Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Middle East Players: Iran

 

The latest news about “Iran” comes across as more irritation from a region that seems to always be in conflict. Moreover, the news and commentary tend to be divorced from actual history, allowing vague hand-waving, finger-pointing, and shoulder-shrugging. What follows is an attempt at a bit more definite hand-waving over the map, placing Iran briefly in their own historic context, touching on Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey as the other centers of power over the centuries.

It is not “those people.” It is not “that place.” It is not even “Islam.” Don’t take my word for it:

And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. (Matthew 24:4-8, KJV)

By the time Christ spoke those words into history, the lands we now call Iran and Egypt had already waxed and waned as great powers, marching back and forth across the land of Israel and Judah. Indeed, one of these great clashes is captured in the accounts of the Jewish people being carried into captivity in the east by the late Babylonian empire, then sent back to reestablish their society after the first great Persian power crushed the Babylonians and swept west.

Persia arose as a regional power when it, in senior partnership with the Medes, swept away the Babylonian empire in 539 BC, wading into Babylon one night after diverting the Euphrates River (Herodotus 1.191). A map of the first Persian Empire gives one view of its phases of expansion. A ten-minute video “Empires of Ancient Persia explained in 10 minutes (History of Iran)” does an even better job, expanding the time horizon significantly. We can generally take the point that “Persia” is identified with a very long history of military might, extensive trade, and rich art—including poetry persisting to this day.

You will note, towards the end of the video above, a clash of two monotheistic empires. The Eastern Roman Empire and the Zoroastrian Sassanid Empire wore each other out, creating the opening for the Arabs to burst forth across the region. The Arabs were displaced by other armies and kingdoms, centered in Egypt and finally in what became Turkey. The final great empire centered in the region was the Ottoman (Turk) Empire, eventually picked apart by the great European powers in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Understandably, peoples in the region felt a loss in going from lords of the horizon to subject lands. One reaction was pan-Arab nationalism, with a hint of socialism and a lot of military government. Nassar’s Egypt was the high water mark for that idea, which ultimately lacked power over national and tribal identities. There would be not fusing of “the Arabs” into a nation as “the Germans” experienced in the early 20th century.

Another idea arose in Egypt in the mid-20th century: the loss of political power had been due to loss of faith, and the answer was not private piety but politically engaged Muslims. The Muslim Brotherhood arose carrying this idea. They failed to seize and keep the state, even in Egypt, but helped drive the ideas and seeding of organizations that trouble the world to this day.

While a secularized Turkey focused on linkage with NATO, securing its southern flank, Egypt became the mass cultural center in the region, producing movies and then television shows. Iran became a bulwark, and an American military equipment client, in the continuation of the Great Game, in which Russia has long sought access to warm water ports, trade routes, and natural resources to the south, but did not project power. Finally the Arabs, newly rich with oil sought to reassert power in the world, first by economic pressure and then through a new religious-cultural offensive.

The early 1970s saw the brief brandishing of oil supply as a weapon. Yet, OPEC was inherently fragile, and all the wealth being produced by oil sales needed to go somewhere. It made sense to buy off critics of opulence and decadence in the ruling elite by giving money to the firebrand clerics to establish indoctrination centers around the region and then the globe. Need a new mosque? You can have one at no cost. You just need to accept the new preacher who must come with the best doctrinal training, after all, just look at the wonderful new place of worship!

Yes, violence ensued, but the real battle was for influence over minds, converting populations under their rulers’ noses. At the same time, the Saudis were spreading their influence with a well-funded missionary program, Iran was about to be seized by one man’s vision of greatness through a cleric-dominated state. This vision was alien to the experience of his coreligionists and set him in rivalry with the traditional senior religious leaders, located in the Shia spiritual heartland, in Iraq. Never before in history had ayatollahs, not “mullahs,” ruled secular society. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini changed that in 1979.

When you hear or read “Iran,” think either “Khomeinists” or “Persia.” The source of conflict with the region and the world is not Persia. It is the unelected and unaccountable Khomeinists, the clerics and their Praetorian Guard, or Red Guard if you prefer—a military elite apart in command and control from the larger regular military. This force is the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and it is now branded a terrorist group by the United States.

Recall that the Iranian people rose up, unarmed, against the Khomeinists and their security forces only a few years ago. President Obama turned his face away from them as eggs that would have to be broken to make a new Middle East omelet, in which the Jewish state would finally be put in check, brought to heel by the red-green alliance.

