Iran: Not a Serious Threat?

Barack Obama gave an interesting description of Iran and the threat it poses to the United States and our national interests at an appearance in Oregon last night. “They don’t pose a serious threat to us in the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us,” Obama told a cheering audience, explaining why he doesn’t think we need to worry about “tiny” countries like Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, and Iran.

(from HotAir)

People often underestimate new kinds of threats because they don’t look like the old threats. In the early 1920s and early 1930s, military aircraft didn’t look very impressive when compared with the warships of the day. It was hard to believe that a flimsy-looking biplane could really be a threat to a battleship of ten thousand times its own weight. Only real visionaries could see what was coming.

But after 9/11…indeed, after Hiroshima and Nagasaki…the danger of rogue states, in league with terrorists and motivated by apocalyptic beliefs…should be obvious to all. Downplaying this threat in 2008 is not like failing to understand the threat of the torpedo bomber in 1930. It is like failing to understand the threat of the torpedo bomber after December 10, 1941. (The date marking the sinking of the British warships Prince of Wales and Repulse, following quickly after the Pearl Harbor attack.)

27 thoughts on “Iran: Not a Serious Threat?”

  1. Iran presents two problems for us. One, Iran has been at war against the USA since 1979, and the USA hasn’t yet responded in a serious way. The Iranian leadership continues to attack us as it develops new points of asymmetric leverage. Two, the problem you discussed: the threat of WMD and hostile small states.

    I think the second threat is significant. However, I also think that we are less likely to face the second threat, from Iran or anyone else, if we respond to Iran on the first threat. This means not holding back, counterattacking when we are attacked and on occasions of convenience to us. Embargo their gasoline imports. If they supply weapons to our enemies in Iraq, attack their supply infrastructure. If they harass us with small boats, sink the boats and bomb an airbase (or other valuable military target). And of course, sabotage their nuke program. The mullahs should pay a price, on our terms, for their aggressions. So far they have gotten a free ride, which I think is the cause of much of the overall problem. Our threats to blow them to smithereens if they use WMD are not believable, because at the same time as we make these threats we are refusing to respond to them militarily at a much lower level where our response would be relatively less expensive and risky along all dimensions.

  2. I am a nuclear physicist who will not submit to a government mandated drug test, a stupidity started only about 18 years ago. As a consequence, I no longer qualify for jobs I used to do that involved me in the design of the B-1 bomber, the Minuteman missile, the F-111A fighter, doomsday telecomm systems, battlefield games and nuclear weapons triggers.

    It is frustrating to apply for contract jobs nowadays in fields like avionics, since military contractors are required to drug test, while civilian ones are not. When I go through a headhunter, I don’t usually learn the client company name or specific project until late in the game, and about the drug-test policy sometimes until the day I actually show up for work!

    As a consequence, I tell job recruiters (jokingly, for now) that if they can’t find me a job with a domestic company with a non-fascist drug-test policy, to find me one in Iran, North Korea, India, Pakistan or China, where I’m sure they would benefit from my expertise without requiring a drug test.

    Amerikans have a very false sense of security in a world full of Von Brauns studying Chinese and in which over 50% of the PhDs in Physics awarded in California have been going to non-Amerikans.

  3. from The CIA World Factbook

    Iran is a “tiny” nation of 65+ million people. That’s 5 million more people that the UK, twice as many people as Canada, and three times as many as Australia. Iran is not a “tiny” country by measures of population, size (larger than Alaska).

    Venezuela… twice the size of California, population larger than Australia. Again, not a “tiny” country.

    North Korea… larger than Mississippi, population larger than Australia.

    Obama is proving himself to be an idiot.

  4. I should add that I think it’s an open question whether Obama is up to the task intellectually. He appears to have a limited understanding of history and of the dynamics of international conflict, and to be intellectually incurious.

  5. As much as I don’t like Obama, I am in general agreement with him on this.

    Deterrance will work with Iran, if we articulate it clearly. We could annihilate them in an hour.

    There is no reason to believe that any government will give its most prized possession, a nuclear weapon, to some terrorists. They run all the risks of massive retaliation, while abandoning control of an immensely valuable asset. There is every reason to believe that the Iranian government wants nuclear weapons to deter a US conventional attack. That is mere rationality. The Iranian public hates the mullahs and wants the bomb. That too is rationality. The current government is weak and unpopular, by many reliable accounts, and wants nothing more than a US attack to rally support. We should not play that game.

