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How Iran Changed U.S. Strategic Assets into Liabilities and Altered the World Balance of Power

By Mohamad Shaaf

October 31, 2019 "Information Clearing House" -    This essay explains the evolutionary process as the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) moved from a weak regional power, through gradual and exponential growth and assertiveness, to test the US power as demonstrated by recent challenges. This progression occurred because the US situated multiple strategic interests in the area effectively disabling itself; the US is now unable to mount a military response to actions by Iran. The recent reversal has had an impact on the world balance of power confirming another failure of the neocons’ doctrine of Full-Spectrum Dominance, and validates emergence of a new multi-polar world.

A Brief History of IRI: The IRI was created in December 1979 as a theocracy, founded by Ayatollah Khomeini, and succeeded by Ayatollah Khamenei. The IRI government setting and economic structure were unique and unparalleled in the modern world. In the early months of the upheaval, the idea was appealing to many Muslims world-wide. Over time, with the structural, economic, political and social changes that took place, the appeal declined. Naturally, it polarized Iranian people into two extremes, supportive and hostile, to IRI that divides individuals by class, wealth, education level, geography, and even families. However, this divide is qualitatively different in the sense that supporters are much more passionate than those in the opposition.

The IRI’s dynamics have evolved to an increasing oil dependency by the government and the country, a bloated governmental budget, corruption, capital flight, hostility and economic sanctions, and including maximum pressure of all types by the US. The IRI’s popular support has been declining until recently when many switched to support of the government as Iran was faced with the existential threat of war of all forms, including nuclear and the one Tehran called “economic terrorism” by the US. It might come as a surprise to readers that many Iranians believe the IRI was created and imposed on the Iranian people by the CIA and deep state, as a strategic measure against the Soviet Union. There are several reasons for this claim.

First, ideological compatibility of capitalism and Muslim clergy as zealous anti-communist, indicated by their historical records, was promoted by the CIA and financed by Saudi Arabia worldwide.

Second, the same regime-change model was used to topple the pro-Soviet government in Afghanistan on August 5, 1979. Likewise, recent support of the “moderate opposition” used to topple governments in Libya, and Syria support that claim.

Third, the contingency plan to replace the Shah with a theocracy started in the 1960s when the CIA advised him to expand Muslim ideology through building more mosques all over Iran, with networks of clergy used as anti-communist fanatics. This CIA pursued the same policy in many other countries with the financial support of the Saudis, including Afghanistan, Chechnya in Russia, China, and many others, as indicated in the video Oil, Arms, and Militant Muslim Wahhabism is the Basis of US-Saudi Relationship.

Fourth, Richard Helms was appointed Ambassador to Iran (1973-1977), coinciding with the Arab oil embargo in 1973. He established a strong working relationship with the Shah, including installation of spy equipment to monitor the USSR, while keeping the Shah’s terminal prostate cancer a secret from everyone. One year after Helms left Iran, in 1978, street uprisings started that lead to the creation of IRI in 1979.

Fifth, during the uprising against the Shah in 1978 General Huyser had a secret mission to Iran, without the knowledge of the Shah, to make their military “neutral”, resulting in de facto support for the IRI that terminated the Shah’s rule in 1979.

Sixth, the Carter administration had extensive contacts, agreements and pledges with Ayatollah Khomeini that suggest the Carter administration paved the way for Khomeini to come to power; although the media reported the CIA did not predict the revolution. Interference cannot be proved because the CIA report has not been declassified, although it passed the 25 year requirement.

Seventh, the American Hostage Crisis facilitated the passage of the referendum of theocratic Constitution of IRI and was used by the 1980 Reagan-Bush Campaign, through secret negotiations with Khomeini to keep the hostages, to cause President Carter to lose the election.

A Brief History of US Hostility against Iran: Since the IRI took over in 1979 the US has been involved in overt and covert hostility against that government. In 1977, President Carter started a campaign of human rights, which led to releasing of political prisoners by the Shah and his SAVAK. It was followed by a massive popular uprising against the Shah who was told by Washington to leave Iran, resulting in the creation of the Islamic Republic. On November 4, 1979, militant Iranian students seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran. Iran’s leader, Khomeini, refused all appeals to release the hostages, even after the UN Security Council demanded an end to the crisis. In response President Carter ordered freezing Iranian assets and banned Iranian oil imports. The IRI kept 52 captives in the American Embassy for 444 days, releasing them on President Reagan’s Inauguration.

