Analysis by Michael A. Deliz
Everyday that passes, it seems more and more likely that the United States will unilaterally, although with a possible coalition, declare war upon Iran. This move, compounded by the invasion of Iraq, will result in a chain reaction that has already begun to take shape and which the American mainstream media has chosen to diminish in severity or ignore altogether.
The Drums of War:
It should first be noted that Iran is not in any way like Iraq. Where Iraq was controlled by a brutal dictatorship, and whose people and army were woefully demoralized. Iran is very much the regional power that others wish to be. With a government that is largely supported by its people and a military tradition that is unequaled by any neighboring power, Iran will put up a fight.
Of course all things being equal the United States could probably defeat Iran in under a week. But all things are not equal. Iran has a number of serious advantages that can help it maintain itself in a prolonged conflict. Unlike the majority of Iraqis which lived under a hostile government which did not represent their ethnic diversity, Iran does have a representative government which does assume responsibility for its constituency. Iran's parliament is not a rubber stamp as it is portrayed and is often at odds with the presidency and the ayatollah's decisions. It's parliament also includes among its members representatives of the country's ethnic minorities and women. To add to that Iran has a progressively-minded reform movement that, although at odds with the ayatollah, has been successful in bringing about changes in governance and public policy. This means that the Iranian people will not simply sit idly by while their government is attacked, and any American who believes otherwise will pay for it in the blood of America's youth.
Geography is also a factor here that cannot be ignored. Unlike Iraq which is almost entirely flat, Iran is a maze of deserts and snowcapped mountains and one which is three times larger in size than the entire country of Iraq with three times the population (roughly 70 million people to Iraq's 25 million). See the picture below:
The Iraqi Insurgency:
Despite assurances by President G.W. Bush that the Iraqi insurgency is in its last days, the truth is that it is not. Attacks upon U.S. troops are a daily occurrence which have only diminished because American security outposts around Iraq are increasingly being manned by Iraqi security forces. But declaring war against Iran will mean that the the Iraqi insurgency will confront a weaker American military throughout Iraq as American troops are redeployed to the Iranian front, leaving only a skeleton force, most likely bunkered into the Green Zone in Baghdad.
In other words, American troops will face fire from both sides of the Iran-Iraq border , and will be forced to rely on the increasingly temperamental and untrustworthy Iraqi Security forces to cover its flank. If Blackwater and other such mercenary groups are kept out of Iraq as the Iraqi government has asked and as the U.S. Congress is moving to support, the United States will be forced to call upon troops of other nations or move towards a draft to bolster its troop numbers. The first will the hard, the second will be politically impossible.
Thus Iraq will become increasingly unstable once war against Iran begins.
The Rise of Kurdistan:
Straddling both Iran and Iraq (and Turkey and Syria) is the region of Kurdistan. The Kurds, for almost 100 years have been asking for an independent and sovereign nation state to call their own. The United States encouraged this sentiment somewhat after the 1990's Gulf War by setting up the Kurdish Safe Zone in northern Iraq, which in 1992 formed its own autonomous government. After the invasion of Iraq, the United States bent over backwards to try and keep the independence movement in check by giving the region a measure of self government from the new Iraqi government.
The problem is that for the Kurds, history is finally moving in the right direction. the more unstable Iraq becomes the more local power and control the autonomous government claims. If that instability continues to increase the Kurdish people will not only see an opportunity for independence, but will rightfully claim the right of self-preservation against that instability spreading into their region.
In this way, not only would a U.S. war against Iran create the opportunity of a lifetime for Kurdish independence, it would also allow for the integration and annexation of Iranian Kurdistan, if the Iranian government collapses under an American invasion. If that series of events occurs there will be no stopping the development of a Greater Kurdistan whose people will begin asking for the full integration of all Kurdish areas under foreign control, namely those in Turkey and Syria (See map below).
The Turkish & Syrian Reaction:
The Turkish reaction to the rise of Kurdistan will be swift and bloody, make no mistake about that. Turkey's current domestic and foreign policies both make complete their perception that an independent Kurdistan is a threat to the Turkish Republic. This week, Turkey's Parliament gave permission for its armed forces to enact a military campaign against Kurdish rebels, despite opposition from the United States. Turkey is fully aware that such an incursion into Iraqi territory will not only put it at odds with the U.S. and its NATO allies, but will surely cost it admission into the European Union, but from Turkey's point of view stopping an emergent Kurdistan in its tracks is more important.
The issue is that Turkey's population is 20% Kurdish and Kurds dominate much of the southeastern provinces. For turkey the idea of an internal rebellion and the possible loss of part of its territory is enough to throw caution to the wind. In turn, if the United States and Europe turn its back to Turkey, Turkey will look for other allies, definitely in Syria and possibly in Russia.
