutes late.)

A Severe Miscalculation

More broadly, however, Iran is attempting to show that it really can disrupt freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz. Since 1945, the true global power and appeal of the United States have rested on its defense of the Strait of Hormuz. Iran has disrupted maritime traffic in the Persian Gulf in the past, most recently and notably in the late 1980s. But one critical thing has changed since then. Key U.S. allies depended heavily on oil from the Middle East in the 1980s; Turkey sourced 78 percent of its oil from the region, France 24 percent and the U.K. 10 percent. In 2018, those numbers were far lower – 7 percent, 4 percent and zero percent, respectively. With the exception of Japan, the countries most susceptible to the interruption of maritime traffic in the Strait of Hormuz are not countries the U.S. is as inclined to help – countries like India (which relies on the region for 50 percent of its oil), South Korea (62 percent) and, increasingly, China (21 percent).


 

(click to enlarge)


As a result, this move is unlikely to have its intended effect. Tehran is desperately searching for leverage it can use to force the U.S. to ease the economic pressure on Iran. Breaking uranium enrichment restrictions laid out in the Iran nuclear deal has not done the trick, so now Iran is trying to show the U.S. and the world that, if it cannot catch a break, it will try to send the price of oil skyrocketing by blocking oil traffic out of the Persian Gulf. It is hard to characterize that as anything besides a severe miscalculation by Tehran. The U.S., especially under the current administration, will not feel pressured to ease up just because Iran has seized a ship or two. If anything, Washington will use that as justification for a much more aggressive approach to safeguarding maritime traffic in and out of the Strait of Hormuz, even if that benefits a country like China. The guarantor of freedom of maritime navigation isn’t much of a guarantor if it decides to pick favorites at a time like this.

At the end of the day, Iran simply cannot shut down maritime traffic through the Strait of Hormuz. It is trying to stoke fears that it is capable of doing so, but ultimately, Iran can’t keep the strait closed for any considerable length of time.

There is one more scenario to consider, which is that the Iranian government may be losing its monopoly on force in the Islamic Republic. Truth be told, the very existence of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is charged with defending not the state but the spirit of the revolution, has always meant that power in Iran does not lie solely with the Iranian government. But this particular Iranian government staked its legitimacy and its hopes for Iran’s future on the windfall it expected to flow from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Not only has the windfall failed to materialize – Iran’s economic situation is just as bad if not worse than at any time preceding the JCPOA. The Iranian government may not be calling the shots here. The IRGC may very well be taking things into its own hands, or, at the very least, providing cover for fed-up local officers or commanders tired of Iran’s inability to push back against the United States. It is also possible that the Iranian government likes the good cop-bad cop routine that the IRGC allows it to play. The opacity of Iran’s domestic politics right now makes it very difficult to know exactly how Iranian decision-makers are thinking about its grand strategy.

Unintended Consequences

As we have said before, the two countries with the least interest in a U.S.-Iran war happen to be the United States and Iran. But interests don’t always define how these sorts of situations play out. Consider that the United States announced this week that it was deploying 500 troops to an air base in Saudi Arabia to beef up its air defense systems. It was the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia after the first Gulf War in the early 1990s that sparked a rage so deep in a man named Osama bin Laden that he formed a group called al-Qaida, which attacked the U.S. and drew it into the Muslim world. In a sense, even that small and seemingly innocuous deployment set off a chain reaction that eventually resulted in the U.S. destruction of Iraq and, with it, the natural barrier to Iran’s expansion in the region.

The unintended consequences of these kinds of contingent events are always hard, if not impossible, to divine. The most likely scenario is that, like other recent activity in the Persian Gulf (the U.S. shooting down Iranian drones, Emirati tankers disappearing without a trace, mysterious mines being placed in broad daylight on Japanese oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz), this incident will also be resolved. The U.S. will be content with maritime traffic continuing unimpeded and the Stena Impero set free, while Iran will be content with having made its point. Still, every time something like this happens, the risk of a wider conflagration rises – because that risk is defined not by broad historical forces but by the decisions and emotions of the sailors, airmen and soldiers involved. And who knows what future unintended consequence an event that will soon be old news might portend down the road.

For now, all we can do is wait and see whether and how quickly Iran will realize it has miscalculated – and how far the U.S. determines it must go in responding. We hardly think a real conflict is imminent – everything strictly “geopolitical” about this suggests it isn’t. But the hard, realpolitik interests that should be at work here also didn’t suggest that we’d have gotten this close in the first place. Iran disrupting freedom of navigation in one of the most important chokepoints for one of the most important resources in the world is not something the United States is going to accept for very long – and that may ultimately be more important than any other factor here.



DougMacG

  • Power User
  • ***
  • Posts: 12689
    • View Profile
Iran, terror on our soil, increasing centrifuges, attacking Israel
« Reply #1025 on: September 09, 2019, 07:30:13 AM »
Current and recent stories on FOB {Friends of Barack] Iran:

1.  Mattis: Obama Failed To Respond to Iran's 'Act of War'
“Mattis says Washington didn’t even inform him when Iran committed an ‘act of war’ on American soil,” the Washington Examiner explained.

That act was a 2011 plot by two Iranians to detonate a bomb at the upscale Cafe Milano restaurant in Washington, D.C. — and it was apparently backed by the Iranian government itself.
https://www.westernjournal.com/mattis-obama-failed-respond-irans-act-war/

2.  Iran has begun installing more advanced centrifuges and is moving toward enriching uranium with them even though that is forbidden under its nuclear deal with major powers, the International Atomic Energy Agency said on Monday.​ ​The 2015 deal only lets Iran produce enriched uranium with just over 5,000 of its first-generation IR-1 centrifuge machines. It can use far fewer advanced centrifuges for research but without accumulating enriched uranium.​ ​But in response to U.S. sanctions imposed since Washington withdrew from the deal in May last year, Iran has been breaching the limits it imposed on its atomic activities step by step.​
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-nuclear-centrifuges/iran-moves-toward-enriching-uranium-with-advanced-centrifuges-iaea-idUSKCN1VU0UN

3.  Rockets were fired at Israel from the outskirts of Damascus by a Shi’ite militia operating under the command of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Quds Force, the Israel Defense Forces said on Monday. A number of rockets were launched from Syrian territory but failed to hit Israeli territory, the statement said. “The IDF holds the Syrian regime responsible for all events taking place in Syria.” The rocket fire comes more than a week after an Israeli airstrike hit a team of IRGC members with “killer drones” south of Damascus.​ In related news, Hezbollah announced ​earlier today that it had downed an Israeli drone in southern Lebanon​.
https://www.jpost.com/Breaking-News/IDF-Shiite-militias-fired-rockets-at-Israel-from-Syria-601080
-------------------------

Tying these developments together I would say Pres. Trump has shown remarkable restraint on Iran and would be fully justified in bombing Iran's nuclear program off the map if he so chose.







Crafty_Dog

  • Administrator
  • Power User
  • *****
  • Posts: 51751
    • View Profile
wsj: Bolton was right
« Reply #1026 on: September 15, 2019, 11:46:01 PM »

Iran’s Return Handshake
An attack on Saudi oil production shows John Bolton was right.
By The Editorial Board
Sept. 15, 2019 4:10 pm ET
A picture taken on September 15, 2019 shows an Aramco oil facility near al-Khurj area, just south of the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh. Photo: fayez nureldine/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Since President Trump withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the Islamic Republic has tested U.S. resolve with military escalation across the Middle East. Likely Iranian involvement in attacks on Saudi oil production over the weekend marks a new phase in this destabilizing campaign, and it’s no coincidence this happened as Mr. Trump is considering a softer approach to Tehran.
How Did Joe Biden Survive Thursday's Democratic Debate?
Subscribe

Saudi Arabia reduced daily oil production by about 5.7 million barrels after strikes against facilities in the country’s east on Saturday. Iran-backed Houthi rebels claimed credit, though Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted that Iran was responsible and there was “no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.” Iran denies this, but it usually uses proxies to avoid a direct confrontation and there are no other plausible culprits.