To feed expansionist ambitions, the current regime encouraged population growth. In the wake of the stalemated Iran-Iraq War, a young generation has arisen that is disillusioned by the government, limited economic opportunity, and apparent hypocrisy. The government is seen as corrupt, yet repressive of individual expression as immoral. As Christopher de Bellaigue recounts In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs, the revolutionary generation also became worn and disillusioned.

Iranians around the world drove Farsi into the top ten blogging languages, before the Khomeinist regime started imprisoning bloggers. They also were early adopters of podcasting. An educated, younger population has been held down by a theocracy with the beard of an elected parliamentary government. Such governments do not last forever. Meanwhile, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, in Iraq is criticizing the religious leaders in Iran of tainting pure religion with their involvement in politics.

The Persian-born ayatollah represents the conservative and mainstream of Iraqi Shias – rejecting the model of Iranian-style theocracy in favour of a separation between religion and politics.

So, “Iran,” “mad mullahs,” “war,” and “nation-building” are all stick figures or straw men in our domestic discourse. With Iranian people used to voting, and with the structure of a parliamentary democracy already in place, we could see a short transition to actual democracy. Perhaps the unelected regime can be thrown off or curtailed into a ceremonial role, no stronger than, say, the British monarchy and House of Lords. Most likely, the IRGC would have to be defeated first, preferably by the regular Iranian military in the lead, possibly acting in the name of the people’s elected government.

There is a real opportunity to end the regional and global threat from the Khomeinist regime and enable an educated and civically engaged people to reestablish their nation as a center of stability in the region. Doing so would deprive Hezbollah and Hamas of major material and organizational support, multiplying the positive effects in the region. This outcome, desired by the Iranian people, will not come from large military strikes against “Iran,” especially against its infrastructure. Rather, relentless pressure across diplomatic, informational, economic, financial, intelligence and law enforcement elements of national power, backed by the check of vastly superior military power, will create the conditions for regime collapse, whether bloody or peaceful.

Published in Foreign Policy
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There are 31 comments.

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  1. Gary McVey Contributor

    This is an impressive and authoritative summary of the big picture on Iran that would enhance the websites of The National Interest or Foreign Affairs, and here it is on Ricochet, another benefit of membership. It says something about the limitations of our narrow elite cultural stereotypes that a former Colonel doesn’t just have good strategic judgment but he even has deeper, more resonant cultural judgments than Nicholas Kristof or even Robert D. Kaplan (who is pretty good). Bravo; I’m proud that our military is led by men like C.A.B.

    • #1
    • June 22, 2019, at 7:51 PM PST
    • 11 likes
  2. Dr. Bastiat Member

    Outstanding. Thanks. 

    • #2
    • June 22, 2019, at 8:00 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  3. Randy Webster Member

    Two observations:

    The ancient Greeks left graffiti at the pyramids. They were separated by more time from the civilization that made the pyramids than we are from the ancient Greeks.

    One man’s Mede is another man’s Persian.

    I hope I didn’t give the impression that the above was my creation. Groucho Marx, I believe.

    • #3
    • June 22, 2019, at 9:04 PM PST
    • 8 likes
  4. Gary McVey Contributor

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Two observations:

    The ancient Greeks left graffiti at the pyramids. They were separated by more time from the civilization that made the pyramids than we are from the ancient Greeks.

    One man’s Mede is another man’s Persian.

    Thanks for that time perspective, Randy. Sometimes I’ll remind myself of similar things on a much smaller scale. Reagan’s inauguration, and the first launch of the space shuttle, (1981) is now halfway back in time to 1943.

    • #4
    • June 22, 2019, at 9:12 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  5. Randy Webster Member

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Two observations:

    The ancient Greeks left graffiti at the pyramids. They were separated by more time from the civilization that made the pyramids than we are from the ancient Greeks.

    One man’s Mede is another man’s Persian.

    Thanks for that time perspective, Randy. Sometimes I’ll remind myself of similar things on a much smaller scale. Reagan’s inauguration, and the first launch of the space shuttle, (1981) is now halfway back in time to 1943.

    The timescale sort of boggles the mind.

    • #5
    • June 22, 2019, at 9:13 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  6. DonG Coolidge

    Well written and great conclusion. The Persian people are held captive by a hostile government the same way the people of North Korea are. The Persian culture is most Western of all the Middle Eastern countries (see photo below). Like all democracies, they have to write their own history. All we should do is pressure their bad leaders. 

