Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Trumping Middle East Hands: Iran [Updated]

 

Start from the position that the Iranian people are hostages in their own country to a regime based on an idea, perhaps an ideology, concocted in the 1970s and propounded clearly only after Khomeini’s faction had control in the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Consider that there has been popular unrest against the regime. Factor in that the rulers are savvy and ruthless, with an elite military force keeping the regular military and the populace in check, while extending regime influence regionally and globally. The Khomeinists seem to have a strong hand, with some high cards, so how do we set about trumping their hand? Moving towards answers that are feasible takes more than hand-waving and posturing.

The U.S. military has long recognized that it was only one instrument in Uncle Sam’s tool belt, and that military strategy needed to be integrated with plans and actions by the rest of the government. This became called a “whole of government” approach. For many years, military officers, in their advanced schooling, were instructed in consideration of four “instruments of national power:” Diplomacy, Information, Military, and Economy (DIME).

DIME was useful for getting officers with around twenty years of military planning and operations under their belts to think more broadly. However, Uncle Sam actually has a larger set of tools, and uses them. To capture these other tools, DIME became DIMEFIL:

Diplomacy: The State Department has always had the lead in this area.

Information: Think about public communication, both domestically and externally. Think back to the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe. Consider everything from old fashioned print to social media.

Military: This is the one everyone talks about, as if it existed in isolation. It does not.

Economy: Think trade deals and tariffs. Consider our move to “energy dominance.”

Financial: The Treasury Department has repeatedly carried out financial system sanctions against foreign targets.

Intelligence: From signals to human intelligence, from our own assets to cooperation with other nations’ agencies.

Legal (or Law Enforcement): Think Department of Justice and FBI. There is even a neologism for the use of courts: “lawfare.”

Let us consider these tools briefly, first from the American government’s side and then from the Iranian regime’s side.

American Government

Diplomacy: The State Department, led by Secretary Mike Pompeo, communicates with friends and competitors around the world. They also are in the business of listening to representatives of foreign governments. Done poorly, the end result is either agency capture by “the international community” or blindness to important signals, leading to increased risk that we will have to use other tools (carrier diplomacy) more than necessary.

In this instance, we have a shift from the Obama State Department pushing back on Israel and Sunni states, while securing agreement in the Iran deal from the Europeans, Russians, and Chinese, all eager to reap benefits from this deal. Now State is reassuring Israel and Sunni Arab states, while quietly working to draft a broader peace plan around what has been characterized narrowly as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Movement towards stability in the Sunni Arab region is a form of pushing back on the Khomeinist strategy of extending influence through conflict in the region.

At the same time, the State Department is engaged with the parties who were benefiting from the Obama Iran deal. It seems that State helped mediate concerns by partners like India, getting some relief in terms of scope and timing of economic sanctions and trade restrictions.

InformationBack in the Cold War, with simpler technology, this was about Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America. Today, communications cannot be so easily limited by any state. Yes, the Khomeinists have cracked down on blogging, social media, and the internet in general. Yet, we have a president who understands the importance of constant public communication, which is observed around the globe. There are both risks and rewards in that.

Beyond the president and his administration, there is a divided Congress, with even some in the president’s party feeling free to free-lance for their own individual benefits. The old “politics stop at the water’s edge” is dead and buried. Then there is the whole range of professional news and opinion voices operating across print, video, and voice formats, largely accessed by a computer network connection, often a phone. Finally, there is that army of Davids, all of us, even if we think we are just talking amongst ourselves.

When President Trump said he called off a military strike because shooting down a drone did not justify taking 150 Iranian lives, he did something powerful on multiple stages. He reinforced the Iranian people’s impression that their government was putting them at risk for its own foreign policy ambitions. He told especially women in America that he cares for the lives of people, even foreigners halfway around the world, over a piece of military equipment. In the region, he said Muslim lives matter. He countered the Democrats’ narrative and that of the Europeans, Russians, and Chinese. At the same, time, he backstopped any signal of weakness by adding that if one American life was lost in a similar incident, that would be a whole different calculation.

The images and public communications, by diplomatic, military, and intelligence actors, about the sabotage of third-country ships puts pressure on their home governments to take steps to protect their own shipping and to not be too cozy with the regime in Teheran. Notice that the Democrats immediately started questioning the evidence or shifting the blame, as did the “Ron Paul” wing of the Republican party. There was not one clear American voice on the attacks on non-American flagged ships.

Military: There is no dispute that the United States has overwhelming superiority in the air and on the water. However, the disputes will continue to be over just how it should and should not be employed. At the minimum, the movement of ships and aircraft into the region make clear that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps have very limited conventional military options themselves. This threat helps reinforce the other instruments of power, but also puts demands on some parts of our military to coordinate with friendly countries in the region against proxy force threats.