This is more than a local dispute between two regional powers. The attacks have caused a roughly 5% reduction in global daily oil production. The Saudis have promised to dip into reserves to offset the losses, but oil prices could rise and harm an already fragile global economy if the Kingdom isn’t able to restore production fast enough.

American shale oil production can take up some of the slack but that would take time. Long-term damage to oil supplies would increase the pressure on the U.S. to ease sanctions on Iranian oil exports, which Mr. Trump has been considering.

The attack continues what is already a hot proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, an important U.S. ally. The extent of the damage raises doubts about how well the Saudis can defend against future drone assaults. Saudi intelligence and air defenses don’t seem up to the job. Saudi revenues would be hurt by a reduction in oil output, and uncertainty will complicate an initial public offering of the country’s national oil company, Aramco.

Even if the Houthis didn’t carry out this attack, Iran is backing their war against an Arab coalition in Yemen. The Houthis have become increasingly aggressive in attacking sites in Saudi Arabia and oil tankers in the Red Sea. If the Saudis cede Yemen to the Houthis, Iran will have won another proxy war, this one on the Arabian peninsula. The Saudis are far from ideal allies, but U.S. Senators who want to end U.S. support for Riyadh should consider the alternative of Iranian regional dominance.

The White House says Mr. Trump spoke with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and pledged U.S. support. But the White House should be contemplating more than words.

The Iranians are probing Mr. Trump as much as the Saudis. They are testing his resolve to carry out his “maximum pressure” campaign, and they sense weakness. Iran shot down an American drone this summer, and Mr. Trump rejected advice for a military response. Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s overseas Quds Force, has historically interpreted such restraint as a signal that he’s winning and can safely escalate.

Mr. Trump is also eager for direct talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and Mr. Pompeo floated a handshake meeting between the two at the coming United Nations General Assembly. Mr. Trump has even contemplated support for French President Emmanuel Macron ’s idea of paying the mullahs a $15 billion bribe for better behavior. The weekend attack is Iran’s return handshake.

U.S. sanctions have hurt Iran’s crude oil exports, but Tehran still earns hundreds of millions of dollars a month from other petroleum products. Senator Lindsey Graham says direct attacks on Iranian oil production should be considered, and the Islamic Republic needs to know that is not off the table.

The Saudi coalition also needs more help interdicting Iranian arms shipments to the Houthis. Americans are understandably wary of deeper involvement in Yemen, but a victory for Iran and the rise of a Hezbollah-like regime in Sana’a will harm U.S. security interests. Think another Syria and Lebanon.

Mr. Trump might also apologize to John Bolton, who warned repeatedly that Iran would take advantage of perceived weakness in the White House. Mr. Bolton resigned last week over policy differences, notably on Iran. The weekend’s events proved the former adviser right. The Trump Administration’s pressure campaign has been working, and abandoning it now would encourage Tehran to take more military risks.

Crafty_Dog

  • Administrator
  • Power User
  • *****
  • Posts: 51751
    • View Profile
GPF: The Geopolitics of Iran's Attack
« Reply #1027 on: September 16, 2019, 04:31:38 PM »
Sept. 16, 2019


The Geopolitics of Iran’s Refinery Attack


By George Friedman


A Yemeni rebel group aligned with Iran took credit for a drone attack against Saudi Arabia’s main oil refinery this weekend. The range, payload and accuracy of the attack, as well as the sophistication of the operation, suggest that the Houthis had a lot of help from their patron nation.

The Houthis are a Yemeni faction aligned with Iran. Indeed, Iran’s support runs deep. Last month, the ambassador the Houthis sent to Iran was accredited as a formal ambassador – rare for someone representing a faction outside the country’s formal government. It signaled that Iran regards the Houthis as a nation distinct from Yemen or that Iran recognizes the Houthis as the legitimate government of Yemen. Diplomacy aside, Iran is close to the Houthis, has the capability of fielding the kinds of drones used in the Saudi attack and providing targeting information, and has the motive to act in this way.

Understanding its motivation is critical. Iran is a country under tremendous pressure. It has built a sphere of influence that stretches through Iraq, parts of Syria, Lebanon and parts of Yemen. From Iran’s point of view, it has been constantly on the defensive, constrained as it is by its geography. It will never forget the 10-year war it waged against Iraq in the 1980s that cost Iran about a million casualties. It was a defining moment in Iranian history. The strategy Tehran formed in response to this moment has been to build a coalition of Shiite factions to serve as the foundation of its sphere of influence and to use those factions to shape events to its west. The struggle between Iraq and Iran goes back to the Biblical confrontation between Babylon and Persia. This is an old struggle now being played out in the context of Islamic factionalism.

The Iranians’ sphere of influence may be large, but it is also vulnerable. Their control over Iraq is far from absolute. Their position in Syria is under attack by Israel, with uncertain relations with Russia and Turkey. Their hold on Lebanon through Hezbollah is their strongest, but it’s still based on the power of one faction against others. The same factional influence exists in Yemen.

Iran does not rule its sphere of influence. It has a degree of authority as the center of Shiite Islam. It derives some control from supporting Shiite factions in these countries in their own struggles for power, but it is constantly playing balancing games. At the same time, it is imperative for Iran not to let a Sunni power or coalition of powers form on its western frontier. The farther west it pushes its influence, the more secure its western border and the more distant the threat of war becomes. Its strategy is forced on it by geopolitics, but its ability to fully execute this strategy is limited.

Iran’s problems are compounded by the United States, which has been hostile to the Islamic Republic from its founding with the overthrow of the shah. The American interest in the region, as opposed to the visceral dislike on both sides, is to prevent any single power from dominating the region. The historical reason used to be oil. That reason is still there but no longer defining. The geography of oil production has changed radically since the mid-1980s. The United States has an interest in limiting the power of Islamist groups prepared to attack U.S. interests. In the 1980s, multiple attacks on U.S. troops in Lebanon caused substantial casualties and were organized by Shiite Hezbollah. After 9/11 the threat was from Sunni jihadists. The invasion of Iraq, followed by failed attempts at pacification, drove home the complexity of the problems to the Americans.
This has led the U.S. into something very dangerous in the region: a complex foreign policy, the kind that the region usually imposes on powerful outsiders. At the moment, the main concern of the United States is Iranian expansion. It is not alone. The Sunni world and Israel are in intense opposition to Iran. Turkey and Russia are wary of Iran but at the moment are content to see the U.S. struggle with the problem, while they fish in troubled waters. An extraordinary coalition has emerged with the support of the U.S., bringing together Israel, Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states under one tenuous banner.

This coalition is a threat to Iranian interests. The Israelis are attacking Iranian forces in Syria and exchanging mutual threats with Hezbollah. The Saudis and the United Arab Emirates are supporting anti-Iran forces in Yemen and conducting an air campaign. Iraq is under limited outside pressure but is itself so fractious that it is difficult to define what Iranian control or influence is. In other words, the Iranian sphere of influence continues to exist but is coming under extreme pressure. And Iran is aware that if this sphere collapses, its western border becomes once again exposed.

U.S. strategy has moved away from large scale American military involvement, which defined its strategy since 9/11. It has shifted to a dual strategy of using smaller, targeted operations against anti-U.S. groups in the Sunni world and economic warfare against Iran. This anti-Iran strategy follows from a broader shift in U.S. strategy away from the use of military power toward the use of economic power in places like China, Russia and Iran. The U.S. drive to end the Iran nuclear deal was less about fear of Iranian nuclear power and more about imposing a massive sanctions regime on the Iranian economy.

The sanctions strategy has badly hurt the Iranians. For a while, it seemed to threaten political unrest on a large scale, but that threat seems to have subsided somewhat. But the pain from sanctions constantly tightening and shifting, with unpredictable targets and methods of enforcement, has undermined the Iranian economy, particularly its ability to export oil. This, combined with the pressure it is facing from the anti-Iran collation the U.S. supports, has placed Iran in a difficult position.