    This is an extraordinary time. There are three countries (North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela) where the people are suffering under bad leadership and Trump is going for a max economic pressure on all three. I am not seeing any leadership from the UN, which has been rendered ineffective, because of corruption. 

    Tehran University 1971
    • #6
    • June 22, 2019, at 9:33 PM PST
    • 11 likes
  7. Zafar Member

    Unfortunately unpleasant regimes generally don’t collapse in the face of sanctions (Cuba, Iraq, North Korea) – it takes a more interventionist approach to achieve that. In Iran itself that’s what happened in 1953, with a sponsored military coup required to reinstate the monarchy. That’s why Khomeini created two competing centres of military power in Iran (the Army and the Pasdaran) – to ‘coup-proof’ the Islamic Republic.

    Which links to the question: who and what replaces the regime? Unless the collapse and replacement is managed what arises might be worse than what’s in place now. That’s what happened in much of Iraq, even after the US Army physically invaded the country. What are the chances of it not happening in Iran? Sorry to be Debbie Downer, but the aftermath of years of sanctions is unlikely to spontaneously generate any indigenous and credible pro US movements.

    As the OP notes Iran does have some significant positives in place that have the potential to make establishing a new dispensation relatively quick (quicker that Iraq, for sure), but they don’t particularly facilitate the whole regime collapse and replacement thing.

    • #7
    • June 22, 2019, at 10:04 PM PST
    • 8 likes
  8. Gary McVey Contributor

    Here’s where I might disagree to some degree with Clifford: I believe that even a relatively secularized, post-Khomenist Iran would probably keep the bombs. As he points out, it isn’t just religion; like many other nations, it has a hankering for the days when it made the Earth shake. They have a rather high opinion of themselves, Islam or no Islam. 

    So if we lose the Persian Stalins, we may still end up with the Persian Putins. Still, given the alternatives…

    • #8
    • June 22, 2019, at 11:00 PM PST
    • 9 likes
  9. Zafar Member

    DonG (View Comment):

    Well written and great conclusion. The Persian people are held captive by a hostile government the same way the people of North Korea are. The Persian culture is most Western of all the Middle Eastern countries (see photo below). Like all democracies, they have to write their own history. All we should do is pressure their bad leaders.

    This is an extraordinary time. There are three countries (North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela) where the people are suffering under bad leadership and Trump is going for a max economic pressure on all three. I am not seeing any leadership from the UN, which has been rendered ineffective, because of corruption.

    Tehran University 1971

    I honestly don’t think that personal freedom of the elite (as in the I’m sure pre-1979 photograph above) is a good measure of popular culture or personal freedom across a society.

    How female literacy rates have changed since 1979:

    How fertility rates have changed:

    It is a complex country, and current regime is also complex. It can’t be properly understood one dimensionally, or without reference to Iran’s social or political history.

     

    • #9
    • June 22, 2019, at 11:42 PM PST
    • 9 likes
  10. dnewlander Member

    This is good, Clifford.

    I really appreciate your reference to the Great Game. We should always remember that we’re still playing it.

    This region (Mesopotamia and surrounds) has been at the center of human history for, well, all of human history.

    Understanding that helps one to understand Iran’s motivation. We (the US) have only been around for a couple of hundred years. They know that they’ve had dynasties that have lasted longer, and empires that are much older than that.

    It helps to think of that when you consider their aspirations.

    Hence the call after the 1979 revolution for young people to procreate, and the subsequent boom in population.

    And why they’re desperate for nuclear weapons.

    (Which are an engineering problem now that the physics has been figured out.)

    • #10
    • June 23, 2019, at 1:41 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  11. Bob Thompson Member

    Each of the adversaries could just stack weapons up in the desert and take turns destroying them. Then those who constantly initiate these conflicts can build more weapons, taxing the American ‘taxpayers’ for half and selling the remainder to the holders of wealth in the Middle East. Same outcome without killing so many people. Then just recycle.

    • #11
    • June 23, 2019, at 8:25 AM PST
    • Like
  12. Bob Thompson Member

    Is President Trump’s inside conflict with Neo-cons yet the main feature underway in this narrative that is always highlighted by ‘American interests in the Middle East’?