Economy: Yes, the reimposition of import/export sanctions do matter and yet might have been ameliorated if the Khomeinist regime had held the massive gift of cash from Obama, and the Europeans(?), as a rainy day fund for a few years. That apparently did not happen. While sanctions are the talk of all the talking heads and politicians, the real economic game-changer was our domestic energy production policy change. By allowing American businesses and workers to do well by fracking wells, we changed the global petroleum market. Notice how the different tools of national power interact in the ending of Iranian oil export sanction exemptions:

The White House has officially announced that the exemption of Iranian oil buyers will not be renewed. Starting May 2, Italy, Taiwan, Turkey, China, Japan, South Korea, India and Greece, like other countries, are not allowed to buy oil from Iran, otherwise they will face fines from the United States. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attended a conference after a statement was issued, saying Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have promised to compensate for the shortage of Iranian oil. Pompeo noted that Iran’s oil revenues before the U.S. withdrawal was $50 billion annually.

So, diplomatic efforts, combined with financial system threats, seek to redirect other countries to friendlier oil sources in the same neighborhood as Iran, having arranged for these countries to agree to open their spigots a little wider. Iraq probably could not increase production, and is internally divided over relations with the Khomeinist regime.

You should absolutely read two chapters on China in Daniel Yergin‘s masterful The Quest. You will see that China made the deliberate decision to never let anyone energy source or type become a vulnerability. They will buy from anyone and everyone so that no nation and no industry can ever have them “over a barrel.” This is a fundamentally sound strategy which both drove them to Iranian oil, among other sources, and made them largely invulnerable to disruption of that one source.

President Trump’s administration is fully informed of this energy market dynamic, in part because former Texas governor, Energy Department Secretary Rick Perry, appointed Daniel Yergin to the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB).*

The U.S. economy, as a net petroleum producer now, would benefit from any sustained increase in world prices. Continued and expanded construction of petroleum export terminals just became an even better investment decision. Yet, our good friends in the Middle East, and the Russians, are not going to profit too much, as our excess capacity and desire to sell at slightly higher prices will put an effective cap on world prices.

Financial: From the beginning of President Trump’s administration, we have seen the Secretary of the Treasure, then Steve Mnuchin, stepping up to the microphone and announcing actions in the domestic and international banking systems to punish, “sanction,” various bad actors around the globe. The Treasury Department has an “Iran Sanctions” webpage. So long as we are the healthiest and largest economy in the world, we will have leverage on other nations and even blocs of nations, like the wishfully named European Union. Economic sanctions against Iran are backed by the very real threat of our government cutting off violators’ access to our financial markets, a catastrophic result for most.

Intelligence: In this category, think about both offense and defense, and everything from signals, communications networks, to old-fashioned human agents. It appears that President Trump ordered a computer network attack, “cyber,” on the surface-to-air missile systems used to shoot down our sophisticated reconnaissance drone. These missile systems are inherently centered on computer networks, necessary for everything from detecting a target to firing accurately. Accordingly, more and more effort will go into computer network attacks, bits of code and commands designed to disrupt, deceive, or disable weapon systems or even systems of systems.

Legal, Law Enforcement: Consider that our immigration and border enforcement includes watching out for foreign operatives swimming in the sea of people illegally crossing or overstaying their authorization. FBI domestic counter-spying and counter-terrorism efforts include detecting and disrupting the Khomeinists’ operations in our country. Think back to an alleged plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States on our soil. The Department of Justice would bring enforcement actions in our courts, and defend suits launched against the government’s enforcement actions.

[Update:] Paraguay just deported a suspected Hezbollah financier to the United States to answer charges of financial crimes:

Court documents refer to Farhat as a “known money launderer for narcotics organizations and other illicit organizations,” while media reports allege a possible connection to Hezbollah. According to a Department of Justice press release announcing the indictment of his co-conspirators, Farhat participated in “an international money laundering scheme relying on the complexities of global trade, and the use of … businesses here in New York and in Florida, to launder millions of dollars for transnational drug traffickers and other bad actors.” (The cases have since been merged.)

The Khomeinist Regime

Diplomacy: The Khomeinists have a very active diplomatic corps. Iranian and Russian diplomats have been meeting to try to counter President Trump’s undoing of the Obama nuclear deal. At the same time, they feel comfortable setting themselves against the U.S. and Israel, as proxies for the secularist-dominated West, even while hosting German diplomats, representing a major nation supporting continued trade with Iran.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Monday cited “moral principles” when asked why Iran executes homosexuals for their sexual orientation, as he also attacked the US and Israel for “violating human rights.”

At a press conference in the Iranian capital with his German counterpart, Heiko Maas, Zarif was asked by Bild reporter Paul Ronzheimer about the death penalty for gay people in the Middle Eastern country.