In September 1980, the US gave the green light and weapons in support of Iraq’s invasion and war against Iran; weapons were also sold to Iran indirectly through Iran Contra and Israel. According to the American Senate Banking Committee, the administrations of Presidents Reagan and George H. W. Bush authorized the sale to Iraq of poisonous chemicals and deadly biological viruses, such as anthrax and bubonic plague, to be used against Iran. On July 3, 1988 a US warship shot down an Iranian passenger plane, killing all 290 people to force Iran to accept the UN-brokered ceasefire that was accepted in August 1988. The number of casualties of the Iran-Iraq war was enormous but numbers are uncertain. Estimates of total casualties ranged from 1M to 2M, with Iran suffering the most losses.

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In 1989, when the USSR collapsed and fear of communism declined, Islamic Iran lost its value as a counterforce against communism. As a consequence, pressures on Iran that started under G.H.W. Bush and continued under Clinton showed a steady increase; after 9-11 the threat of a new and higher level of military invasion of Iran began, using the threat “all options are on the table” including nuclear, started in 2001 during the administration of G. W. Bush, as confirmed by General Clark. The policy continued during the Obama and Trump administrations. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), called the Iran Nuclear Deal, that was agreed upon by Obama in 2015, did not remove the agreed upon sanctions and the withdrawal from that agreement by Trump resulted in more sanctions being added. The value of IRI as an anti-communist state declined further, as reflected by Trump insulting the Supreme Leader, which had never before happened.

Major Signs of a more Assertive Iran: Starting in 2012 the Iranian military sent advisors and later troops to Syria with support from Russian air cover to stop the US trained-Saudi financed terrorists’ aggression against the elected government of Syria. The operation was successful in that it showed the possibility that Obama’s doctrine of terrorists’ proxy war could be defeated. It was a very important event that made the US reconsider mercenary wars in the name of fighting terrorism. On December 5, 2011 Iran’s cyber warfare unit seized a US drone and safely landed it; they later reported that it was successfully copied. Then Iran started its own domestic mass production and improvement of drones for precision and range, and relatively inexpensively, $15,000 as compared to $220M for the US version. In November 2016, Iran acquired Russian S-300s, then copied and placed them into mass production with improvements that were more advanced than US Patriot missiles which were unable to defend Saudi’s oil refinery.

In June 2019 Iran shot down a $220M US surveillance drone over its territory while intentionally avoiding hitting another aircraft with a crew. Then, Trump ordered a military strike against Iran radar and missile sites then reversed the decision, and thanked Iran for not shooting down the aircraft with a crew. Even more importantly, Iranian sources reported that the Trump administration proposed a deal to Iran of providing three self-chosen empty targets in Iran and allow US military hit those targets as a face-saving action. Iran responded that it will shootdown any US attempted strike. On July 4, 2019 the UK, a US ally, seized a supertanker off Gibraltar carrying Iranian oil. Iran responded by seizing a British tanker, (Video) then Iran offered to swap seized oil tankers, the UK accepted that proposal and it was executed. Later Iran claimed it could sink a U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier. Most recently the US moved its MECOM base out of Qatar since it was considered a “sitting duck.” Iran refers to CENTCOM as a “terrorist entity in reaction to the US calling IRGC a terrorist group.

Conclusions: The IRI evolved from a defenseless nation in 1988 to its current defensive strength using a massive number of home-made S-300s and drones as well as home-made offensive missiles and drones. Meanwhile, Iran is surrounded by US military bases with large numbers of troops and assets, including all types of weapons, ships, and fighter planes; that have been effectively converted into high-cost targets, and defenseless liabilities for the US. This is confirmed by a lack of US response to Iran for recent actions: Iran shooting down a US drone, becoming a Yemen ally, hitting Saudi’s oil facility, and the US moving out of Qatar; four examples of the ever-changing balance of power in the Middle East. Although, the US still remains the driving power in governance of the world, that power is waning rapidly.

Mohamad Shaaf, MBA, PhD, is an Emeritus Professor of Economics at the University of Central Oklahoma, an empirical research-analyst and has published on a variety of economic issues in professional journals, using Artificial Intelligence, Dynamic Programing, and Econometric Models.  His email is: mshaaf@uco.edu

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