    We invaded Iraq to create a democracy, which turned out to be damned difficult. Iran is a better candidate. Best of all they are likely to do it by themselves. We should be encouraging thousands of Americans to vacation in Iran, to make love not war to the Iranian people.

    In any event, we lack the means to invade Iran. Our military is overstretched with two wars. If we lob some bombs at them, they can make life hard for us, but shooting at tankers in the strait, etc. Oil prices would go through the roof. They can hurt us. We are probably deterred. Which is probably all to the good.

  6. WMD’s are more cost effective than conventional weapons i.e. they produce more destruction per unit of resources devoted to them. They are also much denser i.e. more destruction per unit of mass, than conventional weapons.

    Both these attributes mean that such weapons are more attractive for small states than they do for large ones. Not only can small states create a larger effect with less resources but their small size means even the smallest of states can devise a method of delivering them almost anywhere in the world. WMD’s represent the only possible means for a small country to make a credibly threat of force against a large one.

    Further, small states (actually their leadership) have less to loose form a confrontation than a large state and fewer options for getting what they want.

    All these attributes combine to make smaller states more likely to carry out a devastating attack at the U.S. If the leadership convinces themselves that either they can carry out the attack anonymously or that the U.S. will not respond effectively, they could easily reason themselves into an attack on us.

    Historical examples of this phenomenon include Imperial Japan in the lead up to WWII, Hussien’s invasion of Kuwait and Al-Quada in 9/11. In all three cases, each actor believed that they could strike a blow, present a fate accompli and escape a retaliation that would outweigh the benefits.

  7. As one comment suggested, we have been at odds with Iran since the 70s; however, it should be noted that the Iranian people tired of the Shah, a horrible dictator–I knew many Iranian students and the spies that came to this country to keep tabs on them under the Shah. The religious dolts got in and now we are at odds with Iran. True, too, that we supported Saddam’s war effort against Iran. As for the comparison Obama makes: Russia at one time held half the world in its sphere of influence and had huge stores of missiles and nukes–Iran, by comparison? still do not have them and they are, as Obama notes, small potatoes. Now, if Iran et al are terrible and something must be done, then what is suggested? Nuke them? And what of China? are they a democratic nation that loves human rights. Heck, they are big and they have nukes…what do we do about them?

    I know I will be dumped on. Not unusual. But Obama is simply comparing the potential of two countries and HE IS RIGHT. May I respectfully suggest that our armed forces are in poor shape today, and under McCain we will not do anything that Obama or any other president will do for a long long time.

  8. I can talk myself into being scared of Iran. But the bottom line is that Mao, who was insane, was deterred. Stalin, who was insane, was deterred. The Soviet Union througout the Cold War, were deterred. Some of the people who run Pakistan are apparently nuts. But they are scared of India. I also agree with Mearsheimer’s analysis that no government would give away its nukes to some criminal gang. Nor do I think any government would authorize a “sneak” attack on the USA that did not take our our retaliatory capability, and hope that they did not get caught and we would not retaliate. Suicide bombers are recruited by evil people who manipulate them. People do not commit suicide on behalf of their entire countries and families. They send some poor stupid chump out to commit suicide.

    I do agree that we need to make our threat credible. I proposed something a while ago. We need to jam their faces in unilateral assured destruction.

  9. Y’all are ignoring the problem of dirty bombs. A dirty bomb can be made of waste nuclear material and delivered in many non-nuclear ways. Amerikans are so motivated by fear and irrationality that terrorists probably could even save the costs of that by distributing leaflets over NYC of a pending dirty bombing instead of actually bombing NYC.

    Or they could drop leaflets warning of a small dirty bomb over Peoria followed by a much larger one over NYC, then actually bomb Peoria, much as Truman was encouraged by some to do in the case of Hiroshima.

  10. Hitler and the Japanese militarists weren’t deterred. They didn’t think their adversaries, who were militarily stronger than they were, would fight. Why should the dictators have believed otherwise? The Brits and French, much less the Americans, gave little indication until very late of being willing to fight. You would have had to be an expert on Anglo-American society to have understood that once we were provoked we would be unstoppable. Hitler didn’t understand, and eventually he miscalculated.