It has already responded in the Persian Gulf, seizing tankers in the hopes of creating panic in the industrialized world. But this is not 1973, and the significance of a tanker war like the one that raged in the 1980s was not enough to spike oil prices or create pressure from Europe, Japan and others against the United States and its allies to release the pressure on Iran.
Iran now has two imperatives. It must weaken the anti-Iran coalition, protecting its allies in the region, and it must generate pressure on the United States to ease U.S. pressure on the Iranian economy. The weak link in the coalition is Saudi Arabia. Its government is under internal pressure, and it holds together its social system with money gained from oil sales. It is the part that is both vital to the coalition yet vulnerable to events. And nowhere is it more vulnerable than in Saudi oil revenue.

The strike at the Saudi oil refinery was well thought out on all levels. Not only did it demonstrate that the Saudi oil industry was vulnerable to Iranian attack but the attack significantly reduced Saudi oil production, inflicting real pain. It is not clear how long it might take to bring production back online, but even if it is done quickly, the memory will not fade, and if it takes time, the financial impact will hurt. It has imposed a price on the Saudis that others will note.

It is also intended to remind the Saudis and others that while in the past the U.S. had an overwhelming interest in protecting the flow of Middle Eastern oil, this is not a major interest of the United States any longer. Between massive American shale oil production and its reserves, the U.S. is not nearly as vulnerable as it once was to oil disruption. This also reminds U.S. allies in Europe and Asia that a dramatic shift has occurred. Where once all were obsessed with doing nothing to threaten oil supplies, now the United States is in a position to take risks that its allies can’t afford to take. The Iranians hope that with this attack they can split the American alliance over the oil issue.

That oil issue is also Iran’s problem. The U.S. has blocked sales of a substantial proportion of Iranian oil production as part of its economic war on Iran. In creating alarm over global oil supplies, the Iranians want to force U.S. allies to be more assertive in defying U.S. wishes on not only oil but other matters as well. The U.S. assurances of ample supplies played into the Iranians’ hands, causing major importers to start thinking about the U.S. position.

The attack on the refinery was both operationally skillful and strategically sound. It made the Saudis’ vulnerability and their weakest point manifest. It imposed a price on the Saudis for their alliance structure that, if it continues, they cannot pay. The attack also drove home to U.S. allies that their interest and the United States’ interest on oil diverge. Finally, and importantly, it will benefit other oil producers, particularly Russia, by potentially raising prices. And in American politics, anything that benefits Russia right now can be made explosive.

The United States cannot ignore the attack. As the greatest military power in the anti-Iran coalition, it is the de facto security guarantor. But if it strikes, it invites a response from the Iranians and resistance from its allies. If it does not strike, it weakens the foundations of the anti-Iran alliance and strengthens Iran. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has recently alluded to the possibility that the U.S. was open to negotiations. The Iranians may have seen this attack as an important negotiating point.
It is difficult to see how the U.S. can respond without risking more attacks on Saudi Arabia. It is likewise difficult to see how the U.S. can avoid striking without losing the alliance’s confidence. Part of this will depend on how bad the damage to the refinery actually is. Part of it will have to do with the effectiveness of U.S. counterstrikes against drones in Yemen.

What is clear is that the Iranians are playing a weak hand as well as they can. But they are also playing a hand that could blow up in their face. The geopolitics of this clear. The intelligence capability of each side in follow-on attacks is the question – as is how lucky all the players feel they are.




Crafty_Dog

  • Administrator
  • Power User
  • *****
  • Posts: 51751
    • View Profile
GPF: Options in Iran
« Reply #1028 on: September 17, 2019, 05:54:54 AM »
Sept. 17, 2019


US Military Options in Iran


By George Friedman


The United States has openly accused Iran of being behind the drone and cruise missile attacks on Saudi Arabia’s largest oil refinery. Now the question is what the United States will do in response.

The U.S. is in a difficult position. The attacks did not directly affect the U.S., save for the spike in oil prices, which actually helps the American oil industry. There is a temptation to let the attacks slip into history. But the United States has formed an anti-Iran alliance in which Saudi Arabia is a key (though weak) player. Saudi Arabia is under internal pressure from members of the royal family who oppose Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and low oil prices have undermined the kingdom’s political cohesion. Doing nothing would call the U.S.-sponsored coalition into question. Saudi Arabia is an important player in the Sunni Arab world – and that world is the main threat to Iranian expansion. Failing to respond to an Iranian attack on a vital Saudi facility could help Iran increase its power throughout the region. During Donald Trump’s presidency, the United States’ inclination has been to avoid initiating direct military action in favor of applying economic pressure instead. He has maneuvered to minimize and halt active military engagement. Military action against Iran, therefore, would both endanger the alliance structure and cut against U.S. strategy.

An alternative option would be to introduce new sanctions, but there are two problems with this move. First, sanctions do not have the psychological impact military action does. The psychological impact would be on both Iran and the Sunni world, and the logic of the situation requires it. Second, the U.S. has already imposed painful sanctions on Iran’s economy. Any further sanctions would have limited effect and insufficient heft.

There is one military option that would have a severe economic shock but would also limit U.S. exposure: imposing a blockade on Iranian ports, with a selective closure of the Strait of Hormuz. This strategy has three weaknesses. First, a large naval force of multiple carrier battle groups would have to be deployed for a potentially unlimited time. Second, the fleet could come under attack from Iranian missiles, and while we would assume that U.S. naval vessels have effective anti-missile capabilities, any mistake could cost the U.S. a major vessel. To counter this, anti-missile air attacks as well as defensive measures would be needed, creating a second potentially costly dimension to this operation. Finally, such a blockade is by definition without a terminal point. If Iran does not fold under the pressure, the blockade could continue indefinitely, since ending it without a successful outcome would be seen as a defeat.

Another possible response would be to launch strikes against Iranian targets. The most appropriate target would be the factories producing drones and cruise missiles, along with storage facilities and so on. Here, the problem is getting accurate intelligence. The U.S. has undoubtedly been cataloging such things, but acting on poor information could result in an Iranian strike on U.S. forces or another sensitive site under informal American protection. This would only compound the problem of the Iranian attacks on the Saudi refinery.

The difficult question the U.S. faces is whether it should take an action so painful that it will block any further actions from Iran. If a blockade doesn’t shatter Iran’s economy, then escalation to eliminate its offensive air capability is needed. As for an air campaign, history has shown that they tend to take much longer than expected and sometimes fail altogether, providing the adversary an opportunity to take offensive action on its own. A U.S. attempt to eliminate Iran’s strike capability can be costly, and hidden Iranian missiles can attack regional targets. As with a blockade, an air campaign can go on indefinitely. Small-scale retaliatory strikes open the door to Iranian countermoves and could escalate into an extended operation.

As for sending in ground troops, not only does that not quickly solve the problem of Iranian air power, but it also returns the U.S. to a posture it has been in since 2001: occupation warfare. The U.S. military fully deployed can defeat the Iranian military and take terrain, but to hold it against a hostile militia would create interminable conflict with casualties that cannot be sustained. Iran is a big and rugged country, with a population of 82 million people, more than twice as large as Iraq or Afghanistan. And the idea that U.S. troops would be greeted as liberators is mere fantasy.

Apart from an air attack on Iran designed not to achieve a significant goal but rather to give the Saudis confidence in the U.S., the options for a direct attack are not promising. But there is another way to think about this problem. The United States has been concerned about Iran’s expanding political influence. But this creates potential targets that are of high value to Iran – and hitting these targets would be less daunting than an attack on Iran itself. Iran has its own or proxy forces in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. It has invested a great deal of time, resources and risk in creating these forces that are now holding territory in these countries.

Consider Lebanon, a place where Iran has been highly active since the 1980s through its proxy Hezbollah. If Hezbollah could be crippled, the political structure of Lebanon would shift out of Iran’s control, and Iran’s anchor on the Mediterranean would be gone. Such an operation could not be left to the Israelis partly because their force is much smaller than what the U.S. could bring to bear, and also because collaboration between U.S. and Israeli forces would put the U.S.’ Sunni allies in a difficult position. Such a response would directly hurt Iran’s interests but could be carried out at lower risk and at higher cost than other options.

