As usual, the idea for this essay was borne, when several aspects came together. The first was when I heard on the Sky News channel that the Americans were complaining about the fact that several Iraqi road side bombs were either designed in or actually being constructed in Iran.
The view that there is a nexus between Iran and Iraq has been endorsed by Condoleezza Rice, who said a few months ago that Iran "does need to understand that it is not going to improve its own situation by stirring instability in Iraq," and by George W. Bush, who said, in August, that "Iran is backing armed groups in the hope of stopping democracy from taking hold" in Iraq. Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker, of Abou Ghareeb fame, wrote recently: "More and more people see the weakening of Iran as the only way to save Iraq."
The second aspect emerged when I was trying to write about the future of Iraq and the fact that Iraq, as we know it now, doesn't really have any strongly unifying national ethos or ideology.
The final aspect came up when I was reading Robert Fisk's magnum opus, "The Great War for Civilisation – the Conquest of the Middle East." My overall thought at the end of all this was, Lord, I hope Dubya doesn't attack Iran, because if he does, it will be yet another spectacular mistake. I have already written about Iran and its nukes (http://piquancy.blogspot.com/2005/04/chasm-between-haves-and-have-nots.html) and why attacking Iran won't be such a good idea (http://piquancy.blogspot.com/2006/01/between-nuke-and-hard-place.html), but the more I read about the happenings in the U.S.A., the more worried I get. I am seriously concerned about President George Bush, his cabinet, the armed forces and the GOPs ideas.
Slowly and surely, as of middle of February 2007, the noises around attacking Iran are steadily becoming more and more cacophonous. Seymour Hersh further wrote recently that U.S. officials were involved in "extensive planning" for a possible attack - "much more than we know." (http://www.newyorker.com/printables/fact/061127fa_fact)
There is not much point going on about the respective strengths of the militaries, the local geo-political situation or the possibility of non-conventional war, as they have been discussed before, but what I do want to concentrate on is what Kautilya has talked about. Kautilya defined the most important aspect of one's enemy as being the enemy's mental strength. In this particular case, I am afraid, Iran is not Iraq.
While debating this, we can look at what potential angle to take if the grand panjandrums do want to do something about Iran, purely as a theoretical exercise. To understand and appreciate the mental strength of your enemy, history is a very good starting point. That allows one to avoid getting sucked into the day-to-day humdrum aspects of the number of 155 mm guns or the coverage of their air defence network. Persia, the old name of Iran, has an amazing history, almost rivaling that of Egypt. But unlike Egypt, Iran kept hold of its history, its culture, language and ethos, even after the Islamic conquest, something which I find very curious and strange. I intend to explore this strange phenomenon in a later essay, and look into how huge blocks of history are simply and explicitly lost.
The Iranians kept their pride in their long history. The fact that despite conquering Persia - Alexander the Great ended his life as a Persian with ringlets and huge palaces says a lot. Their culture, in terms of arts, is extremely strong - be that painting, famous miniatures, drama, poetry, song or music.
Look at their military strategy, civil administration and judicial systems down the ages. For a long period of human time, Persian/Farsi was known across the world, ranging from China to India as the only civilised language. And believe me, if you hear Farsi, it is such a mellifluous language. Now, imagine that lovely language reading the poems of Rumi, Khayam, Ghalib, just to name a few of a long list of famous Persian poets. Even me, a confirmed poetry illiterate knows about these great poets and their prolific, lovely and beautiful output.
But besides this, Iran is now the repository of Shia Islam, a particular sect of Islam (we won't go into the differences and minute details here). Suffice to say, Shia Islam is heavily symbolic in nature and more ritualistic as compared to the more traditional Sunni Islam. Hey, don't quote me on this, I am no theologian; these are just my impressions from a long time ago. I grew up in a Shia Muslim town in India. Muharram, Ashura, the Tajiza processions, the martyrdom of Hussayn and the Ijtema all were pretty much part and parcel of my growing up. Ah! Let me not forget the food during the festivals, the biryani and sweets were heavenly and I can still taste the biryani cooked by Abdul Mian.