    Bin Laden attacked us, to his eventual downfall. Of course it doesn’t make sense from our point of view. He miscalculated, but why would one expect him to know better? What did he know about our society? Saddam Hussein miscalculated when he invaded Kuwait, and later when he taunted us into invading him in 2003. How could he have been so stupid? But he was.

    Think of it from the POV of the Iranian mullahs. Why should they believe that we will fight them? We haven’t done so despite thirty years of provocations. We currently give no serious indication of being willing to do so. Words aren’t enough. We make threats, but threats are cheap and inevitably raise doubts about whether they are intended as substitutes for action. Kennedy could threaten war over Cuba, and make his threats stick, because we were then only a few years removed from our defenses of Korea and Europe. In 2008 we are still carrying the defeatist baggage of Vietnam, Desert One, Somalia and the domestic political opposition to our involvement in Iraq. Militarily we are undefeatable; politically we are irresolute. The mullahs are exceptionally shrewd and have been on a geopolitical roll for decades, but they are also arrogant and have limited understanding of us. Even if they don’t intend to attack us directly, it is quite possible that they will eventually miscalculate. I don’t think we should bet that they won’t.

  11. “Hitler and the Japanese militarists weren’t deterred.”

    We had the 18th largest military and no nuclear weapons. Of course they weren’t.

    So far, since 1945, EVERYBODY has been.

    Nuclear weapons have caused peace to break out. With good reason.

    Bin Laden had no country to risk, and he knew his family was safe — the Americans are too “soft and weak” to murder them in retaliation and he knew that. The Mullahs are not in that situation.

    “The mullahs are exceptionally shrewd and have been on a geopolitical roll for decades.”

    I don’t agree. Their country is a mess. They rule only because they employ brutal militias to keep their own people down. What started as a popular uprising is already in its stage of Brezhnevite senility. They are not rolling anywhere in particular.

    “Militarily we are undefeatable.” Not so. We cannot conquer and occupy Iran. We could destroy it with nuclear weapons. But we cannot in any meaningful way defeat it, since we lack the means.

    “30 years of provocation”. Pinpricks. No comparison to the Third Reich or the Soviet Union.

    We should be aggressively trying to get the Iranian people to watch American music videos, to further their slide into decadence.

  12. “Deterrence will work with Iran, if we articulate it clearly.”

    If, they are rational human beings, but if they aren’t, well that is another story. I know the tune that Lex and Tom Barnett have been whistling past this grave yard. I find it un-comforting.

    I present here a man far more learned than we on the subject of the Islamic world:
    “Islam and the West: A Conversation with Bernard Lewis on Thursday, April 27, 2006 at the
    Hay-Adams Hotel, Washington, DC

    * * *

    JAY TOLSON, U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT: … do you think Ahmadinejad is simply a cunning opportunist using religion to solidify his Iranian political base? Or, is he actually trying to compete on the pan-Islamic level with Osama bin Laden … ?

    MR. LEWIS: I am inclined to believe in the sincerity of Ahmadinejad. I think that he really believes the apocalyptic language that he is using. Remember that Muslims, like Christians and Jews, have a sort of end-of-time scenario in which a Messianic figure will appear. In their case, in the case of the Shiites, the hidden imam who will emerge from hiding, who will fight against the powers of evil, the anti-Christ in Christianity, Gog and Magog in Judaism, and the Dajjal in Islam, a role in which we are being cast now. And he really seems to believe that the apocalyptic age has come, that this is the final struggle that will lead to the final victory and the establishment of the kingdom of heaven on earth.

    Others in the ruling establishment in Iran may share this belief. I am inclined to think that most of them are probably more cynical and regard it as a useful distraction from their domestic problems and also a useful weapon in their external relations, because he has been doing very well and he seems to be succeeding, for example, on the question of nuclear weapons. And every time they make an advance, we move the point at which we won’t tolerate it anymore, and this has happened again and again. Each time, we say, the next step we will not allow. We have shown ourselves to be, shall we say, remarkably adaptable in this respect, and this is no way to win friends and influence people.