“Our society has moral principles, and according to these principles we live,” Zarif responded. “These are moral principles regarding the behavior of people in general. And that’s because the law is upheld and you abide by laws.”

If this seems like poor diplomacy, you have not been following the red-green alliance, in which pointing out the difference in treatment of homosexuals is dismissed as “pink washing.”

InformationThe Khomeinist regime is not blind or blind to all the communications outside its borders. It has clearly assessed that it can say all manner of things very plainly, in the language of their choice, and get cover for the leftist media across Europe and the United States. See their official diplomatic presence on the internet: Iranian Diplomacy. Consider the targets of their messaging:

Military: The IRGC is its own force, independent of the regular military and better resourced. While they have enough capability in small boats and missile batteries on shore, their ability to close the Straits of Hormuz would be very short lived. Likewise, they have almost no capability to reach beyond their own borders with air power. Instead, they have developed a highly capable rough counterpart to the United States Army Special Forces. The IRGC is extensively involved in training, resourcing, and guidance for terrorist and light infantry forces mutually reinforced with rocket forces of increasing capability. So far, all of this is intended to be deniably, not provoking direct military strikes on Iranian soil in retaliation.

Economy: If the IRGC seriously disrupts shipping in the Strait of Hormuz, they turn from the sympathetic party, with whom Europe and China wish to do business, to a threat to the European and Asian economies. The Iranian economy has been doing poorly, and their infrastructure has been aging, a factor in public dissatisfaction with the regime. The regime had been counting on business deals with European, Russian, and Asian partners.

The problem for the Khomeinists is that they have relatively little leverage in these deals, that loss of access to the Iranian market is not a serious blow to the economic interests of other states. At the intersection of information and the economy, consider the Financial Tribune‘s headlines. It seems like a lot of whistling past the grave.

Finance: While the regime got a much-needed cash infusion by Obama, the Khomeinists have very limited assets and can no longer fully bankroll their proxies and allies, as The New York Times reported from Lebanon in March:

Syrian militiamen paid by Iran have seen their salaries slashed. Projects Iran promised to help Syria’s ailing economy have stalled. Even employees of Hezbollah, the Lebanese group that has long served as Iran’s closest Arab ally, say they have missed paychecks and lost other perks.

Iran’s financial crisis, exacerbated by American sanctions, appears to be undermining its support for militant groups and political allies who bolster Iranian influence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere.

“The golden days are gone and will never return,” said a fighter with an Iranian-backed militia in Syria who recently lost a third of his salary and other benefits. “Iran doesn’t have enough money to give us.”

This negatively affects their military tools of national power and makes their diplomats weaker.

Intelligence: The Khomeinist regime has demonstrated global reach with spying and direct action. They are well-embedded in South and Central America. Stories going back over a decade or more tell of Hezbollah building a western base.

The Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia has taken root in South America, fostering a well-financed force of Islamist radicals boiling with hatred for the United States and ready to die to prove it, according to militia members, U.S. officials and police agencies across the continent.

From its Western base in a remote region divided by the borders of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina known as the Tri-border, or the Triple Frontier, Hezbollah has mined the frustrations of many Muslims among about 25,000 Arab residents whose families immigrated mainly from Lebanon in two waves, after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and after the 1985 Lebanese civil war.

An investigation by Telemundo and NBC News has uncovered details of an extensive smuggling network run by Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim group founded in Lebanon in 1982 that the United States has labeled an international terrorist organization. The operation funnels large sums of money to militia leaders in the Middle East and finances training camps, propaganda operations and bomb attacks in South America, according to U.S. and South American officials.

Legal (Law Enforcement): The Khomeinists have an extensive system of internal enforcement, so far preventing effective opposition. They may also count on lawfare in U.S. federal courts, with the leftist cadre who infiltrated the federal bench at every level. There has been a limited response by the Supremes, but Roberts has pointedly avoided really putting the district courts in check by ruling against their nation-wide decisions as fraudulent on their face, clearly beyond the scope of jurisdiction of a district or circuit court. Additionally, look for friendly efforts in European courts.

A Starting Point for Discussion

Any and all of the above is not intended to be definitive or definite. It provides, by way of illustration and example, one way of sorting bits of news as you encounter them. Hopefully, this will encourage you to think about connections and contradictions between actions that can be sorted into different buckets in DIMEFIL. Perhaps you even have ideas for things to do or not do with one or more instrument of national power. Where should Uncle Sam swing a hammer, flow a solder line, or crank up a power sander?


* See this recent Houston Chronicle interview with David Yergin for a one-over-the-world energy markets assessment.

Published in Foreign Policy
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There are 33 comments.

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  1. Larry3435 Member

    Clifford A. Brown: Factor in that the rulers are savvy and ruthless, with an elite military force keeping the regular military and the populace in check, while extending regime influence regionally and globally.

