Iran’s and America’s strategic expansion, combined with Iran’s attack on the British, make war an unfortunate possibility. Assuming the war would end with the violent end of the Ayatollahist regime, but without American occupation of significant portion of the country, who would win and lose?
- Saudi Arabia — the Kingdom would be the biggest winner, by far. The Bush Administration would be the best thing to happen to Riyadh since the discovery of oil, with two regional enemies (Iraq and Iran) smashed and a friendly but dangerous reformist element (the Taliban) driven from power. Additionally, the higher oil prices would line Saudi pockets while the Gulf principalities re-align with their western neighbor. And obviously, Iranian pressure on Eastern Arabia would lessen considerably.
- Egypt, Kuwait, etc. – Second- and Third- tier Sunni Arab stats would also benefit from the end of Tehran’s ability to export security. From the perspective of these statist countries, the largest benefit of the Iraq War (ending the instability caused by Saddam Hussein) has been washed out by the biggest detriment of the Iraq War (the renewed instability caused by Iran).
- Pakistan – With Russia discredited as a major power and America having limited staying power, Islamabad looks forward to recolonizing Afghanistan, as she had previously done through the Taliban. However, Iran also neighbors Afghanistan and works to spoil any Pakistan-oriented Afghani regime.
- Persians – Persians only make up 51% of the population in the old Persian state, and are almost completely absent on the volatile western front. Persians aren’t in danger of the fate that awaited the Iraq Sunni Arabs, but the loss of their government would hardly be good.
- Syria — Syria is a Sunni Muslim state run by Wahabi Shia Muslims and aligned with Iran. The fall of fellow-Shia Iran, in the shadow of the fall of fellow-Ba’ath Iraq, would leave Damascus both friendless and humiliated.
- Hezbollah — Hezbollah’s main achievement in the war with Israel was to separate herself from Syria as Iran’s preferred client in Lebanon. But the fall of Iran would place Hezbollah, by necessity, under Syrian tutelage. Worse, if the Syrian Ba’ath Party would fall to the Muslim Brothers, Hezbollah may be left without friends in the region.
- China – The People’s Republic concentrates on economic growth, and for that requests only geopolitical stability and open trade. An American war with Iran would destabilize the middle east and drive up energy prices. Bad news for Beijing.
- India – New Delhi is weak and uses Iran to help keep Pakistan in line. The fall of Iran would help Islamabad’s quest for strategic depth and take away Pakistan’s second front.
- The United States – America would lose an often de facto in Tehran but would reward her oldest friends in the region.
- Russia — Moscow would lose her trans-Caspian partner, but would profit from higher energy prices. As Russia has for decades traded land and influence for cash, the fall of Iran would be almost a non-event.
- Europe – higher energy prices and a richer Russia would be partially offset by a greater clamor for energy independence from Russia. Short term pain, long term gain.
- The Iraqis – the end of the Shia and Kurdish sponsor would increase the voice of America in internal Iraqi projects, but perhaps help get America out sooner (as “losing to Iran” would no longer be an option). The same logic applies, in reverse, for the Iraqi Sunni Arabs.
- The Muslim Brothers – the strengthening of the Egyptian regime would be counterbalanced by the weakening of the Syrian government.
- Israel – Iran and her clients, Syria and Hezbollah, are obviously weakened. But the potential for a Muslim brother revolution in Syria is disquieting (Jerusalem would prefer the incompetent Ba’ath to stay in power).
Conclusion: Should America attack Iran?
My take: It’s a wash. Iran would have made a great partner for piece, but Iran has not stepped up to the plate. As a nation we rely on having a President with the power to take action when he sees fit. Ultimately, it’s Bush’s call.