Thursday, March 23, 2017

What Kind of Benefit Does Iran Expect?

Why is Iran wrecking their economy to win in Syria? Normally you expect to achieve something worth the price you are paying. So what is Iran's payoff?


Estimates of Iran’s military expenditure in Syria vary from US$6 billion a year to US$15-US$20 billion a year. That includes US$4 billion of direct costs as well as subsidies for Hezbollah and other Iranian-controlled irregulars. ...

The Iranian regime is ready to sacrifice the most urgent needs of its internal economy in favor of its ambitions in Syria. ...

The Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps evidently has first claim on the public purse. It is also willing to shed blood. Reported dead among Iranian-led forces in Syria include at least 473 Iranians, 583 Afghans, and 135 Pakistanis, as well as 1,268 Shi’a fighters from Iraq. In addition, perhaps 1,700 members of the Hezbollah militia have died. Other estimates are much higher.

That casualty breakdown explains one question I had about reported casualty levels that implied all-Iranian casualties but that seemed unlikely to me. Iran is suffering. But they are trying to fight to the last Arab, Afghan, and Pakistani, as much as possible.

The author says the price being paid is for Russia (as the junior partner) and the leader China for the New Silk Road project and to avoid jihdis returning to China.

One, the idea that putting Shias into power in Iraq has caused Iran to be more dominant is ridiculous both as a moral matter of arguing for continuing Sunni Arab minority rule over the Shias in Iraq and in the laying of fault for allowing majority rule by destroying the Saddam regime in 2003; rather than being the fault of America leaving Iraq to the mercy of Iranian intrigue when we left in 2011.

The author quotes Ralph Peters as saying the Sunni Arabs would never give up when thrown out of power, which is the cause of our troubles in the region. But the Anbar Awakening (which was a vital part of the Surge offensive) prior to that statement proves that is wrong. The Sunni Arabs did give up.

But the Sunni Arabs took up arms again after America left and was no longer an honest broker to moderate Shia hatred of and fear of the Sunni Arab minority, which was fueled by unchecked Iranian influence in our absence.

And more to the point, I don't see why Iran would sacrifice so much for China. If China wants Iranian oil that desperately, Iran doesn't need to bleed money and men to get China to purchase Iranian oil.

Iran earns money exporting oil. Are the Iranians really banking on making money on the long-run project of being part of China's trade route to Europe?

And China is really fine with this Iranian level of support for war in the Middle East when surely China wants a peaceful Middle East producing oil for the world market at prices China can afford to import?


I don't buy this China explanation for Iran's commitment of blood and treasure to wars in Syria and around the Persian Gulf.

But that leaves unanswered the question of why Iran is making the sacrifice. Iran clearly expects a payoff from their sacrifice. That makes sense.

But what does a mullah-run Iran consider the payoff for their draining fight for Syria? Does the Iranian regime really have end-time fantasies of building the chaos that fulfills their prophecies of the "hidden (twelfth) imam?"

I don't know. I don't know much about that kind of thinking or about how many Iranian rulers think that way or whether so many decades after the revolution if there are still enough true believers to carry out such a project in the face of the cynically corrupt who benefit from the mullah-run economy and state.

Maybe the payoff is as simple as being able to kill Israelis by having allies in Syria and Lebanon:

In Moscow last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told President Vladimir Putin there could be no peace in Syria as long as Iranian forces remained there.

“Iran is arming itself and its forces against Israel, including from Syria territory, and is, in fact, gaining a foothold to continue the fight against Israel,” he said following his meeting with Mr. Putin.

As I've mentioned before, during the Iran-Iraq War Iran justified repeated human wave assaults on Saddam's Iraqi forces by saying they were trying to go through Iraq to get to Israel.

Iran expects something from their sacrifice. What?