Posts Tagged ‘Iran’

Here’s something that might help: a library of material on nonviolent struggle from the Albert Einstein Institution.  None of it is in Persian, but there are translations in multiple languages, including Azeri and Arabic, so hopefully someone can speak one of the languages and put it to use. 

Good luck.

P.S. For the regressive shouting-heads pushing for some sort of nebulous “intervention,” please grow up and open any American history book with a section on the 20th century. You’ll find a nice section about our history with Iran and plenty of good reasons for us not to Americanize the protests with heavy-handed Bush-II-like foreign policy stumbles. As Juan Cole wrote today:

American politicians should keep their hands off Iran and let the Iranians work this out. If the reformers have enough widespread public support, they will develop tactics that will change the situation. If they do not, then they will have to regroup and work toward future change. US covert operations and military interventions have caused enough bloodshed and chaos. If the US had left Mosaddegh alone in 1953, Iran might now be a flourishing democracy and no Green Movement would have been necessary.

Flooding any area with large numbers of armed people will always have larger ramifications than just the security implications in the immediate area. In Afghanistan, we have to look to the borders, to Pakistan and to Iran, to understand the implications of an escalation. In both cases, escalation poses grave risks for U.S. interests.

Let’s start with Iran.  According to the Congressional Research Service:

On one hand, Iran enjoys close, long-standing cultural, linguistic, and religious ties with significant portions of Afghanistan’s population. ISAF officials estimate that Iran is the second-largest contributor of reconstruction assistance to Afghanistan, after the United States – its efforts are most evident in Herat Province in western Afghanistan. And since Iran is a major destination for Afghan heroin, with all of its attendant concerns about crime and drug addition, Iranian officials share with their Afghan counterparts a vested interest in effective counternarcotics approaches. Some officials also point to the generally positive role Iran played at the 2001 Bonn Conference, to help forge consensus among Afghan factions about the creation of a post-Taliban government, as evidence that Iran can play a constructive role on Afghan matters.

At the same time, ISAF officials state that Iran has provided some weapons and training to Afghan insurgents. Some add that Tehran may be concerned about a growing U.S. military footprint along both its eastern and western borders, as additional U.S. military forces flow into southern Afghanistan, and U.S. forces assume battlespaces in southern Iraq that were formerly  manned by coalition partners.

One official argued that Iran’s interest is to “keep it simmering” in Afghanistan. Most practitioners and observers suggest that, in some capacity, a comprehensive solution for Afghanistan must take Iran into account.

Iran has a much, much deeper interest in a stable Afghanistan than we do since it shares a border with them…until you account for the presence of U.S. troops. The relationship between Iran and the United States, despite the historic opportunity after 9/11 to make some real breakthroughs, degenerated markedly throughout the Bush II years. Now, at the beginning of the Obama administration, Iran finds itself surrounded by U.S. troops, with a key U.S. ally in the region rattling sabres at it on regular intervals. President Obama can make all the friendly holiday videos he wants; the most important immediate decision he must make with regard to U.S./Iranian relations is whether or not to increase troop levels in Afghanistan.

Here’s the context we must consider: despite the President’s public declaration of an intended end-date to the Iraq occupation, because of the way troops are being shuffled around in Iraq, more U.S. troops are taking up positions near the Iranian border, not fewer. If President Obama wants to avoid raising all sorts of alarm bells, the last thing he should do is engineer a situation where more troops suddenly materialize on both Iranian frontiers at the same time. A military escalation to provide resources for counterinsurgency strategies, however, would do exactly that: already, U.S. troop strength is expected to rise between 50 and 100 percent if current escalation orders stand. If the president’s advisers sway him to fight a full-out counterinsurgency, that percentage could increase at a geometric rate.

In addition to U.S. forces garrisoning it’s neighbor, Iran also has to consider the effect of a U.S. counterinsurgency push on the Afghan National Army. It will simply not be possible, absent a draft, for the U.S. to field the numbers required by counterinsurgency doctrine. Already, the numbers being pushed to argue for the feasibility of a very limited escalation policy assume maxed-out numbers of reliable ANA forces, and as we’ve pursued counterinsurgency strategy, we and our favored allies in Kabul consistently raised the target number for final ANA end strength.

For example, according to CRS’s report, at the time of the Bonn Agreement right after the Taliban’s initial fall from power, ANA’s endstrength target was set at 70,000 personnel. In September 2008, the Afghan government raised that number to 134,000, almost double the previous target. John Nagl, one of counterinsurgency’s luminaries, has pushed for an ANA comprised of 250,000 troops. Another U.S. official said 300,000.

Where things get dicey from Iran’s perspective is when we push the Afghan government to grow its forces beyond what their national revenue stream can sustain. When that happens, foreign aid will be required to fund the ANA. Guess where that money will come from? You guessed it: the United States.