    • #12
    • June 23, 2019, at 8:44 AM PST
    • Like
  13. Skyler Coolidge

    Clifford A. Brown: With Iranian people used to voting, and with the structure of a parliamentary democracy already in place, we could see a short transition to actual democracy. Perhaps the unelected regime can be thrown off or curtailed into a ceremonial role, no stronger than, say, the British monarchy and House of Lords.

    I agree, but we should remember that the exact same thing was true of Iraq. There is a lot of room to screw this up again.

    The debate over how we screwed up in Iraq will continue for generations, I’m sure, but a prominent likely culprit will always be that we allowed the Iranians to install their puppets in Iraq.

    • #13
    • June 23, 2019, at 1:56 PM PST
    • 1 like
  14. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Here’s where I might disagree to some degree with Clifford: I believe that even a relatively secularized, post-Khomenist Iran would probably keep the bombs. As he points out, it isn’t just religion; like many other nations, it has a hankering for the days when it made the Earth shake. They have a rather high opinion of themselves, Islam or no Islam.

    So if we lose the Persian Stalins, we may still end up with the Persian Putins. Still, given the alternatives…

    We don’t worry about Putin with the bomb, in the sense that we believe, as we did with the Soviets, that the Russian leadership does not want nuclear mega death. We likewise are not overly concerned about Britain, France, China, Israel, or even India and Pakistan. The point is what their leaders believe and how stable their governments are.

    We should say “the Kohmeinist regime must never have nuclear weapons.” We should acknowledge that responsible members of the world community may choose to arm themselves with the ultimate deterrent weapons.

    • #14
    • June 23, 2019, at 2:03 PM PST
    • 1 like
  15. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    Zafar (View Comment):

    DonG (View Comment):

    Well written and great conclusion. The Persian people are held captive by a hostile government the same way the people of North Korea are. The Persian culture is most Western of all the Middle Eastern countries (see photo below). Like all democracies, they have to write their own history. All we should do is pressure their bad leaders.

    This is an extraordinary time. There are three countries (North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela) where the people are suffering under bad leadership and Trump is going for a max economic pressure on all three. I am not seeing any leadership from the UN, which has been rendered ineffective, because of corruption.

    Tehran University 1971

    I honestly don’t think that personal freedom of the elite (as in the I’m sure pre-1979 photograph above) is a good measure of popular culture or personal freedom across a society.

    How female literacy rates have changed since 1979:

    How fertility rates have changed:

    It is a complex country, and current regime is also complex. It can’t be properly understood one dimensionally, or without reference to Iran’s social or political

    Yes. There is another literature on societies choosing to not reproduce, choosing to diminish. Both the Khomeinists and Erdogan have railed against their peoples choosing not to have children. Erdogan has expressed concern about Turks not having children while Kurds do.

    It is telling that these two societies have not responded positively to their leaders calls for more children. The Iranian women’s mass protests against the order to wear head scarves in 1979 were hardly “elite,” were they? Perhaps you could point to other indicators of popular support today for the Khomeinist regime?

    • #15
    • June 23, 2019, at 2:24 PM PST
    • Like
  16. Skyler Coolidge

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):
    We don’t worry about Putin with the bomb, in the sense that we believe, as we did with the Soviets, that the Russian leadership does not want nuclear mega death.

    That was not really true. We did worry about the Russian nukes, and we did worry that if we did not guarantee that nuclear megadeath that they would attack us.

    We’ve sadly reduced the effectiveness of our nuclear arsenal because no one ever believes we would ever use them again. Without that fear, they are mostly worthless.

    • #16
    • June 23, 2019, at 2:25 PM PST
    • 1 like
  17. Bob Thompson Member

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):
    We don’t worry about Putin with the bomb, in the sense that we believe, as we did with the Soviets, that the Russian leadership does not want nuclear mega death.

    That was not really true. We did worry about the Russian nukes, and we did worry that if we did not guarantee that nuclear megadeath that they would attack us.

    We’ve sadly reduced the effectiveness of our nuclear arsenal because no one ever believes we would ever use them again. Without that fear, they are mostly worthless.

    Having difficulty understanding how you are refuting the truth of @cliffordbrown‘s statement. Was not our potential use of nuclear weapons in a mutually-assured destructive mode always considered retaliatory only? We have been comfortably in this mode with the Soviets and the Russians for more than half a century.

