Winners and Losers of a Violent end of the Islamic Republic of Iran

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?


“ALLAH” in Four Crescents and a Sword

Winners


The Shahada and a Sword

  • 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.

Losers


Persians in Light Green

  • 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.

Neither


Old Glory

  • 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.

4 thoughts on “Winners and Losers of a Violent end of the Islamic Republic of Iran”

  1. “Iran would have made a great partner for piece, but Iran has not stepped up to the plate.”

    Dan,

    Respectfully, I believe the impending conflict between us and the Iranians is not due to an Iranian lack of compromise, but rather ours. You may recall several reports regarding Cheney and OVP rejecting any communication with Iran regarding a compromise on the nuclear issue ('we don't talk to evil'). Also, I believe the Time piece in the next post mentions our pressuring and capture of Iranian operatives in Iraq. While I support the arrest of anyone in Iraq who is contributing to violence, blunting telling the Iranians to stay out of Iraq's business is like China telling us to stay out of Mexico's affairs. This future war will be the result of strategic miscalculations on both sides, but to say that it's because the Iranians aren't cooperating only masks our own stubborness, which at this point is absolutely mindboggling. The deaf continue to lead the blind at our own peril.

  2. Steve,

    “Respectfully, I believe the impending conflict between us and the Iranians is not due to an Iranian lack of compromise, but rather ours.”

    Respectfully, this is an odd, black-and-white, pro-Tehran point of view. More likely is that both states are aggressively pursuing their interests among the ruins of Ba'athi Iraq.

    “Also, I believe the Time piece in the next post mentions our pressuring and capture of Iranian operatives in Iraq”

    Indeed, or for that point the al Qaeda operatives Iran captured and doesn't turn over, or the People's Mujahideen currently in American custody, or…

    “blunting telling the Iranians to stay out of Iraq's business is like China telling us to stay out of Mexico's affairs.”

    Or like telling Japan to stay out of China, for that matter, which is a good comparison, as in that case we were fighting before we were fighting [1]…

    [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panay_incident

  3. Dan,

    What of the global residual effects in terms of energy? We've seen oil prices rising in light of the possibility of real friction between Britain and Iran. Wouldn't collapsing the Iranian regime have a devastating effect on oil prices?

    Further, despite it's obnoxious figurehead and the dandy band of bearded sages that lead Iran, much of it's young populace hold a decidedly pro-western ideal. Should we waste that generation as they become uber-nationalists in light of our attack?

    I don't see this as a wash. I see it as a lose/lose situation for America and the rest of the world.

  4. Jay,

    Energy costs are clearly a factor. Energy exporters such as Russia and Saudi Arabia would benefit. Intensive energy users such as China would lose. Flexible economies, such as the US and Europe, will feel short term pain but can expect to lessen future imports from volatile regions as a consequence (as was the case in the 70s and 80s).

    I agree with you on the pro-westerness of Iranians. But the nature of whole populations is a fluffy area, and it's hard to see how one thing effects another. Did the Chinese population become more pro-Western because we didn't react forcefully after Tiananmen Square? Do Serbian youth hold regular anti-American rallies?

  5. Syria's Baathist regime is dominated by the Alawites, a wacky offshoot sect of Islam recognized as being part of the Shiite world for reasons of state as much as of religion.

  6. Mark, no argument. The Alawite devotion to Ali makes them more Shia than note, just as a Marian cult would be more Catholic than not, though their faith is not the same as that of Tehran or Baghdad.

    The analysis works within these confines. The Alawis are a non-Sunni minority in an overwhelmingly Sunni state, and thus cleavve to fellow non-Sunni Muslims in Lebanon and Iran.

    Ending the IRI would slow the Big Bang by strengthening Saudi Arabia's government, but also speed it up by weakening Syria's minority government. It's a wash.

  7. Consider that ~$20 of the current price of oil is a “fear premium” that the market builds in due to risk of serious disruption in oil production. It would depend on how the war ended.

    If Iran turned into a radioactive parking lot, Mad Max: Road Warrior or some other more likely scenario where Iranian oil production dwindled to nothing but they stopped interfering in Iraq, the increase in Iraqi oil production would make up the difference in probably less than 12 months.

    Of course, during that 12 months people will be doing all kinds of things to reduce their consumption of very expensive gasoline as well as produce more fuel to cash in on the energy bonanza.

    The United States is already building ethanol production capacity at a rate that is comparable to the increase in airplane manufacturing during World War II. Every car made in the US since the early 1970s can use 10% ethanol without damage. Ethanol actually boosts octane so 10% ethanol 90% gasoline mixture gets a 95 octane rating.

    Brazil makes ethanol from sugar cane which is much more efficient than using as most of the US ethanol is made. It costs $0.50 to make a gallon of ethanol in Brazil vs $1.00 in the US. Brazilian ethanol technology is already being installed all over the world in places where sugar cane is grown. Perhaps you might want to add any part of Africa that is stable enough to grow, harvest and process sugar cane into ethanol and only steal in moderation to your list of winners. Europe will be sending plenty of money in their direction.

    China will be less disrupted than you might think. They finished construction of the Three Gorges Dam last year and they are installing power generation turbines now. They already generated 49 billion kilowatt hours of electricity last year. Eventually they will double that. A lot of the petroleum that China imports is used to power factories when they have a power black out. With all this additional power generation coming on line, black outs should be a lot less frequent.

    One other winner that might be mentioned is Lebanon. Even if the Islamic Brotherhood wanted to make trouble, I think that Lebanon is less fertile ground for them and they would also have to deal with Hezballah.

  8. Dan,
    Firstly, you spelt “peace” wrong 😉 Otherwise, you're correct that Iran would have made a good partner for peace. It's to bad Bush didn't want to play ball: http://www.guardian.co.uk/iran/story/0,,1770635,00.html and http://www.guardian.co.uk/uklatest/story/0,,-6518166,00.html

    Secondly, they kidnapped our soldiers in retaliation for an American attack on high-ranking Iranian officials:
    http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/article2414760.ece

    Daniel

  9. Daniel,

    Thank you for your comment. Good name, as well. 🙂

    Quite right on the spelling.

    I think it's too bad that both Tehran and Washington were more interested in thier other pursuits than approaching each other. Iran could have easily diffused tensions by stopping its illegal nuclear proliferation. Washington could have easily diffused tensions by accepting the Aryan entreaties you list above.

    Additionally, both governments took steps they knew would increase tensions. Iran funded and supported the killing of American soldiers who were operating under the invitation of a government friendly to both Iran and Washington. America for its part disrupted Iranian quasi-diplomatic operations in Iraq, almost certainly without consulting the proper Iraqi authorities.

    Mark in Texas,

    “people will be doing all kinds of things to reduce their consumption of very expensive gasoline as well as produce more fuel to cash in on the energy bonanza.”

    This is the best retort to most doom-and-gloomers of a war with Iran. (Except for Barnett, who requires a more subtle response [1] ). Perfectly said.

    Because of the uneducated Shia plurality in Lebanon, the educated Sunni and Catholic populations have worked well there for quite some time. Better lands for the Muslim Brothers are Egypt and Syria — where they can hardly do worse than the thugs who currently are there. Indeed, they would probably do better [2].

    [1] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2007/04/03/the-falklands-war-reloaded.html
    [2] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2006/08/24/a-new-middle-east-part-iv-islam-is-the-answer.html

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