    I think that the way that Ahmadinejad is talking now shows quite clearly his contempt for the Western world in general and the United States in particular. They feel they are dealing with, as Osama bin Laden put it, an effete, degenerate, pampered enemy incapable of real resistance. And they are proceeding on that assumption. Remember that they have no understanding or experience of the free debate of an open society. Where we see free debate and criticism, they see fear, weakness and division; they proceed accordingly, and every day brings new evidence of that from Iran.

    I think it is a dangerous situation. And my only hope is that they are not right in their interpretation of the Western world. I have often thought in recently years of World War II — you were told earlier that I’m ancient myself. The most vividly remembered year of my life was the year 1940. And more recently I have been thinking of 1938 rather than of 1940. We seem to be in the mode of Chamberlain and Munich rather than of Churchill.

    * * *

    PAUL STAROBIN, NATIONAL JOURNAL: Professor, what, in your opinion, would be the impact on the mindset of the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran if they actually possessed an atomic weapon?

    MR. LEWIS: I think that they would become impossibly arrogant. Remember that Ahmadinejad in particular, and his circle, as I said before, are in an apocalyptic mood. They believe in the end of time; it’s imminent, and, therefore, the use of a nuclear weapon would not bother them in the least. And they would not, of course, use it in an aerial bombardment. What preserved us from nuclear warfare during the Cold War was what was known as MAD — mutually assured destruction. If they use it, it won’t come with a return address on it; it will come from terrorist action. And that, I think, is the most likely way that they would use a nuclear weapon if they get one — no return address.


    Now what I want to know is? Are you feeling lucky?

    I note that Lewis did not favor an invasion of Iran.

  13. “I admire your confidence.”

    Well, I know for a fact we can annihilate them.

    I do wish we had more options, but our military, as huge and powerful as it is, is currently otherwise occupied.

    And I also think we should be trying the Soft Kill a lot harder. Note Soft Kill. The goal is the destruction of the Mullah Regime. Military attacks that do not destroy the regime will make it stronger. Patience and playing the long game took down the much more powerful Soviet Union. It can work in Iran. I have reason to believe that Iran is much better candidate for a sensible, relatively democratic regional power than Iraq ever was. Making the mass of Iranians hate us by blowing the place up should be a last resort. It is just what the Mullahs want us to do. Ahmadinejad, for example, is losing power bit by bit in Iran, but this is not heavily reported. He was put into office as a reformer and his domestic constituency is disappointed in his performance. The guy is nowhere near being a Fuhrer or a Vozhd like Hitler or Stalin.

    We want the same ends. We differ on means, and what is a possible end state.

  14. I’m with Lex on this. Absent our assets in Iraq, Iran has few places to strike us as effectively as we can strike them. Their greatest weapon is the threat of closing the Straights of Hormuz. However, they have let their economy get so messed up that would screw them also. They barely have the capacity to make their own petrol and an industrial ‘accident’ at one of their decrepit refineries would shut the country down. Their economy is a mess, DESPITE the record oil prices. If there is any drop in prices, they have huge problems. They are a very brittle empire.
    Spain’s advantages in gold seemed overwhelming at one point, but eventually their dependence on it became a weakness. The same could be said for Iran (or a few other states for that matter – I’m looking at you Hugo).

  15. The best way to “soft kill” a regime is to bankrupt it. As a rule of thumb, no regime that can pay its soldiers will ever be toppled by non-soldier internal opposition. A bankrupt regime cannot pay its soldiers and will fall easily.

    The best way to bankrupt Iran without military force would be for the fed to raise interest rates until they are higher than British or Euro rates and the Dollar starts to appreciate. We should also start raising gasoline taxes towards an eventual target of $3/gal. and impose a VAT of about 17% on all goods and services. Although the fiscal impact of the tax increases can be blunted by lowering income and payroll taxes, the interest rate and Dollar increases would no doubt cause a pretty nasty recession.

    Bombing would probably be cheaper and faster.

  16. “You talk very lightly about killing a lot of people and opening the door to a new war, which is always a dark room full of unexpected hazards.”

    Red herring. First, my policy preference would be to take the recession, and impose the taxes. I just doubt that it can be sold to the American people or the American political system. A bombing campaign could be sold.

    Further, I was not talking about a specific bombing campaign. I don’t think bombing populations is called for in this situation. Personally, I would only be interested in bombing things, like Nantz.