    • #17
    • June 23, 2019, at 2:36 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  18. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown: With Iranian people used to voting, and with the structure of a parliamentary democracy already in place, we could see a short transition to actual democracy. Perhaps the unelected regime can be thrown off or curtailed into a ceremonial role, no stronger than, say, the British monarchy and House of Lords.

    I agree, but we should remember that the exact same thing was true of Iraq. There is a lot of room to screw this up again.

    The debate over how we screwed up in Iraq will continue for generations, I’m sure, but a prominent likely culprit will always be that we allowed the Iranians to install their puppets in Iraq.

    Actually, apples and oranges. Iran is not an artificially held together group of ethnic and religious groups played off each other by the dictator. The better comparison is Saddam’s Iraq and Tito’s Yugoslavia.

    Yes to the Khomeinist intervention in Iraq, and let’s not forget the intervention by Sunni extremists infiltrated from Syria. That’s the Egyptian ideas and Gulf Arab money for influence, to which I allude in the OP.

    • #18
    • June 23, 2019, at 2:39 PM PST
    • 1 like
  19. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    Is President Trump’s inside conflict with Neo-cons yet the main feature underway in this narrative that is always highlighted by ‘American interests in the Middle East’?

    I don’t buy the label or the drama so much. There is a real world with real people who really behave like the scripture I quoted. They get a “vote,” and you may not be interested in war, but it is likely interested in you. The point of pushing for better trade deals is not to retreat from the world but rather to insist that the American people, not just our economic “1 percent,” get a fair deal—in a global economy. Our Framers acknowledged that we were necessarily linked to the world by trade, hence the provision for a navy without all the conditions on an army in Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution:

    To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;

    To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

    To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

    To provide and maintain a Navy;

    To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

    This was not a coastal guard, it was a blue water navy, from the outset.

    • #19
    • June 23, 2019, at 2:55 PM PST
    • 1 like
  20. Skyler Coolidge

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):
    We don’t worry about Putin with the bomb, in the sense that we believe, as we did with the Soviets, that the Russian leadership does not want nuclear mega death.

    That was not really true. We did worry about the Russian nukes, and we did worry that if we did not guarantee that nuclear megadeath that they would attack us.

    We’ve sadly reduced the effectiveness of our nuclear arsenal because no one ever believes we would ever use them again. Without that fear, they are mostly worthless.

    Having difficulty understanding how you are refuting the truth of @cliffordbrown‘s statement. Was not our potential use of nuclear weapons in a mutually-assured destructive mode always considered retaliatory only? We have been comfortably in this mode with the Soviets and the Russians for more than half a century.

    No. We had a very definite first strike policy. It was the Soviets who claimed that they didn’t. No one believed them.

    • #20
    • June 23, 2019, at 3:04 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  21. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):
    We don’t worry about Putin with the bomb, in the sense that we believe, as we did with the Soviets, that the Russian leadership does not want nuclear mega death.

    That was not really true. We did worry about the Russian nukes, and we did worry that if we did not guarantee that nuclear megadeath that they would attack us.

    We’ve sadly reduced the effectiveness of our nuclear arsenal because no one ever believes we would ever use them again. Without that fear, they are mostly worthless.

    Having difficulty understanding how you are refuting the truth of @cliffordbrown‘s statement. Was not our potential use of nuclear weapons in a mutually-assured destructive mode always considered retaliatory only? We have been comfortably in this mode with the Soviets and the Russians for more than half a century.

    No. We had a very definite first strike policy. It was the Soviets who claimed that they didn’t. No one believed them.

    Yes, and.

    Neither we, nor the Soviets, desired the results of global nuclear war. Each believed the other could be pushed to the point of first strike, so both behaved carefully. The Khomeinist regime, on the other hand, is quite clear and consistent in its position that nuclear weapons will create the conditions under which the one Jewish state can be wiped off the map, by conventional means operating under a nuclear umbrella or by a nuclear exchange. The geography and math support their position.

    • #21
    • June 23, 2019, at 3:18 PM PST
    • 1 like
  22. Unsk Member

    Nice historical overview, Clifford.

    One of the biggest issues that is not getting hardly any play in the mainstream media is reversal of fortune of the need of America to keep open the Straits of Hormuz. Back in the day not too long ago America needed that oil to go through because we needed that oil, period. Now America is almost a net exporter of oil; from a selfish economic point of view America gains by closing the strait and raising the price of oil .