Indeed, the very threat of an attack on Hezbollah might cause the Iranians to change their strategy. Of course, an attack there might also unleash a torrent of missile strikes from Iran, and that is the downside of this and all the other strategies. But the advantage is that where other strategies would likely fail to achieve their goals, an attack on Hezbollah might well succeed. It would be something Iran would not want to see and would be carried out by secure U.S. forces. Alternatively, the U.S. could attack Iranian forces in Syria, but that would have a lower impact.

This is a theoretical exercise; answering Iran’s attacks with an air campaign on a proxy power is unlikely. The Saudis would have trouble portraying it as U.S. commitment to Saudi security. Attacks in Syria, Iraq and Yemen would all suffer from a lack of clarity and from the fact that Iran itself would not be hit. There is the possibility that the Saudi air force could retaliate, but its ability to sustain losses and conduct an extended air campaign is doubtful. The Saudis could fire missiles at Iran, but that would begin an open-ended exchange, and the U.S. strategy has to be to hurt Iran in a mission with closure.

The Iranians know the dilemma they have posed the United States. They have bet that the risks are too high for the United States to respond. But the problem in Iran’s thinking is it can’t be sure the degree to which the U.S. sees Iranian expansion as a threat to U.S. long-term interests in the region. So the Iranians are asking the U.S.: Are you feeling lucky?

There would appear to be no good military options. Doing nothing could well destroy the anti-Iran bloc the U.S. has worked hard to create. The likely but not certain answer to this problem will be a symbolic retaliation. The problem with retaliations, however, is that they get out of hand.



ya

  • Power User
  • ***
  • Posts: 462
    • View Profile
Re: Iran
« Reply #1029 on: September 21, 2019, 06:51:10 AM »

Crafty_Dog

  • Administrator
  • Power User
  • *****
  • Posts: 51751
    • View Profile

Crafty_Dog

  • Administrator
  • Power User
  • *****
  • Posts: 51751
    • View Profile
WSJ: Supporting Trump's response to Iran's Saudi attack
« Reply #1031 on: September 21, 2019, 07:39:42 AM »
second post



    Opinion Business World

Why Trump Is Winning on Iran
The U.S. should focus on sanctions while letting the Saudis cope with any nasty local spillovers.
By Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.
Sept. 20, 2019 5:26 pm ET
Damaged oil-processing facilities in Saudi Arabia, Sept. 20. Photo: Amr Nabil/Associated Press

Delicacy forbids resorting to the suggestion that comes to mind in response to an Arab academic declaiming in the pages of the New York Times against Donald Trump ’s restraint with respect to Iran’s military provocations. “Trump, in his response to Iran, is even worse than Obama,’’ Abdulkhaleq Abdulla told the paper, which described him as “a prominent political scientist in the United Arab Emirates.”

He went on: “Now an Arab Gulf strategic partner has been massively attacked by Iran—which was provoked by Trump, not by us—and we hear Americans saying to us, you need to defend yourselves! It is an utter failure and utter disappointment in this administration.”

The Trump sanctions are having their desired effect, weakening the Iranian regime and indicating why its regional machinations are ultimately leading toward a dead end. This is already serving Arab interests incidentally. If there is some regional blowback, such as the drone and cruise-missile attack on a Saudi oil facility, in the spirit of burden-sharing let the Saudis take the steps necessary to repay or repel such attacks if they wish.

Our policy is working. Only when and if it serves our interest do we need to respond militarily (though it might be useful to strengthen the effect of sanctions by attacking under-the-table Iranian oil exports). It does not need to be done, as Arab and other critics suggest, to validate the 40-year U.S. policy of preventing any rival power from dominating the gulf and its oil resources.

We don’t have to prove that commitment at the drop of every hat. One of the many benefits of the U.S. domestic oil resurgence is that we don’t have to overreact to lesser disruptions of the oil flow from every regional spat or upset. The world economy remains adequately supplied. If prices go up a bit, the U.S. now benefits as a major producer, offsetting some of the damage on the consumer side.

Our position is stronger than ever. Only weak nations need to overreact.

Which is just as well. Even Donald Trump’s most devoted followers, for better or worse, have little desire to see him become a war president. They sense that recent wars haven’t served U.S. interests. They understand that the peculiar dynamics of the Trump presidency would not provide the unifying and rallying oomph that sometimes makes war an attractive domestic political proposition. Nor would being a war president particularly suit Mr. Trump’s episodic and wandering leadership style.

Which is also fine. There is no reason to oblige the Iranians and the Saudis, in their different ways, in how we respond to the attack. The Iranian goal is to lure the U.S. into a confrontation that Washington would eventually be wiling to pay to get out of, presumably by lifting sanctions and resuming the Obama nuclear payola. For the Saudis and their local allies, they wish to see the world’s superpower expend some of its military stockpiles to degrade Iran’s offensive capabilities in ways that would convenience them but wouldn’t do much for us.

Let’s recall that the billions the U.S. invests in global military power are aimed not just at keeping the Gulf open, but also at making others feel how much they rely on the U.S. to keep it open. The Chinese, in particular, hardly need at this exact moment to see us reflexively allowing ourselves to be baited by local tinpots into protecting China’s ability to consume Mideast oil. On the contrary, the present occasion represents a nice opportunity to demonstrate the flexibility America now enjoys in this matter thanks to its own fracking revolution and rising energy power.

There are no guarantees, but the evidence so far is encouraging. Sanctions have cut Iran’s oil exports by 90% since April 2018. The regime is plodding toward a domestic crisis that, as of now, Iran’s leadership appears to hope it can escape by initiating provocations meant to suggest a wider war unless the U.S. backs down. Yet these war threats, if allowed to materialize, would only accelerate Iran’s domestic crisis. Though more provocations may be coming, these would only make it tougher for a future Democratic president to cancel the sanctions and reinstate the Obama nuclear deal. It’s hard to see a way out of Iran’s sanctions trap except by meeting U.S. demands to curb its obnoxious regional behavior.

Whether from shrewdness or instinct or an inability to reconcile his bellicose Twitter style with his urge for deals, Mr. Trump’s administration has defaulted to a useful strategy. It consists of letting sanctions work while leaving it to our local partners to cope with any spillovers that don’t fundamentally affect U.S. interests

DougMacG

  • Power User
  • ***
  • Posts: 12689
    • View Profile
Re: WSJ: Supporting Trump's response to Iran's Saudi attack
« Reply #1032 on: September 22, 2019, 07:43:08 PM »
Against my instinct to bomb them to oblivion, this WSJ Holman Jenkins argument for patience and restraint makes sense to me.

Crafty_Dog

  • Administrator
  • Power User
  • *****
  • Posts: 51751
    • View Profile
Re: Iran
« Reply #1033 on: October 07, 2019, 10:05:46 AM »
•   Iran’s oil minister announced that the China National Petroleum Corporation was no longer a partner in Iran’s biggest natural gas project (phase 11 of the South Pars field) and that Iran will develop the field on its own.

Crafty_Dog

  • Administrator
  • Power User
  • *****
  • Posts: 51751
    • View Profile

Crafty_Dog

  • Administrator
  • Power User
  • *****
  • Posts: 51751
    • View Profile

Crafty_Dog

  • Administrator
  • Power User
  • *****
  • Posts: 51751
    • View Profile
GPF: Iran's Looming Water Crisis
« Reply #1036 on: October 14, 2019, 08:44:28 PM »

Iran’s Water Pressure: Droughts, Floods and a Looming Crisis

If it wants to avert a disaster, Tehran needs to find a solution to the country’s water crisis. But its options are limited.
By
Xander Snyder -
June 6, 2019
Open as PDF

Summary

Iran has long struggled to manage its paltry water resources. As Tehran wrestles with the effects of decadeslong drought and record flooding, it’s clear that the way Iran accesses and uses its water resources adds yet another problem the already overstretched regime will have to deal with. This Deep Dive will examine how Iran got here, the scale of the challenge it faces, what possible solutions it may pursue, and the implications for the regime.