Growing the ANA to 134,000 – or more – raises the twin questions of funding and sustainability. It is expected that the currently planned ANA growth will be funded by the international community; the United States is currently the leading contributor. If GIRoA wanted to sustain the force beyond that time frame, theoretical options would include continued U.S. and international support, or Afghan assumption of some level of financial responsibility. Alternatives could include demobilizing some part of the force – if GIRoA had the ability to do so – or, hypothetically, making part of the force available to serve in multi-lateral peace operations, in which case the international community might bear some of its costs.

For the future, one option, in the absence of GIRoA ability to shoulder the burden, would be sustained international support, a responsibility likely to fall to the U.S. Government, based on current patterns.

So because of U.S. insistence on a counterinsurgency, Iran must now take into account not only actual U.S. troops on its borders, but also the numbers of U.S.-client military troops on its borders. By transforming the ANA into a force backed primarily by U.S. dollars, we’ve changed how Iran will assess them in its geopolitical considerations. Instead of a neighbor with whom Iran shares common interests and concerns, Afghanistan becomes a local military toadie for the Great Satan. This U.S.-backed transformation will severely undermine any remaining Iranian rationale for continued humanitarian support for Afghanistan, while heavily incentivizing their second track: “keeping it simmering” to cause us headaches and humiliation.

In short, if President Obama chooses to pursue a counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, he will waste a historic opportunity to thaw relations between the U.S. and Iran. That’s a huge opportunity cost, and not one we should pay.

Next: Counterinsurgency doctrine destabilizes Pakistan (and why you should care).

What you can do until then:

The anti-war movement in the U.S. has been described as the weakest social movement in America, and for good reason. The Military Industrial Complex (MIC) 2.0 is very, very smart.  It understands that Congress wields the power of the purse, and so it distributes its business across every single congressional district, thereby investing most Members’ constituencies economically in the various defense contractors’ well-being. How do you vote against the economic interests of your constituents (in a very concrete way, irrespective of whether your tax/budget policies in a wider sense harm your constituents) and keep your House or Senate seat? Let me give you a hint: you usually don’t.

It’s hard to tell what happened first in this chicken-egg situation: was the MIC 2.0 able to seed every congressional district in the country because the anti-war movement in the U.S. was so weak, or is the anti-war movement so weak because the MIC seeded every congressional district in the country? It really doesn’t matter. We’re hear now, with the Pentagon unable to wage war without the help of corporations, and a vast swath of U.S. citizens happy with it that way.

I had a thought while stuck in traffic this morning.  NPR aired a story about Gen. Odierno taking over in Iraq, which has been considered by some as an ominous indicator for our Iran policy, and I pondered what could be done to slow down what might be a very ugly process unfolding. It occurred to me that, while protests and symbolic action are important, considering where I was sitting at the moment, they’d be wholly insufficient.  The militarism of the U.S. is my daily routine multiplied by 350 million or so: my 30-minute, gasoline-powered commute to work, my patronage of companies-turned-defense-contractors, etc. In an important way, the typical daily routine of a typical American is the military-industrial complex, atomized and spread over the entire economy.  Those daily routines, and the howling protest that would ensue should they be altered by government policies (not to mention the economic strain on dependent communities), are the leverage used to generate ever more government patronage of not just a handful of egregious war profiteers, but a diffuse system of military corporate profit-sharing.

So. I’ve painted a pretty bleak picture here. What’s the point?  The point is that since, in a very real sense, the MIC has succeeded in turning itself into almost every American, every American has the ability to act on it.  The dynamics of the system emerge from us, so we can alter what emerges.

The traditions of the early Christians provides good guidance on how to deal with this situation.  For around three centuries, the church remained relatively uniform in its nonviolence.  The Apostolic Code of Hippolytus makes it clear that Christians serving in the military or in the civilian government who might be called on to kill or order the deaths of others must renounce the power of life and death over others or be rejected by the church. Kurlansky has noted that this attitude made the early Christians history’s first totally anti-war, anti-violence sect.  While the early church faced a rampant militarism hostile to the peace of Christ, they could probably never have imagined the sophistication of a military-industrial complex of today.  But, drawing on their general attitude, I’d cautiously offer the following update:

  • Christians should renounce killing in all forms, period. National interest and self-defense do not free us from Christ’s teachings and example.
  • Christians should renounce positions of authority that include the power to order the deaths of others.
  • Christians should withdraw from industries that profit from the production of weapons and should do all in their power to avoid patronizing such organizations.

This last point is not as simple as it sounds, though.  Nick Turse’s book The Complex details how pervasive military contracting is in our society. Endeavoring to follow this last bit of guidance will take constant effort, vigilance, and intentionality. But considering the state of the anti-war movement in general and the pervasiveness of MIC 2.0, it’s really the only viable option for either stopping the growth of American militarism, or at least removing Christian complicity with it.

Many Christian communities are working on what this could look like: check out The Simple Way and the New Monastics.

Hank Brusselback for VP, please.

“If the government isn’t willing to talk to people, then the people need to be willing to (talk to each other),” Brusselback said. “It comes from a belief in the nature of security — it’s not about weapons, fear and posturing on the world stage. It’s about communication, talking to people, everyone having their basic needs met. If you understood security that way, you’d see that security is about dialogue.”