Unintended Consequences: U.S. Strengthens Iran

BY Herschel Smith
14 years ago

The Royal Institute of International Affairs (also known as the Chatham House) in Britain recently released a report essentially charging that the U.S.-led war in Iraq has strengthened Iran.

The United States, with Coalition support, has eliminated two of Iran’s regional rival governments — the Taliban in Afghanistan in November 2001 and Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq in April 2003 — but has failed to replace either with coherent and stable political structures. The outbreak of conflict on two fronts in June –July 2006 between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza, and Israel and Hizbullah in Lebanon has added to the regional dimensions of this instability.

Consequently, Iran has moved to fill the regional void with an apparent ease that has disturbed both regional players and the United States and its European allies. Iran is one of the most significant and powerful states in the region and its influence spreads well beyond its critical location at the nexus of the Middle East, Turkey, the Caucasus, Central Asia and South Asia.

This influence has a variety of forms but all can be turned against the US presence in Iraq with relative ease, and almost certainly would heighten US casualties to the point where a continued presence might not be tenable. Sources in Iraq are already warning that the major cities (including Basra and Baghdad) have witnessed a rise in the activities of Iranian paramilitary units and the recent bout of violence and instability in Basra is now considered to be a small display of what would happen if Iran itself was targeted.

This is certainly an unintended consequence, but for the purpose of precision in our analysis, it should be made clear that this is not directly a function of the global war on terror.  Rather, if Iran has becomed stronger as a result of the broader war, it is a function of the strategy the U.S. has chosen to implement the war.  As we have previously discussed, the conduct of the war has been marked by brilliant command decision juxtaposed with lurching and stumbling.  The initial ground campaign was magnificent, but it bypassed large urban areas leaving huge numbers of Mujahideen alive to fight another day.  The force size was perfect for the initial ground campaign and woefully inadequate for the maintenance of security.  The U.S. troops too quickly transitioned from conventional operations to counterinsurgency, and rather than share the risk with the Iraqi people, they reflexively cloistered on well-gaurded bases and stayed there the more that IEDs became the primary means of warring against them.  As a result, the homes, schools and streets became more dangerous, and the high level of danger brought more power to those who can cause the danger and inflict the pain.

But the things directly under our control at the present cause us to have no excuse for any further strengthening of Iran.  One such instance of having no excuse is the State Department.  In a jaw-dropping example of the reticence at the State Department, the U.S. has just yesterday approved the sale of aircraft parts to Iran, and has given us this reasoning for its support.

“Our recommendation is consistent with the US government’s commitment to promote international safety-of-flight standards and ensure the safety of all aviation passengers, including the citizens of Iran,” the State Department said.

The US Federal Aviation Administration recommended immediate overhaul of US-made engines on certain Airbus planes, some of which are used by Iran Air, the statement said, and the US Departments of Commerce and State reported to Congress their recommendations to allow the sale.

“Therefore, despite our grave concerns regarding the Iranian regime’s activities, we believe this decision is consistent with our commitment to support the Iranian people and to use US sanctions to target the regime, not the Iranian people.”

To set this in context, imagine for a moment that it is 1944, and the State Department is proudly waltzing onto stage to announce that we have just approved the sale of U.S. steel manufacturing and fabrication technology to Germany because we care about the people.

Until and unless the State Department is coerced into actually contributing to the global war on terror (that is, on behalf of the U.S., we are constrained to mention), we are fighting with one hand tied behind our back.

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You are currently reading "Unintended Consequences: U.S. Strengthens Iran", entry #335 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Iran,Politics and was published October 13th, 2006 by Herschel Smith.

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