    Clifford, I like your post. Lots of good thoughts in there. But I did want to make one observation about the sentence quoted above. The media always refers to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard as “elite.” In context, that word does not mean the same things as what the American military means by “elite.” It actually means that the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard (like the Iraqi Republican Guard) is slightly less buffonish than the regular military. They are thugs, pure and simple. They are not the Green Berets. They are not highly trained, and they certainly are not highly disciplined. I sort of object to the word “elite” because it is misleading in this context.

    • #1
    • June 24, 2019, at 4:41 AM PST
    • Like
  2. Jon1979 Lincoln

    I’d suspect that as Trump declines to authorize military action in favor for now of increased sanctions, based on Iran not having directly attacked U.S. military personnel or civilians yet, and domestic fracking giving the U.S. a better ability to control its own energy needs, you’re going to see Iran, the Democrats and much of the media attempt to redefine increased sanctions as being the same thing as military action.

    The talking points of Trump the warmonger and the Mullahs’ latest reason to declare America as The Great Satan are all warmed up and ready to go, and the fact that the president for now is not willing to play along isn’t going to stop them from trying to use the playbook. However, for the swing voters all this is directed at, odds are they’re not going to get outrageously outraged over new Iran sanctions, which is going to force the Iranians to up the ante if they want to get that U.S. limited military strike they want. But at the same time, if they take it the next step and start openly trying to kill Americans (as opposed to surreptitiously trying to kill Americans via terrorist-funded activities), they risk the possibility of a not-so-limited U.S. military strike similar to what Reagan did with Qaddafi and Libya in 1986 after he bombed the West German nightclub with U.S. military personnel in it.

    The Mullahs are OK with martyring some of their own ‘unimportant’ troops or weapons facilities people; odds are they’re not that excited about martyring themselves to gin up new public anger at The Great Satan. This could definitely require another discussion with John Kerry to sort out.

    • #2
    • June 24, 2019, at 5:43 AM PST
    • 1 like
  3. I Walton Member

    Wonderful summary. Thanks.

    • #3
    • June 24, 2019, at 6:12 AM PST
    • Like
  4. Instugator Thatcher

    Clifford A. Brown: To capture these other tools, DIME became DIMEFIL

    All models are wrong, some models are useful.

    DIME is useful. DIMEFIL isn’t. See, Financial pressure is a form of Economic pressure. Intelligence is a subset of Information. Legal/Law enforcement has no meaning in an international sense apart from Diplomacy.

    The levers of national power get applied to the elements of national, namely Political, Military, Economic, Social, Infrastructure, and Information systems. (PMESII for short)

    Some dude at the 5 sided puzzle palace probably got promoted for lengthening DIME to DIMEFIL.

    • #4
    • June 24, 2019, at 6:40 AM PST
    • 1 like
  5. Steve C. Member

    My first reaction to Iran’s provocation was to give them a target’s eye view of a Tomahawk emblazoned with “Greetings from Desert One”. But I’m a Philistine with a long memory.

    But I’m willing to be patient. Secure in the knowledge that we can employ overwhelming force AAA-O.*

    One item I find humorous about this situation is the wailing about how things are so inconsistent. Even the President’s own statements. But we’ve forgotten how quickly he approved the missile strikes on Syria early in his term.

    Does a President need to categorically state, “this is a red line”? Isn’t there a place for strategic ambiguity? A secret to successful stage magic is getting your audience to focus in the wrong area. Isn’t that part of effective deterrence?

    Lastly, I take some small pleasure knowing threats to close down the Straits of Hormuz have a significant impact on China. Maybe they will engage in some private discussions with the kleptocrats in Tehran.

    *

    The best example of useful gimmickry during World War II was the “AAA-O” of Paddy Flint. When Colonel Flint assumed command of the 39th Infantry in Sicily in 1943, it was not a good fighting outfit. Paddy immediately had “AAA-O” stenciled on the helmet of every man in the regiment.

    When questioned by his corps commander, who had issued orders against such stenciling on helmets, Paddy explained, “That means anything, anywhere, any time bar nothing.” It was so-explained by General Omar N. Bradley in A Soldier’s Story, but junior officers in the 39th, said they could lick, “Anybody, anyplace, any time bar none.” Regardless of the version, it worked, and Flint made the 39th one of the best-fighting outfits in Europe.[2]

     

    • #5
    • June 24, 2019, at 8:40 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  6. Boss Mongo Member

    Outstanding analysis, Mr. Brown. I can hardly wait for the PMESII-PT post.

    • #6
    • June 24, 2019, at 10:52 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  7. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    Instugator (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown: To capture these other tools, DIME became DIMEFIL

    All models are wrong, some models are useful.

