Monday, August 21, 2006

Iran's Ambitions: It's Not the Nuclear Weapons, Stupid

Whether Iran does or doesn't actually seek to develop its own nuclear weapons--and I have yet to see any definitive proof or a convincing argument that it does--it has learned a valuable lesson from its Russian and Chinese allies. In the Next World Order, energy will be the form of power that drives international pecking orders. Military power will take a seat toward the rear of the bus.

As I've stated in the Next World Order series and Wars and Empires, empires rise and fall. Some fall gently; some fall into the footnotes of another empire's history books. Thanks to the neoconservative misadventures in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Lebanon, the day of American global hegemony is already in its twilight. The United States needs to craft a grand strategy that will achieve for it a lasting status as a "first among nations," but to do so successfully it must recognize that it needs to cede the rest of the world a larger piece of the power pie.

The Next World Order is Already the New World Order

The Next World Order model identifies five basic tiers of state, multi-state and non-state political entities: global powers, balance powers, regional powers, wild cards, and "others."

The top tier global powers are the world's three largest economies (as identified in purchasing power parity Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by the CIA World Factbook): the United States ($12.36 trillion), the European Union ($12.18 trillion) and China ($8.86 trillion). These CIA figures are 2005 estimates, but the economic dominance of these three powers is real, and likely to last for some time to come. Number four on the CIA's 2005 GDP list is Japan at $4.02 trillion. Next comes India at $3.6 trillion, then Germany at $2.5 trillion, and the numbers drop off sharply from there.

The balance powers--Britain, Japan, and Russia--are states that by virtue of their histories, cultures and geographic locations are able influence the world-wide balance of power by forming permanent or ad hoc alliances with one or more of the global powers.

Regional powers like India largely owe their status to the size of their economies relative to the GDPs of their regional neighbors. India may be on the verge of becoming a balance power thanks to its military (and particularly its naval force), stable institutions and rate of economic growth. But unlike the three current balance powers, it doesn't have experience as an empire in its own right. It has never shouldered the burden of managing or controlling a significant network of colonies, satellite states, protectorates and so forth.

Wild cards, as the name implies, are up for grabs. They could get completely out of hand or they could settle into one of the more rational political categories. Right now, Iran is one of the wild cards.

The "others?" Well, that's an admittedly over-simplistic way of labeling everybody else. Some "others" are jockeying to be something other than what they are. Other "others"--like Canada and Australia--are more or less content, willing to serve balance and regional power roles as required, but otherwise comfortable with their places in the world, and the security and prosperity that their long standing relationships with global and balance powers provide them.

Iran's Star Rising

Dick Cheney's echo chamberlains continue to insist that Iran is pursuing the capability to produce its own nuclear weapons. Iran continues to insist that it only wants to develop its own technology to produce nuclear energy, guaranteed by the Non-Proliferation Treaty as an "inalienable right." Cheney and his Iranian Directorate intelligence cherry pickers have yet to produce a shred of evidence to prove the Iranians are lying. Conversely, the Iranians have done little to convince the rest of the world that they're telling the truth.

Wherever the truth lies in this question, I'm convinced that Cheney's gong banging about Iranian nuclear weapons is a distraction stratagem. From the neoconservatives' perspective, the "threat" is not a nuclear weapons program that may or may not exist. It's Iran's nuclear energy program.

Whatever political clout nuclear weapons might give Iran, it's nothing compared to the kind of leverage, prestige and economic power a homegrown nuclear energy program would provide. Powering its industrial and expansion with nuclear energy will allow Iran to sell more of its oil to big clients like China (which in turn will help finance the industrial expansion.)

As time goes on, and the rest of the world edges away from dependence on petroleum based energy, an Iran with a mature nuclear energy program will be the entire Muslim world's gateway to the twenty first century, and its allies China and Russia will be the "larger power" beneficiaries. Iran will elevate itself from wild card status to that of both a regional power and, more importantly, a balance power. That, of course, means that the American neoconservative vision of a U.S. controlled Middle East from a compliant, centrally located Iraq will have been a total bust.

Therein lies the Cheney neo-cabal's real concern. Beating the war drum over Iran's real or imagined nuclear weapons ambitions is a smoke screen to justify taking out Iran's nuclear energy program--the program they're entitled to have under the Non-proliferation Treaty to which the U.S. is a signatory.