Iran’s water problem is intensifying. While the country is by no means a stranger to floods, record-high rainfall in March and April this year caused major flooding in several provinces that led to nearly 100 deaths, $10 billion in damage and significant political costs, to boot. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei approved the use of funds from Iran’s sovereign fund (which are usually reserved for infrastructure and other long-term projects) to support relief efforts. As often happens in arid climates, Iran is simultaneously dealing with a nationwide, decadeslong drought – approximately 40 percent of the country is experiencing severe drought. This only exacerbates the floods; the parched ground cannot absorb water fast enough during periods of intense rainfall. On top of all this, the regime’s water policies have led to overexploitation of the country’s already limited groundwater resources.

(click to enlarge)

As the drought drags on, it’s causing political problems for the regime. Large-scale nationwide protests broke out in December 2017 and lasted through early 2018, and since then, protests over polluted water and water shortages have continued across the country. More and more Iranian farmers, unable to irrigate their crops, have left rural provinces to find work in cities, meaning ever-growing numbers of angry Iranians are congregating in the country’s urban centers.

Tehran is going to have to come to terms – and quickly – with the realities begotten of its decades of poor water management and an unfavorable climate that will only get worse. The regime has a few options available, all of which will be costly and difficult to implement. Continuing on its current course, however, could be catastrophic for Iran.

Managing Water in an Unfavorable Climate

Iran has several climate zones that are shaped by the country’s location and geography. Its two main mountain ranges, the Alborz and Zagros, prevent moisture from reaching the interior of the country, thereby dissecting it into multiple climate zones ranging from arid to subtropical. As such, temperatures across Iran can range from minus 20 degrees Celsius to 50 degrees Celsius (minus 4 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit); precipitation ranges from less than 50 millimeters to more than 1,000 millimeters (2 to 40 inches) per year. The country’s average precipitation, at 250 millimeters per year, is about a third of the global average. But most of the country receives even less – under 100 millimeters per year.

(click to enlarge)

Despite this variation, approximately 85 percent of the country is arid or semi-arid, which means that it has relatively little arable land. What land can support crops is found primarily in the north, along the Caspian Sea, and in the northwest, which has a Mediterranean climate. Between its lack of land and insufficient water supplies, Iran has a limited ability to feed its own people.

(click to enlarge)

The country has struggled with its scant water resources since the days of ancient Persia. Those civilizations managed to build grand empires fed by advanced hydraulic infrastructure. For example, beginning more than 2,000 years ago the Persians constructed a system of wells, known as qanats, that tapped into deep underground reserves, as well as a system of pipelines, canals, aqueducts and dams to store and transfer water to the parts of the country that needed irrigation for crops.

But modern Iran’s population of 81 million and its accompanying water needs have led to overexploitation of its water resources. This is especially true of its groundwater – that is, water found underground in soil or in cracks and gaps in rocks. Because of Iran’s limited rainfall, groundwater is for many regions the only way crops can be irrigated. Groundwater accounts for more than 55 percent of Iran’s total water consumption, and 92 percent of water consumed in Iran is used for agriculture, compared to approximately 70 percent in many other countries. Yet from 2000-09, Iran’s rate of groundwater depletion doubled compared to 1960-2000, driven by both declining precipitation and the government’s self-sufficiency policies.

Following the 1979 revolution, the new regime pushed a policy of national food self-sufficiency, which involved producing enough staple crops to meet the country’s own needs instead of relying on imports. Strategically, this made sense; Iran wanted to decrease its dependence on the outside world at a time when it was importing approximately 65 percent of the country’s food. In practice, however, the policy encouraged farmers to plant water-thirsty crops, most notably wheat, which is now grown on roughly 60 percent of Iran’s arable land and which is heavily dependent on groundwater. Groundwater extraction is expensive and energy-intensive, so encouraging self-sufficiency meant that the regime had to offer subsidies to farmers for both water and electricity to make planting and growing wheat affordable.

Those policies have persisted. The Baker Institute, a public policy think tank at Rice University, estimates that Iranian farmers still pay for only about 5 percent of the electricity their wells use to pump groundwater for irrigation. Further, the government guarantees wheat prices for a substantial portion of the country’s crop, providing both an incentive and safety net for farmers at a great cost to the government. In 2016, for example, the government purchased 85 percent of Iran’s wheat at guaranteed prices. Still, Iran manages to produce about 66 percent of its own food.

(click to enlarge)

As is so often the case with subsidized inputs of production, the low-cost water and energy led to overexploitation of groundwater. At the current rate of depletion, 25 percent of Iran’s groundwater cannot be replenished by natural sources, and 12 of Iran’s 31 provinces are expected to completely exhaust their aquifers within 50 years. What’s more, former Agriculture Minister Isa Kalantari claimed that Iran also uses approximately 97 percent of its surface water. That’s compared to Japan’s 19 percent, the United States’ 21 percent, China’s 29 percent and India’s 33 percent, although Iran has only slightly fewer cubic meters of surface freshwater per person than China and more than India. It’s also despite the fact that the total area in Iran equipped for surface water irrigation declined by 15 percent from 1993 to 2007. During this period, land area irrigated by groundwater increased by 39 percent, and wheat production increased by 50 percent. As surface water has become less available, more farmers have begun drilling illegal wells to tap into groundwater to support their business, further accelerating the groundwater depletion rate.

(click to enlarge)

Making matters worse, Iran has also overinvested in dams relative to other types of water infrastructure. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is enmeshed in Iran’s economy and particularly the construction industry, seems to have lobbied successive governments to build dams. However, many of the dams appear to be of poor quality, and much of the water they’re supposed to store evaporates or leaks back into the ground before it can be used. The focus on dams has also been at the expense of investment in other infrastructure like irrigation systems, drainage networks and artificial watersheds, which together would increase the efficiency of water storage and use. Indeed, when President Hassan Rouhani first came to power, he halted the construction of 14 dams, instead favoring the construction of pipelines that would limit evaporation. Still, as we’ll review in depth later, the other options that the Iranian government has at its disposal all face significant challenges as well.

A Hotter, Drier Future

Iran’s already harsh climate and the government’s poor water management are compounded by a bleak forecast for precipitation in the country and temperature rises, and its remaining resources are already paying the price.

Take Lake Urmia, for example. At one point, the lake measured 5,000 square kilometers (1,930 square miles) – the second-largest lake in the Middle East after the Caspian Sea. (That is, if you consider the Caspian to be a lake; more on this later.) But declining precipitation since the 1970s, along with the government’s diversion of the tributaries that feed the lake and the digging of thousands of illegal wells, led to an 80 percent reduction in Urmia’s water levels. Recent rainfall has helped the lake recover some of its surface area, but it’s now hovering at around 3,000 square kilometers.

(click to enlarge)

While the Iranian government is finally taking steps to limit Lake Urmia’s depletion, there’s not much it can do to halt the shifts in Iran’s climate patterns, which will affect far more than just the water levels of one lake. Diminished rainfall and higher temperatures will contribute to more extreme periods of drought, putting additional pressure on the country’s water supply and the regime’s ability to manage the fallout.

There’s some variation in forecasts of rainfall in Iran over the next 20 years, but most show a decline in nationwide average precipitation, while some show a substantial decline (up to 35 percent). The few forecasts that show little change on a national level predict meaningful changes at a regional level, indicating that the arid regions will get drier even if the northwest sees a slight increase in precipitation. There’s broad agreement, however, that Iran will see an increased frequency in extreme weather conditions – in both precipitation and temperature.

Temperatures in Iran are broadly expected to increase by 1.1 degrees C to 2.5 degrees C by the middle of this century, and by up to 7.9 degrees C by 2100. The frequency and length of heat spells will also increase, which will lead to longer droughts. This, in turn, will result in more evaporation of surface water and a shrinking amount of arable land that can be irrigated by rainfall rather than groundwater. Iran’s farmers will be forced to tap further into already drained groundwater, creating a risk of depleting it entirely. At present, over 50 percent of the area used for wheat cultivation is in water-scarce sub-basins. The combination of increased groundwater exploitation and declining precipitation could reduce aquifer recharge in eastern Iran by 50-100 percent.

