The prospect of war and the pursuit of peace
Talks on the subject of the nuclear capability of the Islamic Republic of Iran have paused in Vienna until Friday. Diplomats have allegedly come much closer to formulating a concise and concrete deal. Problems persist, however, in terms of a long-term stance on the assurance that the stipulations contained in this deal are actually carried out.
US delegation spokesperson, Marie Harp, stated of the 48-hour delay, “We’re frankly more concerned about the quality of the deal than we are about the clock, though we also know that difficult decisions won’t get any easier with time.”
Meanwhile, rhetoric has been fairly stagnant on both sides of the aisle. Many conservatives, like Chris Christie, have taken a perennial hard-line on Iran for specific reasons. It can be extremely helpful to possess a rhetorical arsenal capable of frightening Iranian diplomats into making concessions. When seen in this light, one can understand why voices like those of Tom Cotton can serve to both augment and drain the credibility of the position that a large portion of the international community holds on Iran.
Without this hard-line, there could be no liberal counterpoint. Conservatives, save the few with the psychopathic desire for a bloodbath sundae topped with the maraschino cherry of a thermonuclear exchange, generally have much the same interest in peace as many liberals do. Where things break down, however, is in public perception.
Demographics are changing slowly in Iran. With respect to overall population, it may come as a surprise to learn that a significant portion of the populace currently consists of young Iranians who tend to be slightly less conservative than past generations. Furthermore, it seems likely that this demographic may also present some problems for the United States if a peace deal is never reached.
I. The Prospect of a War with Iran
In terms of bare-bones warfare economics, one can plainly see that Iran has a sizable (even if unwilling) service pool, if the situation eventually deteriorates. It seems prudent, at least from the position of American foreign policy, to not cripple or eliminate an entire up and coming generation of innovative and hardworking Iranians.
War remains a distinct possibility on the horizon of American action. Slowly but surely, military activity has continued relatively unnoticed by a large portion of the global community. Saudi Arabia, alongside the diplomatic process, has continued a destructive air campaign in Yemen, aimed at weakening Houthi rebels. This group, which has waged an insurgency for several years, has defined itself, in terms of ideology, as an ally of the revolutionary government in Tehran.
Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has consistently made the point that the state of Israel is not, and that it may never necessarily be, a friend of Iran. This is the case for various reasons, including an implied acceptance, on the part of the current republican government, that Israel has no legitimate justification for its existence. While this may be the case, in the context of the current geopolitical situation in the region, I feel it is evident that this fact has little to no relevance, as the IDF possesses enough military hardware and willingness to almost unilaterally kneecap Iran at will.
Netanyahu commented on Tuesday, as to the reasons for continued economic hostility and posturing, which tend to be rooted in firm opposition to the existence of terrorism and radical oppression “The radical Shiite camp under Iranian leadership on one side, and the Sunni spearhead in the form of the Islamic State group on the other, are applying cruel terror with shocking zeal and carrying out a war to the death among themselves […] Meanwhile, they are united in their hostility to the West and willingly trample on the achievements of freedom and progress.”
Sanctions, at least from the perspective of a heartfelt economist, are quite similar to acts of war. They have served to damage Iranian capability for production and efficient management of resources with respect to certain sectors of the economy (mostly energy production, arms importation and manufacturing).
Capital controls as well as perennially frozen assets in various banks around the globe have, additionally, found a place in this schemata. Also significant is the role of a perpetual arms embargo, aimed at reducing military buildup and advancement on the part of overall Iranian military force.
Russia and China, nominally cooperating economic parties of the Islamic Republic, at least with respect to the validity of international sanctions, have resolved to maintain their arms embargoes. The position of Russia in this scenario is also key and paradoxical, especially when one considers the Ukraine-related sanctions which it is simultaneously under.
Oil prices have risen in response to activity related to the deal-making process. If an agreement were made, Iranian oil may aid in reducing these figures. On the other hand, continued stagnation may serve to drive prices higher. Furthermore, a war could actually drive commodity prices sky-high.
A theoretical scenario involving the initiation of a conventional war with Iran seems quite grim. When compared to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq at the height of its power, the Islamic Republic possesses greater capability for destruction through far more creative means. In the event that conventional hostilities actually commence, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard most likely have a litany of nasty, calculated surprises waiting for the unwitting invader.
The Iranian Navy has as its primary default strategy the disruption of sea traffic to the extent that movement along the Strait of Hormuz would become, if not impossible, extremely dangerous. An aggressive naval stance, on the part of the United States would most likely rest on a fundamental assumption that sea lanes could indeed be controlled and safely maintained on the pure basis of American (and associated) naval power. In my opinion, this assumption consists of a series of statistical gambles, which, when engaged in, threaten to put extreme stress on the global economy in a manner leading to volatile conventional war.
On land, the situation looks basically just as, if not more aggravating. Buried facilities, which almost necessitate the use of extremely (to the absurd extent) powerful explosives, to penetrate layers of reinforced concrete and hardened earth, make most military planners cringe.
Add to this land-to sea missile capabilities possessed in significant quantity by the Iranian military and one can plainly see that operations against this particular state would require a large investment of both manpower and institutional focus. In the end, Iran categorically loses this conflict, unless there are other significantly invested players. This does not necessarily justify offensive action on the part of any implicated military forces.
II. Reaching for Peace
Logically speaking, the prospects for the Islamic Republic assuming a position similar to that of the Soviet Union during the period constituting the Cold War seem slim. At the more specific level of competition between the state of Israel and Iran, this notion makes a bit more sense. A nuclear-armed Iran could be a serious threat, because in the larger scheme of things, it may still be likely that if monitoring were efficiently carried out, the possibility for the existence of said weapons could still remain.
A deal, then, will only act to bring economic relief to Iran, as well as to add to UN capability for monitoring. With respect to furthering relations between the United States and the Islamic Republic, it will be extremely important to make some kind of deal. Current efforts seem to be closer to finding common ground, and, reportedly, four out of five possible stipulations have been agreed upon.
British Foreign Secretary, Phillip Hammond, recently made the comment, in reference to the deal-making process that he believes “There is a clear will on both sides now to complete this agreement.”
Certainly, peace and prosperity remain the ultimate goals of the diplomatic process. It has also been made clear that many powerful Iranians have absolutely no desire to antagonize the international system through the seditious and covert production of nuclear weapons, although the opposite is also likely true of others.
It remains to be seen what will occur on Friday, however, if a deal is reached, this may signify the beginning of a renewal of diplomacy and economic cooperation. Even if such a thing occurs, the possibility of war will stay put, as this exists as a fundamental axiom of geopolitics.