A saner, Cheney-free America would take a realistic approach to the Iran "problem." It would recognize that nations like Iran have legitimate ambitions, and support those ambitions. It would recognize that doing so would bring nations like Iran into the U.S. sphere of influence. Alas, the Cheney-centric foreign policy chooses instead to push emerging powers like Iran into the arms of America's major competitors.

That's a shame. America and Iran have an ideal opportunity to cozy up right now. After all, both countries presently have a lot in common, especially regarding their governmental structures. In Iran, the president doesn't really wield the power; Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei does. In America, the president doesn't really wield the power either; Dick Cheney does.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.


  1. Anonymous9:42 AM

    Wouldn't the ability to construct a dirty bomb significantly shift the balance of power in the Middle East, in that both sides can play the Samson card?

  2. Yes and no. I'm not sure what you mean by a "dirty bomb," but am guessing you mean a modern nuke.

    I really don't know how much difference the bomb makes balance of power wise. The consequences of using one in a first strike are so dire, the darn things almost aren't worth having.

    But I don't pretend to know for sure if Iran is telling the truth about its bomb ambitions.

    I am confident of their energy ambitions, however, and believe that's what the Cheney-bots are really worried about.

  3. plz see this

  4. Interesting article. Thanks for the link, Mahmoud.

  5. Anonymous2:08 AM

    When last I looked, Britain was a member of the European Union?

  6. It is, and it's also Britian. In longer description of the NWO model, I delve further into the political identity issue. One of the very reasons that Britian is a balance power is that it's also part of a larger global power.

    And as I allude to here, some entities may take on the tasks of entities at other levels of power from time to time.

    If you like, you can read more about it by clicking on the Next World Order link in the left hand column of this page.

  7. Anonymous8:53 AM

    A "dirty bomb" is what you get when you mix enough TNT, RDX or the like with enough highly radioactive waste and perhaps an altimeter to thoroughly contaminate and sterilize the affected area of all organisms. You irradiate rather than BBQ the target area. This is what MacArthur wanted to do at the 38th parallel prior to his dismissal.

    Nuclear deterrence only works when one party is sane enough to refrain from using the bomb....

    The notion that it matters in what currency commodities are priced would baffle any competent economist. As long as currencies are freely exchangeable, as they've been since the 70s, it's all but meaningless. The only real effect is that if oil were priced in euros, most central banks would move some reserves into euros, which would cause some small inconveniences as the Fed adjusted its monetary policy. The move to euros was nothing but a symbolic gesture. There is no field of science in which seemingly credible humbug is easier to write than economics...

    Many if not most financiers are skeptical the euro is a long-term workable proposition. The United States is able to maintain a single currency, because there is a lot of mobility between the states, and booming states subsidize less prosperous ones.

    Europe does have all that much mobility between language zones, and Germans, for example, are loath to subsidize sempiternal basketcases such as Sicily. The Gold Standard had the same problems after the end of the British empire, and was abandoned for the same reason.

    Great Britain was a very willing participant in the ERM, the Euro's predecessor, until its politicians were faced with a choice between 10 years of recession or leaving it.

  8. Anonymous12:09 PM

    The Islamic Rpublic is very aware of the threats surrounding it (U.S. 5th naval force, the U.S. command center in Qatar, and thousands of U.S. troops stationed in Iraq and other american golf tribes and the israeli forces stationed in occupied Palestine. Hence, the option to shift its peacful nuclear program to a military one remains open. Now, what worries most the american regime is that decision makers in Iran will try to achieve the ultimate vision of the Imam Rohoallah Khomeini of spreading the islamic revolution throughout the middle east and north africa. Some of the readers might argue that it is not possible to achieve that but so far the islamic republic has been scoring points ang expanding influence from bahrain to lebanon and occupied Palestine where the traditional failed role of pro american arab states in solving problemes in the region had been a fiasco. Iran is takng the lead now and playing the card in a very calculated way to gain support in the arab street knowing that the U.S. support to failed arab government will one day fade away as it did with shah.
    What the american strategists ignoring is a tsunami that might come from within the arab street the same way it did back in 1979 and when that day comes, Iran will be already established as a leader of the muslim world both sunnis and shiaates will accept the leadership of Iran. You might say that i'm a bit of a dreamer but history doesn't lie and whereever you have the same symptoms , you have the same illness. One thing that american administrations failed to learn is that supporting a dictator for national security purposes will one day come back and hunt you.