    As for a new war. Don’t be silly. Iran has been at war with US for 30 years. We have refused to acknowledge it, and have refused to respond, but they have been at war with us and have killed hundreds of Americans. They will continue to be at war with US until,

    Finally, Gates is not more responsible than I am, he is just playing the game in Washington, while I am a bitter old man alone in my study.

  17. They will continue to be at war with US until, they give up, which seems unlikely, or we make them stop. We can do that slowly in small steps, but we probably won’t. We will wait until they prove that they really do love death more than life by lobbing an A bomb at Israel. Then millions will die, some in Israel, a great many more in Iran.

  18. Harry Callahan:I know what you’re thinking. “Did he fire six shots or only five?” Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?

  19. I agree with Robert.

    It doesn’t matter if Americans think that we can deter Iran by making threats, or that we can count on Iran’s liberalization if only we can avoid antagonizing the mullahs for a few years longer. The fact is, Iran is not deterred. Its behavior proves otherwise.

    Our nuclear bombs mean nothing if we are irresolute. Our nukes failed to prevent Korea, the Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe, SE Asia, the subversion of Central America, SW Africa, etc. They fail to deter attacks on us by small Iranian boats and by Iranian-supplied terrorists in Iraq. And we’re supposed to keep taking it because one day, maybe, according to a theory, Iranians will overthrow their government? I don’t see it.

    Israel has had nuclear weapons for maybe forty years and is still under attack. Nuclear weapons are mere tools; they do not change the fundamentals of politics or strategy. They are marginally useful as military weapons. Unfortunately, they are very useful as instruments of extortion and mass murder, and the mullahs want them for these reasons. And they have been trying to get them for years.

    The mullahs also make genocidal threats. They have delivery vehicles in the form of missiles and commercial aircraft. They are not likely to be doing the very expensive weapons-development work that they are doing, merely to deter invasion by us — it’s obvious that we would leave them alone if they laid off the nuke work, the subversion in Iraq and the genocidal/expansionist rhetoric. (Certainly we have gotten this message to them during the long and fruitless “negotiations” that we have conducted with Iran, in concert with some of our European allies.) I don’t think there’s anything mysterious about what the mullahs are doing. There is every reason to believe that they mean what they say. I take them at their word.

    The big lessons of the Twentieth Century are that leaders who engage in aggression should be make to pay a price, and that people who threaten to kill you should be taken at their word. (IMO this reason, and not “democracy,” was the most important justification for our invasion of Iraq.)

    The Iranian dictatorship in its own view has racked up a long string of victories against us without yet paying a significant price. And they are threatening genocide. We are foolish to accept that threat, and IMO some of the rationalizations — by Lex, Cochran, Mearsheimer et al — reveal a dangerous overconfidence in our invulnerability. It’s almost hubris.

    I would add that Lex’s concern about killing Iranians is in tension with his suggestion that we threaten Iran with mass destruction. Better, as Robert put it, to stop them slowly in small steps than to postpone action until after there is a catastrophe. We have many options besides negotiations on the one hand and invasion on the other. We should use them to try to shape events, rather than, as now, merely hoping for the best.

  20. I’m with Robert Schwartz.

    I’ve had these quotes saved from Iran . made about 3 years ago. Nothing in their rhetoric since then should make anyone think they aren’t serious about this.

    Commandant of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi, said on state television. “God willing, the 21st century will see the defeat of the U.S. and the Zionists, and the victory of freedom-seeking nations of the world. The final goal of the [1979] revolution is to create global Islamic rule and a regime of law to be led by the Imam Mahdi”.


    The [Iranians] President’s chief strategist, Hassan Abbassi, has come up with a war plan based on the premise that “Britain is the mother of all evils” – the evils being America, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, the Gulf states and even Canada, all of whom are the malign progeny of the British Empire. “We have a strategy drawn up for the destruction of Anglo-Saxon civilization,” says Mr Abbassi. “There are 29 sensitive sites in the U.S. and in the West. We have already spied on these sites and we know how we are going to attack them… Once we have defeated the Anglo-Saxons the rest will run for cover.”


    The IRGC chief warned that Iran was seeing through “critical days” and “fate-determining years”. He described the purpose of Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution as the “Salvation of Muslims” from the hands of the “oppressive U.S. and Israel”.