    DIME is useful. DIMEFIL isn’t. See, Financial pressure is a form of Economic pressure. Intelligence is a subset of Information. Legal/Law enforcement has no meaning in an international sense apart from Diplomacy.

    The levers of national power get applied to the elements of national, namely Political, Military, Economic, Social, Infrastructure, and Information systems. (PMESII for short)

    Some dude at the 5 sided puzzle palace probably got promoted for lengthening DIME to DIMEFIL.

    Both are useful. I understood the more expansive meanings within DIME. And. We have different departments addressing trade and the financial system. I had to go poke through State and Treasury to figure it out. Likewise, we are supposed to be very good at intelligence but our information operations withered with the end of the Cold War.

    • #7
    • June 24, 2019, at 12:30 PM PST
    • 1 like
  8. Hang On Member

    DIME or DIMEFIL seems like a black box kind of approach to Iran which is probably about as good as we are going to get. But should also realize that Iran is a black box, just as North Korea is a black box. You can get some good clues, but they are clues – and may be wrong.

    • #8
    • June 24, 2019, at 1:05 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  9. Unsk Member

    Tremendous Analysis Clifford. That must have taken a huge effort in time and research. 

    American is in a great position versus Iran. Trump can sit back and just squeeze. More sanctions were announced today. Iran’s latest attacks were signs of desperation and signs that the sanctions are getting to them. We can just squeeze harder and watch the Iranian populace grow restless. 

    • #9
    • June 24, 2019, at 6:04 PM PST
    • 1 like
  10. Zafar Member

    Sanctions didn’t result in regime change in Iraq (and they haven’t achieved regime change anywhere else either afaik).

    What is different about Iran, or about these sanctions compared to the ones against Iraq, that gives credibility to the belief that this time they’ll work?

    • #10
    • June 24, 2019, at 8:21 PM PST
    • Like
  11. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    Unsk

    American is in a great position versus Iran. Trump can sit back and just squeeze. More sanctions were announced today. Iran’s latest attacks were signs of desperation and signs that the sanctions are getting to them. We can just squeeze harder and watch the Iranian populace grow restless. 

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Sanctions didn’t result in regime change in Iraq (and they haven’t achieved regime change anywhere else either afaik).

    What is different about Iran, or about these sanctions compared to the ones against Iraq, that gives credibility to the belief that this time they’ll work?

    I do not believe I claimed that sanctions were the answer or were effective in isolation.

    “Sanctions don’t work” = “there is not military solution.”

    Both statements are actually straw men, assuming away all the other instruments of national power being wielded by the whole of government. What usually fails is just that, a coherent strategy that the whole of government is compelled to entirely support, rather than working at cross purposes or subverting rival agencies.

    • #11
    • June 24, 2019, at 10:18 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  12. Zafar Member

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    I do not believe I claimed that sanctions were the answer or were effective in isolation.

    “Sanctions don’t work” = “there is not military solution.”

    Both statements are actually straw men, assuming away all the other instruments of national power being wielded by the whole of government. What usually fails is just that, a coherent strategy that the whole of government is compelled to entirely support, rather than working at cross purposes or subverting rival agencies.

    Fair point.

    So what is this use of these instruments of national power going to look like, and will this use (and its objective and underlying reasons) be honestly discussed with the American people before it is pursued?

    In Iraq the use of these instruments took the form of thirteen years of brutal sanctions, two ground invasions, an occupation, and a significant cost to the US in lives and treasure.

    The outcomes included years of instability in Iraq, the rise of the Islamic State and the destabilisation of Syria. 

    Not to mention the loss of all those non-American lives. And the utter destruction of [Christian, and secular] minorities in much of the region.

    All of which had a profound and negative impact on US soft power in the region and on the cost of maintaining US influence (control?) over that region and others.

    And all of which were predictable and, if one does not believe that US foreign policy is run by naive or incompetent people (which I don’t), was without a doubt predicted. The only people who came out of this well were Halliburton.

    This was not honestly discussed with the American people, neither is regime change in Iran.

    And all of it for what? Regime change in a country which is no threat to the US (or its valued proxies in the region)?

    At the cost of (at least):

    The unchallenged primacy of the US dollar as the world’s international currency of choice. (Most important because of The Deficit, Debt and need for willing lenders (hello China!).)

    The destabilisation of Iran’s neighbour (nuclear armed) Pakistan (fuhgedabout Afghanistan, the other ‘forever war’).

    The impact on the world economy (of which the US is a part) of disruption to cheap reliable oil from the Gulf; countries whose economies depend on oil production may benefit from disruptions to this supply in other parts of the world. Countries whose economies overwhelmingly live on trade with regions vulnerable to this disruption (in this case China and the EU [and perhaps India])- in fact countries like the US – not so much.