Syria, however, will be a minor factor, their internal situation is much too fragile to directly get involved to stop the reunification of Kurdistan. For that very reason, however, they cannot simply accept it, thus Syria will simply support Turkey's every decision regarding Kurdistan. And keep in mind that Syria and Iran have a loose but very real mutual-protection pact which will certainly come into effect if Israel decides to join the American war against Iran.
The Palestinian Street:
Any action taken by the United States in the Middle East resonates in Israel. If the United States attacks Iran, Israel will follow protocol and raise its internal security measures in self defense. The weight of this heightened vigilance will primarily fall upon the Palestinian population. This will result in the further trampling of human rights, which will relight the fire under Hamas to carry on attacks against the Israeli population and its government. Hamas has ties to Iran and is suspected of being financed by the Iranian military, thus any attack against Iran will be surely followed by a Hamas attack against Israel.
The security crackdown by Israel will also finally destroy Fatah, Hamas' political rival and the more moderate of the two organizations. Fatah's open public profile will also make it an easier target for Israeli security sweeps, leaving the Palestinian people with only Hamas to rely upon for protection. The demise of Fatah will also allow for Lebanon's Hezbollah organization to claim solidarity with Hamas and the Palestinian people and solidify its strained relationship with Syria. Which Syria, by its relationship with Iran, will clandestinely support both organizations.
The Central Asian Question:
In the mean time, Afghanistan's government, which mostly operates from bunkered compounds, will be severely destabilized by a war against Iran. As American resources are pulled into the Iranian conflict, Taliban forces will increase their insurgency against the government of Hamid Karzai. Karzai in 2005 signed a strategic partnership agreement with the United States, making it a definite member of any coalition that moves against Iran.
Unfortunately for Karzai, the public wave of public discontent may topple his government and return the country into the hands of the Pashtun people where the Taliban main source of support is found. At worst Afghanistan will fall into utter chaos, Somalia-style, as each local tribal leader vies for control in the power vacuum. At best, Afghanistan will fall into civil war with tribal leaders banding together, under the same groupings as the Nortern Alliance and the Taliban represented before 9/11.
Pakistan will be another favored staging area for U.S. troops, but the Musharaf government is already in political thin ice with its people, so apart from being a possible launch pad for an assault into the interior of Iran, Musharaf will do everything possible to keep his troops out of the fight. It should also be noted that Pakistani military leaders are very unhappy with the secret nuclear pact signed by the U.S. President and India, whose details are unknown but include the transfer of American nuclear technology to Pakistan's rival.
President Putin of Russia recently declared that the Caspian Sea is off limits as a staging area for an attack against Iran and the Caspian states have signed an agreement to prohibit use of their countries for the same purpose. This is a difficult development to surmount for the United States because in the past few years the U.S. has acquired space in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan possibly in preparation for an attack upon Iran. This means that if these Caspian states stick to the agreement, or are made to stick to the agreement by Russian influence, the Caspian Sea will become refuge for Iran's government should it be forced to abandon the country and the capacity of the United States to surround the country will be severely undercut.
Russia itself will not go to the aid of Iran, but will surely keep control of the Caspian by air and sea to ensure the U.S. does not transgress into Russia's sphere of influence. Putin does not want a military confrontation with the United States, but he is betting the United States wants a confrontation with Russia even less. Besides, for the past 10 months the Russian air force has made it a point to show off its capabilities by running Cold War Era drills that have included incursions into British airspace. Putin may not want a confrontation, but is willing to have one to reclaim the military respect his country once had.
China is also a variable in this whole mess. An attack on Iran by the United States will severely harm China's chances of ever tapping into the Caspian Sea oil reserves, which Iran has been negotiating with them. China will not go to war against the United States, but they are conscious of the fact that they can make matters very difficult for the United States in a variety of ways economically. But that sword is double-edged, and it is China's trump card of last resort.
France's Prime Minister Sarkozy, has vowed to go to war against Iran if it develops its nuclear capabilities. This is probably a bluff, but if it isn't, Sarkozy will have a very short political career. The French people, although ridiculed in the United States, are often passionately anti-American and when the first French soldier dies in Iran, Sarkozy will be blamed personally. More likely is that any French aid to the U.S. will be logistic in nature rather than truly military. There is of course France's Foreign Legion which has been borrowed in occasion by the United States, but the numbers that would add are minuscule compared to the task and Sarkozy wouldn't be able to claim a true French involvement. Besides Sarkozy's announcement was not positively received by the French people and he is probably looking for a way to wiggle out of any commitments to live up to it by now.
Globally, it should be noted that nobody is going to shed a tear if the Iranian government falls to a U.S. invasion. Still the reception of American diplomats will be increasingly cold around the world as peoples all over the world will see nothing else in these American actions than a rogue war-mongering empire whose president will stop at nothing until the world bows at his feet. And nothing would make China, Russia, and the European Union happier, than an increased anti-American sentiment for them to exploit.