    From Richard Fernandez at the Belmont Club:

    ” What’s different now is that Iran may want to provoke a massive escalation by the U.S. to escape slowly being strangled in the low-intensity conflict game.

    Iranian crude exports have fallen sharply in May to around 400,000 barrels per day (bpd), tanker data showed and two industry sources said, after the United States tightened the screws on Tehran’s main source of income.

    The United States reimposed sanctions on Iran in November after pulling out of a 2015 nuclear accord between Tehran and six world powers. Aiming to cut Iran’s sales to zero, Washington this month ended sanctions waivers for importers of Iranian oil.

    They can’t win unless they try something new. The upper limit to Iranian escalation has traditionally been defined as Tehran closing the Straits of Hormuz.

    Close to one-fifth of the world’s crude oil is supplied by Gulf countries that rely on unimpeded travel through the Strait of Hormuz, which is twenty-one miles wide at its narrowest point and abuts southern Iran, to access world oil markets.” 

    Most of the oil passing through Hormuz (about 11/17ths) is bound for the Straits of Malacca en route to China, Japan and Korea. If Tehran actually closed the Straits, by mining it, for example, they would essentially be blockading China.”

    Tehran no can do – that would be Diplomatic Suicide.

    From Wolf Richter at Wolf Street:

    “The US used to be the largest net importer of crude oil and petroleum products in the world. Between 2005 and 2008, “net imports” (imports minus exports) of crude oil and petroleum products exceeded 12 million bpd. The US has become a huge oil producer despite the cash-burning characteristics of the shale oil business. But the very fact that the shale oil business burns so much cash makes it a large contributor to the US economy as every dollar that gets “burned” is actually spent in the US and gets recycled in the US economy.

    The jobs are well paid. The business has a large high-tech component, involving highly paid technology employees and contractors, along with expensive specialized tech equipment and software. In addition, it involves sophisticated heavy equipment in the field that is fabricated in factories around the US. It involves transportation to get this equipment and supplies to the oil field. It involves the construction of infrastructure, such as pipelines and oil storage facilities, processing facilities, and the like.”

    • #22
    • June 23, 2019, at 4:21 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  23. Randy Webster Member

    Unsk (View Comment):
    From Richard Fernandez at the Belmont Club:

    I’ve always liked Wretcherd’s take on things.

    • #23
    • June 23, 2019, at 4:24 PM PST
    • 1 like
  24. Unsk Member

    I should have explained better why higher oil prices benefit the overall economy. Again from Wolf Richter:

    If the price of WTI goes back to $75 or $80, there will be a flood of new investment in the oil patch in the US. This spending would flow into manufacturing and services. It would flow into wages. It would flow into trucking and tech. It would ricochet around the US through the multiplier effect. Now that the US is the largest oil and natural gas producer in the world, higher prices for these products are actually beneficial to the overall US economy, just like they are beneficial to OPEC. This is a new experience for the US.”

    Obviously, there are dark consequences of higher gasoline prices: For example, they may also shift dollars from things like food and healthcare to gasoline. Higher gasoline prices make consumers surly, and squeeze spending on discretionary things, such as movies or restaurant meals. But they’re all shifts within “consumer spending.”

    Back when the US was the largest net-importer of crude oil in the world, any increase in the price of oil siphoned most of this money out of the US economy to oil-producing countries. As consumers and businesses had to shift spending dollars from US products to products based on imported oil, a big surge in oil prices – the “oil shock” – could trigger a recession……

    This picture has now completely changed.”..

    “But gasoline in the US is now mostly a made-in-the-USA product (see the trade data above, third chart), and most of the money spent on gasoline goes into the US economy, and stays in the US economy, and is not siphoned out by OPEC or other producing countries.”

    Fed Chairman Powell on Wednesday in his remarks noteda number of factors including “lower oil prices”… that not only contribute to “lower investment,” but also to lower manufacturing production as purchases of new equipment are put on hold.”

    “This is already showing up. The plunge in oil prices since August has caused the oil-and-gas sector to get skittish with capital expenditures this year, and Powell picked up on that. Investment in the US shale sector has a big impact on the real economy.”

    “This became apparent during the 2014-16 oil bust when the sector drastically cut back on investing. The overall economy started to slow in 2015, and in 2016, GDP growth was just 1.6%, the worst since the Great Recession. When the shale patch recovered, economic growth accelerated.”