    A costly invasion; costly in lives and treasure;

    Years of occupation (who could have predicted this?!) similarly costly;

    A final outcome that more than likely benefits the US’ rivals (like Russia and China).

    By some miracle all of this could be ‘managed’ – but the US’ form on this is not encouraging, and it won’t be managed without being acknowledged and discussed. Which it is not.

    So: why?

    • #12
    • June 25, 2019, at 3:58 AM PST
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  13. Hang On Member

    @zafar

    I slightly disagree with you. You point out all of the stupid errors made in Iraq and I largely agree.

    What is different about Iran this time is the age structure of the leadership: they’re old. Really old and dying and unwilling to groom those coming afterwards.

    It can be assumed that whoever follows is a nationalist of some variety. It can be assumed that whoever comes after is no democrat and will be wanting to consolidate power. It can be assumed that whoever comes after will be in some sort of internal power struggle which Americans know little about and understand even less.

    Whoever comes after can have an immediate positive effect on the economy by doing those things that get rid of the sanctions. That will allow whoever comes after a breathing space in which to consolidate power.

    A carrot and stick approach has been taken and it is good that military risks are shown clearly without at the same time resorting to military strikes which would embitter things.

    American interests are for an end to terrorism and support for terrorist groups (which sanctions help by making fewer resources available), a non-nuclear Iran (same argument), and that’s about it. Regime change is not and should not be of interest. It may or may not happen depending on how rapidly the present leadership dies a natural death.

    • #13
    • June 25, 2019, at 4:50 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  14. inkathoots Bethany

    Clifford, thanks for the summary of the ways our government can address a rogue state like Iran. I guess we still have the big stick hanging in the broom closet, though.

     

    • #14
    • June 25, 2019, at 8:03 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  15. Zafar Member

    Hang On (View Comment):

    I slightly disagree with you. You point out all of the stupid errors made in Iraq and I largely agree.

    I don’t think they were errors as such. (Enough) People knew what would happen but they just didn’t care. Perhaps it was not relevant enough to them or their immediate agenda?

    American interests are for an end to terrorism and support for terrorist groups

    Support for terrorist groups essentially stems from injustice against which there seems no other path. Iran (like a lot of other countries) fishes in troubled waters, but re removing what causes the troubled waters: if you want peace, work for justice.

    People don’t always like hearing that, and their assumptions about what actually happened which define what justice looks like differs, but I think that’s the cold truth

    Regime change is not and should not be of interest.

    But somehow it’s front and centre in the narrative from at least one side of politics.

    Why is that, do you think?

     

    • #15
    • June 25, 2019, at 9:00 AM PST
    • Like
  16. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Excellent post, Clifford. You outlined the complexities of the situation in a clear and coherent way. Thanks.

    • #16
    • June 25, 2019, at 11:01 AM PST
    • 1 like
  17. Hang On Member

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):

    I slightly disagree with you. You point out all of the stupid errors made in Iraq and I largely agree.

    I don’t think they were errors as such. (Enough) People knew what would happen but they just didn’t care. Perhaps it was not relevant enough to them or their immediate agenda?

    Then you really don’t understand the mindset of American foreign policy people at the top. A more sanctimonious group of clowns you have never seen. From their point of view, it is impossible to disagree with them and if you do you are evil. Just plain evil. I think they honestly thought they could waltz in there, wave a magic wand, and all would be taken care of because their values were better, their way of looking at the world was better and on and on. And because you are evil, then wiping you off the face of the earth is your just reward. They really do believe that.

    Zafar (View Comment):

    American interests are for an end to terrorism and support for terrorist groups

    Support for terrorist groups essentially stems from injustice against which there seems no other path. Iran (like a lot of other countries) fishes in troubled waters, but re removing what causes the troubled waters: if you want peace, work for justice.

    People don’t always like hearing that, and their assumptions about what actually happened which define what justice looks like differs, but I think that’s the cold truth

    Terrorism is foreign policy on the cheap. You can always find someone who is aggrieved and then blow things up so that there can be armed conflict – if. you. choose. It’s a choice. There will always be winners and losers in politics. And politics is a substitute for war once people are tired of war and all of its costs. The peace and justice bit though is just a cop out. Law and rule of law should be the objective. Justice is far to subjective.

     

    • #17
    • June 25, 2019, at 11:36 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  18. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Hang On (View Comment):
    Support for terrorist groups essentially stems from injustice against which there seems no other path.

    @zafar and @hangon, I know Zafar made this statement, but I don’t agree with it (and I wasn’t sure of your agreement or not, Hangon. I think it’s important to make the comment, “. . . stems from a perceived injustice against which there seems no other path.” One only has to look at the number of jihadi attacks on other Muslims to back this up.