One of the downsides (well, when you were a kid, all you wanted was to get to the food) of all this was that you had to sit and hear the stories of Ali Ashgar Ibn Husayn, Ali Akbar Ibn Husayn, Hussayn Ibn Ali, Qasim, etc. And if I, living thousands of miles away from Iran, the homeland of Shia Islam, can get to hear and imbibe all these stirring stories of martyrdom and bravery, you can just imagine the impact on a country full of these young chaps, who are full of religiously motivated fervour.
How does this matter? It matters indeed, because of a very small equation. Other things being equal, soldiers seeking religiously mandated martyrdom will always win over soldiers motivated by patriotism or money. This is so obvious that I simply cannot see why the U.S.A. would want to make these warlike noises or even consider going to war with Iran. Given the superiority of Iran in its local neighbourhood and the power of the religious pulpit, the U.S.A. is never going to win if it goes head to head with Iran.
We have already discussed two aspects of a potential Iran U.S.A. conflict and concluded that it's simply "nuts," to use a layman's term. While I am not one to indulge in conspiracy theories, I am getting a feeling that there is something which could be happening just under the surface. You see, this has happened before. At the end of the Iran-Iraq war, Iraq was on its knees. The huge waves of Iranian warriors overcoming the Iraqi army made its job very difficult. As mentioned by both Dilip Hiro (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Iran-Today-Dilip-Hiro/dp/1842751581/sr=1-1/qid=1171988586/ref=sr_1_1/026-8864672-0018039?ie=UTF8&s=books) and Robert Fisk, the western and Sunni powers got very worried about the possibility that Iran might win. Combined with very aggressive patrolling of the Persian Gulf and the Straits of Hormuz, the blatant crime of shooting down the Iranian Airliner by USS Vincennes (an essay on how the US Navy has shown a rather interesting streak of creating major foreign policy problems for the U.S.A., rather than resolving is in preparation), the supplying of arms and ammunition to the Iraqis, etc. - all put intolerable pressure on the Iranians. And they finally buckled and signed a ceasefire with Iraq.
Ayatollah Khomeini said that he had drunk from the poisoned chalice. This ceasefire, from all accounts, was one of the seminal moments of the Iranian Revolution. The Americans with their allies, managed to clip the wings of the Iranian revolution. Is that what is happening now? Look at the evidence! The Eastern Sunni provinces have seen unexplained bombings. The southern Arab areas have seen riots, shootings, bombings and protests. The Kurds in the north east are restive and are making loud noises about their independent brethren across the border in northern Iraq. The other minorities in North Iran are restless and links between Armenia and the Iranian Armenians are suddenly improving and much better than before. Oil prices are being pushed down strongly. Financial Institutions ranging from the international houses to emerging market banks are heavily withdrawing from any form of financial links with Iran (and there have been public examples of banks being very seriously punished for links with Iran).
All this has put immense pressure on Iran's friends and allies such as Japan, India and Pakistan against any form of oil relationships with Iran. International Oil companies are under severe pressure not to do any kind of work with Iran. Then there is the whole different area of pressure around the nuclear issue from IAEA and the UNSC. Is the U.S.A.'s way pf going around, in an indirect way, to put pressure on Iran to perhaps withdraw from supporting the Shia Iraqi insurgents as well as Hezbollah, in return for a grudging acceptance of the Iranian bomb? Who knows?
Take a look at the short lived story around the claims by the U.S. army that Iran is supplying bombs to the Shia militants. That was such a silly claim (even though it might be true) (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/830753.html), that I cannot believe that they expected Iran to grind its teeth and admit: "yes sir, yes sir, we did but we won't do it again sir."
So, there is definitely something else going on but here's hoping that USA doesn't wage war on Iraq. Covert yes; quite possibly, overt, please no!
All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!