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An Analysis of a regional power

Introduction

An Analysis of regional power is due. Iran is a state that contains a less- publicized diversity, rich cultural, ancient history, and a very favorable geographical location. Iran can be described as a nation-state along the same lines as the United States. However, the similarities end there. 

The population breakdown of Iran consists of 51% Persian, 24% Azeri, 7-8% Kurds, Gilaki, and Manzandarini, Arabs, Lurs, Balochs, and Turkomen make up the rest. Iran has a dominant-majority group that lives relatively peacefully concerning other minority groups. Relative because women have virtually no rights. 

The peoples of Iran share a long cultural and historical tradition dating back to the first recorded civilization. Iran is bordered by Iraq, Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf, and the Caspian Sea.

Persian Empire
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Persian Empire

These borders represent two of the most important crude oil export locations in the world. The frontiers for the Global War on Terrorism, led by the United States.

It is this strategic location along with its nuclear capability which gives Iran the upper hand in international relations and diplomatic negotiations.

A combination of these elements, along with a strict religious mandate, feeds the state of Iran with the desire to re-establish the Shiites Caliphate.

Iran wishes to be the dominant, and influential sect of Islam in the middle east and even world affairs. This is unrealistic because Iran has been considered a hub for terrorism, anti-Israel existence, and all the disadvantages of the religion of Islam.   

Geography and Location

Iran is located in the center of the old Persian Empire, which lasted approximately from 550 B.C. to 650 A.D. Although the Empire’s name and culture changed over time, it has always been centered on Persian culture and this specific location. Historically, this was where the east met west during the times of the Silk Road and the Spice Trade

Iran’s geography has been the home of many empires. The first Persian Empire of Darius the Great, Alexander the Great’s empire, the Parthian, Empire, the Sassanid Empire, and part of the Islamic Empire.

Kings and Emperors ruled the state. But it was the elite merchants, who controlled the trade routes and the key cities found along with them. Iran’s varied geography, steep, rugged, snowcapped mountains, lush rain forests, hot, and deserts. This helped in the defense of these centers of commerce and trade. Kublai Khan from 1260 to 1294, became the richest man in the world when he succeeded in conquering and subduing this land.

Iran Geography
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Iran Geography

Iran’s location gives it a strategic, economic, military, and political advantage in modern times just as it did in the past. Looking at a map, one can see that Iran can be considered as being located in the center of the world. It sits directly below Russia and Central Asia, just west of Afghanistan and Pakistan, linked to Europe by way of the Caspian Sea and the rest of the world by way of the Persian Gulf.

If you were to equate the importance of the ancient silk and spice trade routes to the consumption of crude oil concerning the world economy. You can see how Iran’s location gives it the power to dictate events in the area.

The border with Iraq, which was to the benefit of U.S. policymakers, is porous. It has led to the long-awaited goal of re-establishing the Shia as the dominant sect within Islam in the middle east.

Control of Shia Islam’s holy sites and other historical landmarks are extremely important to the Islamic world. From the Crusades to the modern world. Hence, it Will provide both religious and political benefits. The Persians of Iran and the Arabs of Central and Southern Iraq, while not of the same ethnicity, share similar religious and cultural histories.

There are tribes located along either side of the border which has been in place for perhaps thousands of years. Iranians and native Afghans also share similar histories along the Iranian-Afghan border. The primary issue is the inefficiency of Islam to promote unity, and growth for its people.

From approximately 2500 B.C. to 800 B.C., culture is known collectively as the Indo-Aryans. Indo-Aryans spread from ancient Uzbekistan and Tajikistan into present–day Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the rest of South Asia. It is said that this culture changed warfare by incorporating the chariot and bringing this technology with them as they came to conquer and transform the region.

The border with Afghanistan is significant in modern times primarily because of the wider war on terrorism. Al-Qaeda operatives, Taliban members, and other Islamic insurgents have likely passed safely through this border. As it currently stands, Iraq and Afghanistan are failed states, both of which have grabbed the full attention of the world community.

The Iranians are strategically and tactically positioned to influence, aggravate, and even, to some degree, control both of these situations. They are also in a position to potentially help resolve both.