    • #18
    • June 25, 2019, at 11:45 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  19. Boss Mongo Member

    Zafar (View Comment):
    Support for terrorist groups essentially stems from injustice against which there seems no other path.

    Disagree.

    Zafar (View Comment):
    Iran (like a lot of other countries) fishes in troubled waters, but re removing what causes the troubled waters: if you want peace, work for justice.

    Disagree.

    Zafar (View Comment):
    People don’t always like hearing that, and their assumptions about what actually happened which define what justice looks like differs, but I think that’s the cold truth

    Disagree. Again.

    Zafar (View Comment):
    But somehow it’s front and centre in the narrative from at least one side of politics.

    Uh, because Americans are comparatively civilized and empathetic and, in their goodness, would like to bring “justice” to a people that suffer a regime that employs murder, intolerance, rape, censorship and intimidation as elements of state power?

    Ooh. Lookit that. IAW Mr. Brown’s strategic template of DIMEFIL, we could say–honestly–that Iran’s is MIRCI.

    • #19
    • June 25, 2019, at 2:04 PM PST
    • 8 likes
  20. Zafar Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):
    Support for terrorist groups essentially stems from injustice against which there seems no other path.

    @zafar and @hangon, I know Zafar made this statement, but I don’t agree with it (and I wasn’t sure of your agreement or not, Hangon. I think it’s important to make the comment, “. . . stems from a perceived injustice against which there seems no other path.”

    True, but perceptions are all that any of us have to go on. 

    • #20
    • June 25, 2019, at 8:34 PM PST
    • Like
  21. Boss Mongo Member

    Look, what do we have to fight against the bad?

    Good vs. bad.

    Copy. Good is good, and fights those things that are bad.

    Now, what do we have to fight against the evil?

    Good vs. evil.

    The good is only good. Evil is perfect. Good’s not perfect, so one who wishes to cast aspersions upon the good when it fights evil, because the good is not perfect, is buying into evil’s info op.

    • #21
    • June 25, 2019, at 8:49 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  22. Zafar Member

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):

    Look, what do we have to fight against the bad?

    Good vs. bad.

    Copy. Good is good, and fights those things that are bad.

    Now, what do we have to fight against the evil?

    Good vs. evil.

    The good is only good. Evil is perfect. Good’s not perfect, so one who wishes to cast aspersions upon the good when it fights evil, because the good is not perfect, is buying into evil’s info op.

    Nobody’s perfectly good. Few people or institutions are perfectly evil. We can all try to be better, and that involves recognising where we aren’t good and also acknowledging the good in others (even when we don’t agree with them).

    Don’t you think?

    • #22
    • June 25, 2019, at 9:52 PM PST
    • Like
  23. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):
    Support for terrorist groups essentially stems from injustice against which there seems no other path.

    @zafar and @hangon, I know Zafar made this statement, but I don’t agree with it (and I wasn’t sure of your agreement or not, Hangon. I think it’s important to make the comment, “. . . stems from a perceived injustice against which there seems no other path.”

    True, but perceptions are all that any of us have to go on.

    That doesn’t mean they are correct or helpful.

    • #23
    • June 26, 2019, at 5:51 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  24. Zafar Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):
    Support for terrorist groups essentially stems from injustice against which there seems no other path.

    @zafar and @hangon, I know Zafar made this statement, but I don’t agree with it (and I wasn’t sure of your agreement or not, Hangon. I think it’s important to make the comment, “. . . stems from a perceived injustice against which there seems no other path.”

    True, but perceptions are all that any of us have to go on.

    That doesn’t mean they are correct or helpful.

    No guarantees for anybody. True. 

    • #24
    • June 26, 2019, at 5:59 AM PST
    • 1 like
  25. Steve C. Member

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):
    Likewise, we are supposed to be very good at intelligence but our information operations withered with the end of the Cold War.

    We are very good at collecting data. Especially if it can be collected by technical means. Less good, though probably better than is thought, at collecting data with human sources. (It is an advantage for our foes to think of our spies as more Closeau than Smiley.)

    Turning data into information is key. How well do we do that? My own view is not so well. I’m open to the alternative case. 

     

    • #25
    • June 26, 2019, at 6:34 PM PST
    • 1 like
  26. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    Steve C. (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):
    Likewise, we are supposed to be very good at intelligence but our information operations withered with the end of the Cold War.

    We are very good at collecting data. Especially if it can be collected by technical means. Less good, though probably better than is thought, at collecting data with human sources. (It is an advantage for our foes to think of our spies as more Closeau than Smiley.)

    Turning data into information is key. How well do we do that? My own view is not so well. I’m open to the alternative case.

    Yes. and.

    I refer not to turning data into information for internal decision making, but to public persuasion. That was what RFE and VOA were supposed to do. People here, in third party countries, and in Iran are going to get a narrative supporting the red-green alliance. That is a given. The question is whether or not they also get an effective counter-narrative. The “150 Iranian lives” is a part of the counter-narrative.