(click to enlarge)

Research also shows that the frequency of heat waves in Iran and West Asia will climb by up to 30 percent. As heat waves become longer, hotter and more frequent, parts of Iran (along with the Middle East and North Africa more broadly) will become uninhabitable. A 2015 Massachusetts Institute of Technology paper predicted that in the following 30 years, temperatures in the Persian Gulf, including Iran, would exceed the threshold for human habitability. Jos Lelieveld, director of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and a professor at the Cyprus Institute, agrees, saying that “prolonged heat waves and desert dust storms [resulting from both heat and drought] can render some regions uninhabitable.” NASA scientist Benjamin Cook said that an increase in temperatures and drought could create severe food scarcity in the region. Such research seems to broadly corroborate a claim by Kalantari, who is now serving as the head of Iran’s Department of Environment, that by the middle of the century Iran’s water resources may be so diminished that 50 million Iranians – a whopping 70 percent of the population – will be forced to flee the country.

The frequency of short periods with intense rainfall is also expected to increase. This coupled with long periods without rain will make dry areas increasingly prone to flooding and, therefore, less habitable. This will especially be the case in Iran’s arid climate zones, which may contribute to a greater prevalence of uninhabitable living conditions.

The combination of drought, dwindling water resources, extreme heat and declining rainfall will intensify internal migration from rural areas to urban centers, with the attending political implications. Frustration with the regime’s handling of water is already widespread and has led to protests in affected regions. That frustration won’t fall away as people move into the cities; rather, the number of unemployed or underemployed Iranians angry at the regime will only grow and become concentrated in urban areas.

Syria: An Analogue

The Iranian government, in trying to understand the net political effect of this internal migration, might do well to look to Syria. The regime of Hafez Assad, who led Syria from 1971 to 2000, also instituted food self-sufficiency policies, encouraging agricultural production by providing fuel subsidies to make it easier for farmers to access groundwater. This led to a substantial decline in Syria’s groundwater resources, making rural communities more vulnerable to inevitable droughts. When Hafez’s son, Bashar Assad, came to power, he implemented a number of liberalization measures to reform the Syrian economy. Among other goals of these reforms, Bashar hoped to end his father’s fuel subsidies – in part to curb overexploitation of groundwater.

But then drought struck. In fact, between 2007 and 2010 Syria experienced its worst drought in recorded history; 2008 was its driest year on record. It decimated the production of small- and medium-scale farmers. Many livestock herds were completely destroyed. Bashar Assad’s government, however, kept its reform policies in place, exacerbating farmers’ lack of access to water.

As a result, as many as 1.5 million rural Syrians were forced to move to urban centers like Damascus and Aleppo, crowding into the cities’ peripheries and putting pressure on already strained services and infrastructure. School attendance in Syria’s northeast fell by 80 percent as families with children, who were increasingly suffering from malnutrition, relocated. As food production fell, food and livestock feed prices increased, in some cases by double or more, making an already difficult living situation for many Syrians untenable. Syria was forced to import large quantities of wheat for the first time since it declared itself self-sufficient in wheat production in the mid-1990s.

By early 2011, Syrians had taken to the streets, in part to show their frustration with the drought and their dissatisfaction with the government’s response.

The similarities with Iran are striking: Exhaustion of groundwater driven in part by government policies to achieve food self-sufficiency made rural communities particularly vulnerable to changes in climate patterns. When an unprecedented drought struck, anti-government sentiment spread but was concentrated in the cities as millions of rural Syrians were forced to migrate. Forecasts here are not needed – this is already happening in Iran.

Problematic Propositions

The scale of the water challenge facing Iran paints a bleak picture. Iran has a handful of options that it can pursue, but each has limitations.

Increase food imports

Iran may have to turn away from its agricultural policies promoting self-sufficiency and import more food instead. This is the path taken by Saudi Arabia, which realized that using its meager water resources to cultivate grains in the desert was unsustainable.

(click to enlarge)

But Iran couldn’t accomplish this without some challenges. First, far more Iranians are employed in agriculture than Saudis – roughly 18 percent compared to Saudi Arabia’s 5 percent (even when Riyadh was still pursuing self-sufficiency, that figure was only 8 percent). Second, while both the Iranian and Saudi economies are highly dependent on oil exports, Iran is under serious sanctions pressure from the international community. This limits foreign currency inflows, resulting in a vulnerable and weak rial that makes imports exceptionally costly. Already there have been reports of food rationing in Tehran, and the regime has been forced to subsidize staple foods.

If Iran moves away from self-sufficiency, it will likely need to limit subsidies to farmers. That could put it on a trajectory similar to Syria’s, risking the kind of large-scale internal migration and dissatisfaction that contributed to the outbreak of the Syrian civil war.

Increase water desalination

Faced with limited freshwater resources, Iran has been desalinating water from the Persian Gulf for several decades. Still, it’s a small quantity, meant to provide drinking water for urban populations. It doesn’t address the underlying issue of overuse by the agricultural sector – which, recall, accounts for over 90 percent of water consumption in Iran.

Desalination is also an energy-intensive process. The Baker Institute estimates that, if Iran were to increase its production of desalinated water to irrigate 10 percent of its wheat crop, it would have to redirect roughly 10 percent of its gas supply to desalination. This would be costly, of course. And since the majority of Iran’s electricity is generated from natural gas, redirecting these resources to desalination may also risk exposing certain regions of the country to electricity shortages. That’s a risky proposition for the regime, given that power shortages have already sparked protests in regions like Khuzestan.

(click to enlarge)

Further, this approach would complicate Iran’s energy trading. It would cut the amount of natural gas available for export, reducing the already sparse flow of foreign reserves into Iran and weakening the rial. And any diminished generation capacity would curtail Iran’s ability to export electricity; last year, protests broke out in the Iraqi city of Basra when the city’s supply of Iranian electricity fell. With the U.S. and Iran competing for influence in Iraq, this would be another blow to Iran’s ability to project power.

The Baker Institute estimates that building the capacity required to supply enough water for just 1 percent of Iranian wheat would require $1.4 billion in investment in desalination plants. But beyond the immediate cost of the desalination process, Iran would also need to build infrastructure to transport seawater from the Persian Gulf to inland agricultural zones. This would require additional energy to pump water over the mountains that separate Iran’s Gulf coast from the rest of the country.

Anyone familiar with Iran’s current fiscal circumstances will know that, between Iran’s estimated $10 billion in lost revenue since November and the country’s burgeoning defense costs, the regime isn’t exactly flush with the kind of cash needed to pursue this route.

Exploit Caspian Sea resources

In December 2018, Iran decided to move forward with a plan to build a pipeline to carry water from the Caspian Sea to the northern province of Semnan. The proposed pipeline would transport 200 million cubic meters of water from the Caspian each year for drinking and industrial use. Like the water from the Persian Gulf, it would have to be desalinated. Rouhani’s administration has reportedly set aside $1.2 billion for the initial phase of the project.

This isn’t a new idea – in 2012, former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad suggested refilling Iranian reservoirs from the Caspian Sea. The IRGC was supposed to build the required infrastructure, but the project was met with such stiff resistance from Iranian lawmakers and environmental officials that it was tabled until last year. But the resistance didn’t dissipate, and lawmakers from the Caspian-adjacent Mazandaran province have vowed to end the project, saying it is impractical and would damage the region’s economy and ecology. For now, however, it appears to be moving forward.

At present, the planned pipeline will only service three Semnan province cities – Damghan, Shahroud and Semnan. Of course, Iran could attempt to expand this infrastructure to carry water from the Caspian to regions across Iran, especially to more drought-prone areas. But, like building out infrastructure to carry desalinated water inland from the Persian Gulf, it would be expensive. And, unlike Persian Gulf desalination, there’s no existing infrastructure to build upon.