    “A higher oil price, say over $75 a barrel, would unleash investment in the US oil patch, and it would unleash orders for new equipment and services. When companies invest in US shale oil, it triggers a whole chain of activities in the real economy.”

     

     

    • #24
    • June 23, 2019, at 5:09 PM PST
    • Like
  25. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    Unsk (View Comment):

    I should have explained better why higher oil prices benefit the overall economy. Again from Wolf Richter:

    If the price of WTI goes back to $75 or $80, there will be a flood of new investment in the oil patch in the US. This spending would flow into manufacturing and services. It would flow into wages. It would flow into trucking and tech. It would ricochet around the US through the multiplier effect. Now that the US is the largest oil and natural gas producer in the world, higher prices for these products are actually beneficial to the overall US economy, just like they are beneficial to OPEC. This is a new experience for the US.”

    Obviously, there are dark consequences of higher gasoline prices: For example, they may also shift dollars from things like food and healthcare to gasoline. Higher gasoline prices make consumers surly, and squeeze spending on discretionary things, such as movies or restaurant meals. But they’re all shifts within “consumer spending.”

    Back when the US was the largest net-importer of crude oil in the world, any increase in the price of oil siphoned most of this money out of the US economy to oil-producing countries. As consumers and businesses had to shift spending dollars from US products to products based on imported oil, a big surge in oil prices – the “oil shock” – could trigger a recession……

    This picture has now completely changed.”..

    “But gasoline in the US is now mostly a made-in-the-USA product (see the trade data above, third chart), and most of the money spent on gasoline goes into the US economy, and stays in the US economy, and is not siphoned out by OPEC or other producing countries.”

    Fed Chairman Powell on Wednesday in his remarks noteda number of factors including “lower oil prices”… that not only contribute to “lower investment,” but also to lower manufacturing production as purchases of new equipment are put on hold.”

    “This is already showing up. The plunge in oil prices since August has caused the oil-and-gas sector to get skittish with capital expenditures this year, and Powell picked up on that. Investment in the US shale sector has a big impact on the real economy.”

    “This became apparent during the 2014-16 oil bust when the sector drastically cut back on investing. The overall economy started to slow in 2015, and in 2016, GDP growth was just 1.6%, the worst since the Great Recession. When the shale patch recovered, economic growth accelerated.”

    “A higher oil price, say over $75 a barrel, would unleash investment in the US oil patch, and it would unleash orders for new equipment and services. When companies invest in US shale oil, it triggers a whole chain of activities in the real economy.”

     

     

    Notice that, taking these assessments at face value, the Khomeinist regime, and any other Gulf state that has bright ideas, is limited in their potential by our surplus petroleum production capacity. China would not take kindly to having a source of supply interrupted, but has already acted on a long term strategy of energy source and type diversification so that no one can ever put them “over a barrel.”

    • #25
    • June 23, 2019, at 5:20 PM PST
    • Like
  26. Zafar Member

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

    DonG (View Comment):

    Well written and great conclusion. The Persian people are held captive by a hostile government the same way the people of North Korea are. The Persian culture is most Western of all the Middle Eastern countries (see photo below). Like all democracies, they have to write their own history. All we should do is pressure their bad leaders.

    This is an extraordinary time. There are three countries (North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela) where the people are suffering under bad leadership and Trump is going for a max economic pressure on all three. I am not seeing any leadership from the UN, which has been rendered ineffective, because of corruption.

    Tehran University 1971

    I honestly don’t think that personal freedom of the elite (as in the I’m sure pre-1979 photograph above) is a good measure of popular culture or personal freedom across a society.

    How female literacy rates have changed since 1979:

    How fertility rates have changed:

    It is a complex country, and current regime is also complex. It can’t be properly understood one dimensionally, or without reference to Iran’s social or political

    Yes. There is another literature on societies choosing to not reproduce, choosing to diminish. Both the Khomeinists and Erdogan have railed against their peoples choosing not to have children. Erdogan has expressed concern about Turks not having children while Kurds do.

    It seems linked to the increase in women’s education and participation in the paid work force. Iow women’s empowerment.

    I don’t think either Erdogan or the Islamic Republic really knew what they were setting themselves up for when they went with this women’s education route. And now it’s too late, it’s done.

    It is telling that these two societies have not responded positively to their leaders calls for more children.

    I can’t think of any society that has done that without disempowering women.