    The Regime is motivated by Twelver Shia (the main branch of Shia Islam) theology and eschatology.

    The Shiia have been waiting for the blood-related descendant of Mohemmed to come out of his well where Allah put him around 1000AD so that there could be a proper Islamic State on Earth.

    Whereas Sunnis believe they could form the next Caliphate by consesus, the Shiia believe that Allah and his agent, the 12th (thus Twelver) Imam, Imam al-Mahdi, will miraciously reestablish the Caliphate.

    Thus the Shiia have been relatively passive throughout history.. waiting for Allah to send them the Mahdi. The group in power in Iran believe they can create the planetary geopolitical conditions that are the prerequiste for Allah to manifest the Mahdi.. and that’s basically nuclear war.

    No one should be fooled that when the Iranians say they will destory Israel that they are stopping there. Israel is the Little Satan.. the United States is the Rome of our time.. the Great Satan.

    Everytime you hear a statement from Iran about Israel you shold put into your mind that whatever they have planned for Israel , they will be doing to us.. and probably beforehand..

    Look at this poster that Iran’s A’jad is standing in front of at the “World Without Zionism” conference.

    Note what little ball lays shattered broken on the floor as Israel falls through the hourglass.

  21. Robert, you’re not alone (as far as you have a computer in your study and can type thoughts at least 3 people on this thread, including me) agree with.

  22. “…a dangerous overconfidence in our invulnerability…”

    That is not an accurate characterization of what I said. But, no point in going around in circles again.

    President Bush, with 30% approval, and nothing to lose, may decide to initiate a war completely on his own, one that neither Congress nor the public would ever approve of, and which the military and the Secretary of Defense have loudly signalled they do not want to do. I do not rule that out. President Bush is capable of surprising us. But it is unlikely.

    If that does not happen, and if, as is likely, Sen. Obama is elected, he will not attack Iran.

    If Sen. McCain is elected, I think he is highly unlikely to do so. He will be facing a Democratic Congress, and a public which is tired of the wars we are actively fighting now.

    Iran may, of course, engage in some very overt provocation. That of course is possible, since the one thing Mullahs are desperate for is a US attack, to legitimize their tyranny and keep them in power. More likely is that Ahmadinejad’s power will continue to erode. If he falls from power, which appears likely, we will likely have a regime we can deal with over there soon.

    So, this is probably all moot.

    My main concern is that the things we should be doing to undermine the Mullahs short of bombing them, like lots of Farsi radio and TV broadcasts, support for overseas regime opponents, a barrage of human rights complaints against the regime, etc. are not happening. The whole Cold War era tool kit should be in play. It was the combination of hard-power deterrance (which we have with Iran far more strongly than we did with the USSR) and the soft-power attacks that undermined the regime, which finally won the Cold War. I see no reason we are not doing these things to the Mullah regime, no matter what we do on the military level.

  23. >President Bush, with 30% approval, and nothing to lose, may decide to initiate a war completely on his own, one that neither Congress nor the public would ever approve of, and which the military and the Secretary of Defense have loudly signalled they do not want to do. I do not rule that out. President Bush is capable of surprising us. But it is unlikely.

    I doubt he will.. but if he doesn’t, the Mushroom Clouds will be here.

    Iran is committed to destroying the United States. If this President doesn’t do the right thing , then we will pay the price.

    Mullahacracy Delenda Est

  24. Here is more evidence that Iran is writing checks that it can cash:

    Apparently money from the oil programs is disappearing down a hole. Whether it’s being diverted for foreign adventures or to to Swiss Bank accounts, this is money that the Iranian economy disparately needs. The Iranian economy is a mess and had been completely mismanaged by the current leadership. If they are spending their money to fund fighters in Iraq and Lebanon, then they are doing it at the risk of collapsing their economy (and with really little serious effect, at least in Iraq). They are quite possibly in real trouble.

    Even worse for the Mullah’s, there is the real possibility that Iraq could soon start out-performing the Iranian economy (certainly Kurdistan already is). Plus, you have Turkey and it’s robust economy right next door. They are a brittle, brittle empire.

    There is a danger that they may try a real foreign adventure, maybe even an oil grab to rectify things or to mollify the domestic crowd, but does anyone seriously think such a move would come out well for the Iranian State?

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