If Iran should come to depend too heavily on desalinated water from the Caspian Sea, it could cause the sea to drain. As it is, the Caspian Sea’s water level has been declining since 1995 as incrementally warmer summers increase the rate of evaporation. Further, it could raise the question of whether Iran even has the right to draw the Caspian’s water. Territorial disputes over the Caspian have existed since the fall of the Soviet Union. Up to that point, Iran and the Soviet Union had treated the Caspian like a lake, with rights to it split between the two. But three new states were born on its shores, each claiming rights to the sea and its hydrocarbon resources. Iran must now contend with Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan for rights to the Caspian.

At the core of the dispute is whether the Caspian is legally a sea or a lake. If it’s a lake, resources would have to be split evenly between its littoral states. If it’s a sea, then in theory, it would be subject to the jurisdiction of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea and would be divided roughly based on the length of each country’s shoreline. In August 2018, the Caspian’s five littoral states reached an agreement that solved, after nearly three decades, some of these disputes. For example, they agreed to treat the surface water of the Caspian as a sea. But the accord did not establish how the seabed and subsoil should be divided. Subsoil boundaries, in particular, are central in determining which country controls the hydrocarbon reserves.

So, if Iran were to begin draining the Caspian, other littoral states may take issue. Since most of the Caspian’s freshwater inflows come from the Volga River, it’s easy to imagine Russia objecting and redirecting the Volga (as it did with the rivers that fed the Aral Sea) to limit the amount of water Iran would have to draw from. This would also increase the Caspian’s salinity, requiring a more intensive desalination process. Iran’s use of the water could also set a precedent, encouraging other states on the Caspian to begin transferring water for their own use.

(click to enlarge)

Increase investment in different types of water infrastructure; liberalize water and energy prices

Lastly, Iran could attempt to implement a number of far-reaching policies that environmental scientists and ecologists from Iran and abroad have advocated.

Some examples include limiting urban growth rates, modernizing agricultural methods to increase water use efficiency, and lifting water and energy subsidies. Of course, modernizing an entire industry is not easy or cheap, and Iran is cash-strapped. And if Iran were to lift subsidies on water and fuel without providing a commensurate offset that allows farmers to produce at similar levels with fewer inputs, then the country would risk following Syria down its deleterious path.

Between Iran’s persistent drought, decades of poor water management and the continuation of extreme weather patterns – not to mention the challenges it is facing on the international front and the effects of sanctions – Iran has shrinking resources available to deal with its mounting water problem. And financial constraints are just one of the consequences carried by any of the possible solutions to the water crisis. The compounding effects are making not only the regime but the entire country vulnerable to any new pressures, external and internal, that may arise. The outlook for Iran’s water supplies – and its accompanying economic and political fallout – is looking bleak.

Crafty_Dog

  • Administrator
  • Power User
  • *****
  • Posts: 51751
    • View Profile
GPF: Iran's new centrifuges
« Reply #1037 on: November 04, 2019, 08:59:26 AM »
Iran keeps heading on down the nuclear road. On Monday, Iran launched 30 new centrifuges at its Natanz nuclear facility, according to Ali Akbar Salehi, the chief of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization. Salehi said the country’s low-enriched uranium production rose tenfold over the past two months – and that work on two new power plants will begin "next week" near the Bushehr Power Plant in southwestern Iran. Meanwhile, a government spokesman said Iranian President Hassan Rouhani would unveil Tehran’s fourth step in easing its compliance with commitments agreed to in the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action later this week. Tehran is trying to gradually ramp up pressure to bring the U.S. back to the negotiating table. But it’s also trying to keep its own hard-liners at bay. Notably, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Sunday that Iran will not lift its ban on talks with the U.S.

Crafty_Dog

  • Administrator
  • Power User
  • *****
  • Posts: 51751
    • View Profile
Glick: Is Iran Winning or Losing?
« Reply #1038 on: November 08, 2019, 08:21:57 AM »


Crafty_Dog

  • Administrator
  • Power User
  • *****
  • Posts: 51751
    • View Profile
Re: Iran
« Reply #1040 on: November 18, 2019, 04:50:37 AM »
Uprisings Against the Mullahs
Short on cash, the regime faces protests at home and in Iraq.
By The Editorial Board
Nov. 17, 2019 6:38 pm ET

Cars block a street during a protest against a rise in gasoline prices, in the central city of Isfahan, Iran, Nov. 16. PHOTO: /ASSOCIATED PRESS
The latest anti-regime protests in Iran look like a major political event, and judging by its vigorous and violent response the regime agrees. Now is a moment for the political left and right in the U.S. and Europe to unite in support of the Iranian people.

The protests erupted in several cities across the country in response to government increases of 50% in fuel prices. The increase raises the price of a liter of gasoline to only about 35 cents, or 50 cents a gallon. But the reaction to the increase reveals the desperation and anger of Iranians as the economy falters under the pressure of U.S. sanctions.

With parliamentary elections scheduled for February, the regime would only have reduced its fuel subsidies if it felt it had no choice. The mullahs must be short on cash as their oil sales abroad have been sharply reduced by Trump Administration sanctions. Oil sales are the regime’s main source of revenue.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini publicly supported the price increases on Sunday and called protesters “thugs.” The government shut down internet access across most of the country, which makes it difficult to assess the extent of the protests. But the reports and videos that have emerged show clashes that sometimes turned violent. Mr. Khameini also blamed loyalists of the former Shah, who was deposed 40 years ago.

The truth is that this turmoil is made in Tehran by the mullahs themselves. They could have used the financial windfall they received from the 2015 nuclear deal to invest in their own country. Instead they used those resources to spread revolution throughout the Middle East. They’ve continued to plow cash into developing ballistic missiles and arming Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Syria, and Shiite militias in nearby Iraq.

Iran’s heavy-handed meddling has also inspired a backlash in Iraq. Protesters have chanted anti-Persian slogans and demonstrated against Shiite sites in Karbala and other holy cities. Most Iraqis are Shiites but they are also nationalists and resent Iran’s political interference that includes direction to militias by Qasem Soleimani, head of the Quds Force that is Iran’s vanguard abroad.

Protests in Iran aren’t new, and the regime has shown it will use violence and arrests to quell them. But as economic hardship continues and the election nears, public unrest could also increase and erupt in unpredictable ways.

This is all the more reason for the U.S. to maintain the sanctions pressure and for Europe finally to join. Iran is now openly violating the 2015 nuclear deal, enriching uranium again and reopening its underground Fordow facility. The U.S. should withdraw its remaining sanctions waivers and trigger “snapback” sanctions that are allowed under the deal.

Above all, the world should speak up in support of Iranian aspirations to become a normal country, instead of a theocracy that spreads revolution and terror. Barack Obama made an historic blunder when he stayed mute amid the Iranian regime’s bloody crackdown on democratic protests in 2009. President Trump should not make the same mistake.

==============

Marc:  Sec State Pompeo has already made formal statement that we support the aspirations of the Iranian people.

Crafty_Dog

  • Administrator
  • Power User
  • *****
  • Posts: 51751
    • View Profile
GPF: Iran-- dangerous smoke signals
« Reply #1041 on: November 25, 2019, 11:41:00 AM »
Preparing for an Iranian attack. Over the weekend, the head of U.S. Central Command said that the government in Tehran is under extreme pressure and that another large-scale Iranian attack could not be ruled out. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he can confirm the threats and that Israel remained committed to preventing Iran from entrenching itself in the region. A former commander of the air defense division of the Israel Defense Forces went a step further by saying an attack by Iran, no matter the size, should be considered a declaration of war. The statements come amid a flurry of official high-level military and defense visits between the U.S. and Israel over the past week. It’s true that these kinds of meetings happen all the time, but the current missile exchange between Iran and Israel, and the close involvement of the U.S., gives them a little more gravity




Crafty_Dog

  • Administrator
  • Power User
  • *****
  • Posts: 51751
    • View Profile

Crafty_Dog

  • Administrator
  • Power User
  • *****
  • Posts: 51751
    • View Profile

DougMacG

  • Power User
  • ***
  • Posts: 12689
    • View Profile
Re: Iran
« Reply #1047 on: December 12, 2019, 07:11:50 AM »

G M

  • Power User
  • ***
  • Posts: 18060
    • View Profile
Re: Iran
« Reply #1048 on: December 12, 2019, 08:10:13 PM »

Crafty_Dog

  • Administrator
  • Power User
  • *****
  • Posts: 51751
    • View Profile
Stratfor: Iran
« Reply #1049 on: December 30, 2019, 11:34:27 PM »
The Iranian-U.S. Confrontation in Iraq Grows Hotter
7 MINS READ
Dec 30, 2019 | 21:44 GMT
Protesters waving the Iraqi flag alongside one of an armed network march in Basra to denounce U.S. airstrikes that killed dozens of Iraqi militia members.
Iraqis wave both the national flag and one from a paramilitary group in Basra on Dec. 30, 2019, during a demonstration to denounce U.S. airstrikes that killed dozens of members of an Iranian-linked militia.