    OBTW contrast President Trump’s “150 Iranian lives” with Candidate McCain’s “bomb,bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.”

    • #26
    • June 27, 2019, at 3:12 PM PST
    • 1 like
  27. Zafar Member

    Consider:

    “The sanctions that are in place in Iran probably- I haven’t done the calculations, but I think it’s fair to say almost certainly will kill several hundred, maybe thousands of people over the next few months in terms of depriving people of medical supplies, food, nutrition,” Zakaria said. “And when you do a military strike, the people you are killing will tend to be Iranian soldiers, military officers who are volunteering to take park in Iran’s military struggle. The people you kill when you impose sanctions are the most vulnerable in society. These are the poorest people, the sickest people.”

    • #27
    • June 27, 2019, at 4:56 PM PST
    • Like
  28. Boss Mongo Member

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Consider:

    “The sanctions that are in place in Iran probably- I haven’t done the calculations, but I think it’s fair to say almost certainly will kill several hundred, maybe thousands of people over the next few months in terms of depriving people of medical supplies, food, nutrition,” Zakaria said. “And when you do a military strike, the people you are killing will tend to be Iranian soldiers, military officers who are volunteering to take park in Iran’s military struggle. The people you kill when you impose sanctions are the most vulnerable in society. These are the poorest people, the sickest people.”

    Those at risk would have been at risk anyway. Not sure how putting severe, targeted sanctions on the Supreme Leader and his ilk and cronies would lead to more innocent deaths. They were subject to the sanctions we already had in place–would like to see a cogent argument as to how the Iranian innocent bystander is more oppressed by the new sanctions. Not mentioned in the article.

    The CNN host went on to blast the “weird, impulse-driven policy” on Iran and questioned whether there were “any grownups in the White House” for naming the wrong ayatollah in their announcement of the new sanctions.

    Yeah, a targeted insult misnaming a tin-pot dictator is totally useless in this type of stand-off. Surely, it’s incompetence. 

    From Fareed Zakaria’s point of view, looks like any option other than rolling over and begging the Iranians not to hurt us is just bullying.

    Question, @zafar, because I avoid CNN: Has Fareed Zakaria published his preferred, nuanced, and humanitarian way forward dealing with this murderous, bent-on-genocide regime running Iran? Or is he just taking pot shots where he sees a target of opportunity? Because I believe the latter, but am willing to consider the former if presented with a viable course of action.

    • #28
    • June 27, 2019, at 5:14 PM PST
    • 1 like
  29. Steve C. Member

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Consider:

    “The sanctions that are in place in Iran probably- I haven’t done the calculations, but I think it’s fair to say almost certainly will kill several hundred, maybe thousands of people over the next few months in terms of depriving people of medical supplies, food, nutrition,” Zakaria said. “And when you do a military strike, the people you are killing will tend to be Iranian soldiers, military officers who are volunteering to take park in Iran’s military struggle. The people you kill when you impose sanctions are the most vulnerable in society. These are the poorest people, the sickest people.”

    Those at risk would have been at risk anyway. Not sure how putting severe, targeted sanctions on the Supreme Leader and his ilk and cronies would lead to more innocent deaths. They were subject to the sanctions we already had in place–would like to see a cogent argument as to how the Iranian innocent bystander is more oppressed by the new sanctions. Not mentioned in the article.

    The CNN host went on to blast the “weird, impulse-driven policy” on Iran and questioned whether there were “any grownups in the White House” for naming the wrong ayatollah in their announcement of the new sanctions.

    Yeah, a targeted insult misnaming a tin-pot dictator is totally useless in this type of stand-off. Surely, it’s incompetence.

    From Fareed Zakaria’s point of view, looks like any option other than rolling over and begging the Iranians not to hurt us is just bullying.

    Question, @zafar, because I avoid CNN: Has Fareed Zakaria published his preferred, nuanced, and humanitarian way forward dealing with this murderous, bent-on-genocide regime running Iran? Or is he just taking pot shots where he sees a target of opportunity? Because I believe the latter, but am willing to consider the former if presented with a viable course of action.

    To ask the question is to answer it. 

    • #29
    • June 27, 2019, at 5:46 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  30. Zafar Member

    Please don’t move the goal posts. Zakaria made a statement about sanctions killing the weakest in societies rather than the more powerful.

    If that’s the case, and it seems to be, then any claim that one decided not to kill 125 Iranians with bombs “because that’s disproportionate” while at the same time maintaining sanctions that are (already) in place which will kill many many more seems like sloppy thinking at best, and dishonest at worst.

    • #30
    • June 27, 2019, at 8:26 PM PST
    • Like
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