    The Iranian women’s mass protests against the order to wear head scarves in 1979 were hardly “elite,” were they? 

    I don’t know, they might have been.

    Perhaps you could point to other indicators of popular support today for the Khomeinist regime?

    It’s a very rough proxy, but you could argue that the proportion of the population that votes for hardliners in the Majlis is the minimum number who support the current dispensation:

     

     

     

    • #26
    • June 23, 2019, at 7:03 PM PST
    • 1 like
  27. Unsk Member

    Randy” I’ve always liked Wretcherd’s take on things.”

    Yep. Wretchard has at times some really brilliant analysis you will find no where else. 

    • #27
    • June 23, 2019, at 7:04 PM PST
    • Like
  28. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

    DonG (View Comment):

    Well written and great conclusion. The Persian people are held captive by a hostile government the same way the people of North Korea are. The Persian culture is most Western of all the Middle Eastern countries (see photo below). Like all democracies, they have to write their own history. All we should do is pressure their bad leaders.

    This is an extraordinary time. There are three countries (North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela) where the people are suffering under bad leadership and Trump is going for a max economic pressure on all three. I am not seeing any leadership from the UN, which has been rendered ineffective, because of corruption.

    Tehran University 1971

    I honestly don’t think that personal freedom of the elite (as in the I’m sure pre-1979 photograph above) is a good measure of popular culture or personal freedom across a society.

    How female literacy rates have changed since 1979:

    How fertility rates have changed:

    It is a complex country, and current regime is also complex. It can’t be properly understood one dimensionally, or without reference to Iran’s social or political

    Yes. There is another literature on societies choosing to not reproduce, choosing to diminish. Both the Khomeinists and Erdogan have railed against their peoples choosing not to have children. Erdogan has expressed concern about Turks not having children while Kurds do.

    It seems linked to the increase in women’s education and participation in the paid work force. Iow women’s empowerment.

    I don’t think either Erdogan or the Islamic Republic really knew what they were setting themselves up for when they went with this women’s education route. And now it’s too late, it’s done.

    It is telling that these two societies have not responded positively to their leaders calls for more children.

    I can’t think of any society that has done that without disempowering women.

    The Iranian women’s mass protests against the order to wear head scarves in 1979 were hardly “elite,” were they?

    I don’t know, they might have been.

    Perhaps you could point to other indicators of popular support today for the Khomeinist regime?

    It’s a very rough proxy, but you could argue that the proportion of the population that votes for hardliners in the Majlis is the minimum number who support the current dispensation:

     

     

     

    Given that no one may appear on any ticket without the unelected government’s approval, I don’t know that this has any particular meaning.

    • #28
    • June 24, 2019, at 12:22 AM PST
    • 1 like
  29. Zafar Member

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

    It’s a very rough proxy, but you could argue that the proportion of the population that votes for hardliners in the Majlis is the minimum number who support the current dispensation:

    Given that no one may appear on any ticket without the unelected government’s approval, I don’t know that this has any particular meaning.

    I’m not talking about the vetting process, I’m talking about how the people vote after that process and why.

    Specifically: why do so many people vote for the Conservatives rather than for the much vetted Reformers? 

    If there’s no difference for the voters then why would anybody bother? 

    My feeling is that people forget that in his own way Khomeini was the Trump equivalent for a significant segment of Iran’s population in 1979. Just like Erdogan was for many people in Turkey. Yes, I know that the opposition just won Istanbul’s mayoral election with 54% of the vote, but that means that 46% still voted for the AKP. Not insignificant, and not meaningless about Turkey, no matter how I wish it was. Ditto re Iran and the make up of the Majlis.

    Azadeh Moaveni of Lipstick Jihad fame notoriety had this to say in 2016, from which:

    Is the image of Iran that holds sway at any given moment tethered to any reality, or is it simply a projection of what we wish and require of it at the time? Many years ago, I was determined to see only the light in Iran, but now, perhaps like those before me who had friends imprisoned or had been watching long enough to know better, my gaze is drawn mostly to the shadows.

     

    • #29
    • June 24, 2019, at 3:13 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  30. Unsk Member

    Clifford: ( referring to the Islamic Consultive Assembly charts) 

    Given that no one may appear on any ticket without the unelected government’s approval, I don’t know that this has any particular meaning.”

    Bingo. We have a winner. 

    • #30
    • June 24, 2019, at 7:18 AM PST
    • 2 likes
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