(HUSSEIN FALEH/AFP via Getty Images)
HIGHLIGHTS
Iraqi militias backed by Tehran have threatened retaliation after U.S. airstrikes kill dozens of fighters, elevating the risk that a pattern of strike and counterstrike will take root....

The U.S. military response against an Iraqi paramilitary group closely affiliated with Iran has further increased the risk that an escalatory pattern of violence between Iran (and its proxies) and the United States will develop. Three U.S. airstrikes on Dec. 29 targeted positions in Iraq where the Iranian-backed militia Kataib Hezbollah has a presence; concurrent airstrikes hit two of the militia's positions in Syria near Qaim, an Iraqi border city. The airstrikes came in retaliation for a Dec. 27 rocket attack against the K-1 base near Kirkuk that killed a U.S. civilian contractor and wounded four U.S. military personnel. The United States blamed the militia group, one of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs), for carrying out that assault.

The Big Picture

Iraq depends on both the United States and Iran to help it maintain its security. As tensions between those security partners increase, Iraq will find it harder to maintain its balance between them. U.S. airstrikes on Iranian-allied militias in Iraq mark the latest escalation between Washington and Tehran that will increase the pressure on the Iraqi government to justify continuing dependence on U.S. security support to its citizens. The airstrikes also increase the risk of a further military escalation between the United States and Iran within Iraq.

See Iran's Arc of Influence

The contractor's death marked the first U.S. casualty in 2019 as a result of an Iranian-linked PMU attack in Iraq or Syria. Likewise, the deaths of dozens of Kataib Hezbollah members in the retaliatory bombings also marked a significant escalation in U.S. operations against Iranian-linked units in the two countries. These latest deadly incidents had been presaged by rising tensions between Iran and the United States and an increasing willingness on Iran's part to use its proxies to challenge Washington. According to U.S. defense officials, for instance, the barrage of about 30 rockets fired at K-1 represented the 11th attack since October by Iranian-backed PMUs that targeted areas where U.S. personnel in Iraq were based.

Iran's Growing Tolerance for Risk

Iran's extensive links with militia groups in both Syria and Iraq provide Tehran with a means by which to strike at U.S. forces by proxy. Given its larger dispute with Washington amid the U.S. sanctions campaign that has stifled its economy, Iran has become increasingly willing to use that option. But as the U.S. counterstrike illustrates, a proxy attack still carries with it the real possibility of a further escalation of attacks and counterattacks by both sides. Immediately after the airstrikes, the United States asserted that they were a direct retaliation over the attack on K-1, characterizing them as an effort to deter future militia operations against its forces. This fits in with Washington's preferred strategy of leaning heavily on sanctions, including those put in place in December against Iraqi militia leaders, to cripple Iran while seeking to avoid a military escalation to full war.

This map shows the location of several key cities in Iraq.

The United States is also aware that given the operating environment in Iraq and Syria, its forces dispersed in the two countries are vulnerable to attacks from Iranian-linked militias. For its part, Iran is cognizant of the risks that military escalation with a country as powerful as the United States carries, but pressure from the economic sanctions has left Tehran more willing to absorb those risks as it seeks ways to push back.

Beyond risking a fight with the United States that could spread to Iran itself, an escalation of violence at a time when Iraqi street protesters are decrying the Iranian influence in their country could also backfire on Tehran. But even with those risks hanging over their heads, Iran's deteriorating economy and the eagerness of some of its PMU proxies to confront U.S. forces could tempt Iranian leaders to act. Even if a large-scale Iranian counterattack over the U.S. strike on Kataib Hezbollah does not materialize, the rocket attacks on U.S. positions in Iraq and Syria are not only likely to continue, they may even increase in intensity.

Iranian proxies could also use other means of attack, such as with improvised explosive devices. This means that there is a continued high likelihood of further U.S. casualties at the hands of Iranian-linked militias  Those, in turn, could lead to further rounds of U.S. strikes. At this stage in their confrontation, a rapid escalation of violence between Iran and the United States is hardly inevitable. However, the potential for more incidents will remain elevated as long as the political acrimony between the countries remains in its current state.

The Iraqi Government's Dilemma

The violent exchanges further complicate the already chaotic political situation in Baghdad and will strain Iraq's relationship with both Iran and the United States. Many Iraqi PMUs have been directly funded and equipped by Iran — and thus are accurately viewed by Washington as direct tools of Iran. But the fact that the militias comprise Iraqi fighters gives Iran a degree of political protection from the Iraqi government over their continued use in Iraq, as well as some plausible deniability as it uses the militias to bolster regional hegemony.

Iraqi politicians who have ties with both the United States and Iran have issued measured condemnations of the airstrikes, but have stopped short of calling for the withdrawal of U.S. forces. This underscores their desire to not antagonize either country, both of which are powerful security backers and necessary economic partners for Baghdad. On Dec. 29, for example, Iraqi President Barham Salih called the U.S. airstrike unacceptable, and the same day, the powerful Dawa party issued a statement condemning the use of Iraq as a site for the United States and Iran to settle scores. The Iraqi prime minister's office, which had been informed that the airstrikes would occur about half an hour before they happened, said it "strongly rejected" the actions. Meanwhile, leaders of Iraq's Iranian-allied PMUs, including commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, called for U.S. forces to withdraw from Iraq. He also threatened further retaliation, a threat that carries considerable weight.

Given that the fighters among the PMU's ranks are Iraqi, Baghdad will be forced to distance itself publicly from direct cooperation with future U.S. actions against them.

Beyond the condemnations, the Iraqi government's lack of control over U.S. or Iranian actions in Iraq opens the likelihood of some diplomatic deterioration between Washington and Baghdad. Given that the fighters among the PMU's ranks are Iraqi, Baghdad will be forced to distance itself publicly from direct cooperation with future U.S. actions against them, and even despite Baghdad's own (mostly failed) efforts over the years to rein in some of the aggressive actions by the PMUs. A strategic framework agreement between Iraq and the United States facilitates close coordination between Iraqi security forces and the estimated 5,000 U.S. troops in the country. While it has proved valuable in increasing Iraqi security, the agreement has come under increasing political pressure from Iranian-allied politicians in parliament who want U.S. forces to leave Iraq. Iraq's security council said on Dec. 30 it would "reconsider" the relationship between Iraq and the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State, reflecting Baghdad's tricky position.

The airstrikes will add fuel to the ongoing debate, even though the Iran-allied PMUs themselves remain unpopular among many Iraqis because of their penchant for quasi-legal violence and because their presence makes Iraq a vulnerable proxy theater. A further factor in Baghdad's political decision-making will hinge on the reaction by Iraq's protest movement, especially if demonstrators demand that U.S. operations in Iraq be reined in. Given the limits of Iraq's current caretaker government to respond to emboldened demonstrators, the re-evaluation of the strategic framework agreement that has been stalled in parliament will accelerate if Iraqi protesters demand it.

Moving forward, Iraq will remain a highly volatile site of confrontation between the United States and Iran, damaging Iraq’s diplomatic relations with both countries. But the ball is currently in Iran's court, and the extent of the response by Iranian-linked militias to the U.S. airstrikes will determine whether a cycle of escalation takes hold in Iraq.