The Iranian government chooses to not only extend a helping hand and open arms to refugees who have fled from both of these neighboring countries but allow the free flow of narcotics from Afghanistan, weapons to insurgents located in both countries, and the transportation of fundamentalist Islam and terrorism across its territory.

The fostering of these activities has put tremendous pressure on nearby Sunni-dominated states (mainly Egypt and Saudi Arabia), disrupted U.S. efforts within Iraq and the region as a whole, and influenced world energy markets.

Drugs, weapons, and oil regularly pass through Iranian ports located in the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf. To disrupt the flow of all illegal activity and sanction the government of Iran means to also disrupt the free flow of oil.

Religion

Shiites vs Sunnis

Religious ideology is the veil that is used by the government of Iran to mislead the world as to its true intent. It is important to note that four of the five Grand Ayatollahs were Shia and ruled as the supreme leaders of the Iranian government. However, adherence to Islamic law is not as strict in this country as in Saudi Arabia and the former Taliban regime. Nevertheless, Islamic laws, and disunity, have significantly set back middle eastern civilization.

The religious ties Iran shares with the Arabs of southern Iraq Is deep. The Shia consider themselves the oppressed within Islam, consistent with the murder of their patron, Ali, at the hands of their rivals, the Indo-Aryans. All year long, Iranians make the pilgrimage to the many holy cities and shrines located just over the border and throughout central and southern Iraq.

Iran Religions
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Iran Religions

Religious similarities have helped Iranform ties with Syria, another Shiite-dominated country. Iran’s support of terrorism does not discriminate against members of rival sects within Islam. However, there is friction among fundamentalists along these lines. With Iran’s help, the Shiites of Iraq have come to realize its political power in Iraq.

This has concerns for Sunnis worldwide, even one Osama Bin Laden, who is reportedly unpleased with diminishing Sunni dominance in the region. The insurgency in Iraq was meant to repulse foreign invaders from the west, not increase the power of their ancient rivals.

As it now stands, religion is the main ingredient for Iran’s increased regional influence. An intensely shared religious ideology between Iran and Iraqi Shiites has been exploited to its fullest extent by the former.

Funding, education, training, raw materials, information-gathering services, and weapons have been steadily flowing into the hands of Iraqi Shiites since the 2003 U.S. invasion. The subsequent sectarian violence has put tremendous pressure on the security policies of the Gulf States.

A Shia-dominated sub-regions can be drawn from Iran, across Iraq into Syria, and stopping inside Lebanon. This religious ideological alliance would be a clear and present danger to Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Jordan.

This does not include the religious fundamentalist movement that is sure to follow. Iran can project power and Persian influence largely through religious means.

Iran Religions
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Iran Religions

Islamic fundamentalism and fanaticism are taught in every Islamic country. Iran is the birthplace of the modern Islamic revolution. Saudi Arabia certainly does not want this revolution at its doorstep. This increases tremendous pressure upon the U.S. to stabilize the situation between rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia constantly purchases weapons from the United States for its protection, including against Iran.

Economy

Iran’s land is only 10% arable, crude oil and natural gas exports are the primary means of revenue, accounting for about 80% of the total GDP. The major oil fields are located in the southwestern and central parts of the country. An invasion in this area or an amphibious assault on the coastline will severely disrupt the free flow of oil and the Iranian economy.

Iran is also a member of OPEC, a regional organization of Petroleum producers. In terms of natural gas and oil reserves, Iran ranks as the second and third in the world, respectively. The economy, as a whole, has been largely state-owned since 1979.

Iran Economy
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Iran Economy

Government

Iran’s government can be described as a highly centralized theocratic republic. The Supreme Ruler and the Supreme Council rule Iran with an iron fist even though an elected president and legislature are present.

Iran Government
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Iran Government Strongmen

The country is divided into 33 provinces. Although local governments are given the power to run their affairs, their religious rulers are ever watchful and are quick to suppress dissent and disagreement with any of its policies. The seat of government is located in Tehran, the state’s core area and political, economic, and cultural center.

Military and Nuclear Capabilities

Even in its early stages, any nuclear technology in the hands of Iran will be a mistake the world will pay dearly for. However, Iran does not wish to possess the weapon itself, but the benefit of the threat it provides. Tyrannical nations pursue nuclear weapons to scare countries from invading.

The threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, along with the current security concerns within the region, has rightfully caught the full attention of the global community.

With the actual location of all nuclear sites and the possibility of Iran already possessing the weapons-grade plutonium, military intervention, short of full and resolute U.N. support in terms of troops, money, and sanctions, would achieve minimal success.

Irans-Revolutionary-Guards
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Iran Revolutionary Guards

A coalition of countries about the same size as the one formed during the first Gulf War would need to be formed. This will not be achieved based on the strong diplomatic and economic relationships Iran has established with Russia, China, and other Central and South Asian nations.

Russia and China alone could veto any action taken by the world body. The threat of this weapon will give the Iranians much-needed influence. Iran seeks to exert regional, and global politics, just as it had during Persian times. Sanctions oftentimes are effective. Although many Americans believe otherwise.

Why not? sanctions worked for North Korea, which likely has the bomb and the means to deliver it using intercontinental missiles. The threat of nuclear weapons in the hands of the Iranian government is payback for years of isolation, containment, and sanctions from the west.

The military of Iran is interesting in the case of their effectiveness against U.S. interests in Iraq. Thereby disrupting American long-term interests in the region.

Highly-trained personnel of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards have been used as agent provocateurs and trainers for Shiite militia groups in Iraq. However, since the effective operation with American drones that killed Qasem Soleimani, much damage was done. Qasem Soleimani the leader of the Revolutionary Guards was killed by orders by United States President Donald Trump.

Many of these same personnel, as well as intelligence agents, have been sent by Tehran. They have been detained by U.S. soldiers throughout the current conflict for enabling militias, foreign fighters, and other Shiite paramilitary groups. I would not be surprised if these same agents were supplying members of the Sunni insurgency, since IED material can be directly linked to Iran.

 Military and Nuclear Capabilities
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Nuclear Capabilities

When it comes to the projection of political and military power, sponsoring terrorism is Iran’s chief weapon of choice. Hezbollah, the “Party of God” terrorization of Israel, is the most popular example.

Hezbollah has long been a thorn in the side of Israel and the U.S.  Hezbollah was expected to fold quickly against a full-fledged assault of all the military power Israel could bring to the battlefield but this simply did not happen. This is an ongoing conflict.

A theory exists that the destabilization of Iraq has further opened a weapons and funding pipeline from Iran to Hezbollah, by way of Syria. This was used to make Hezbollah more formidable. Successful stand-offs by terrorist organizations against militarily powerful states, such as Israel, can only serve to foster further projection of power through terrorist means. But will not offer any actual battle victory whatsoever.

Conclusion

Iran’s geographic location and antagonist policy towards world affairs make it a worthy and dangerous adversary of the U.S. While not possessing the economic, military, or even the political machine of the former USSR, it is the undeterred will of the state of Iran to preserve its image of itself as the center of the universe. A military intervention presents damaging long-term prospects.

Economic sanctions would threaten energy prices globally. U. N. resolutions containing adverse language and actions against Iran will more than likely be vetoed by at least one permanent member of the Security Council (China or Russia). Now, Iran is about to receive billions in economic aid simply by being in the right place at the right time.

Bibliography

Peimani, Hooman. Regional Security and the Future of Central Asia: The Competition between Iran, Turkey, and Russia. Praeger Publishers, 1998.

Alexander, Andrew. “Why a Great New Game is Being Played in Iran.” The Daily Mail, 11 May 2007, pg.34

Antonowic, Anton. “Inside Iran; Exclusive: Lifting the Veil on Land of Secrets.” The Mirror, 16 July 2007, pg. 20

Bulliet, Richard W. “Iran Between East and West.” Journal of International Affairs 60, no. 2 (2007): pg.1

Fallows, James. “The Nuclear Power Beside Iraq.” The Atlantic Monthly, May 2006, Vol. 297, Issue #4

Fuller, Graham E. The Center of the Universe: The Geopolitics of Iran. Westview Press, 1991.

Seymour, Richard. “Not Just About Oil.” The Middle East, June 2003, 26.

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