What does Iran want? The list probably includes the following: Iran wants to be a world power and be recognized as such. It wants to be the major political and religious force in the Middle East. It wants to impose its brand of Islam on its neighbors. It wants to mitigate the influence of the U.S. and other Western nations in the Middle East ending more than a hundred years of “exploitation.” It wants to eliminate Israel and regain control of the Holy Land for Islam.
How will Iran attempt to accomplish its objectives? Iran will use its vast oil reserves to pay for its wish list. It will try to develop a deliverable nuclear device, which will be used to threaten anyone who defies it. It will continue to bash Israel as the main reason for all the problems of the Middle East. It will lead the assault on the U.S. to decrease its global influence. It will finance terrorism in the form of insurgencies to disrupt surrounding nations. It will unleash insurgents on those countries that do not accept its form of Islam. It will continue to stir up controversy with tactics such as the threat to close the Strait of Hormuz.
What are the barriers to Iran achieving its goals? The U.S. and Israel will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear bomb. Iran's neighbors will ostracize Iran and encourage invasion by the U.S. It will have to deal with a growing democratic force within its own borders. This will surely lead to human rights violations inflicted on its people. Outrageous actions (Hormuz and the like) and rhetoric (such as that by its puppet president) on an international stage will continue to outrage the global community. It is likely that Sunni nations will finance retaliatory insurgencies against Iran perpetuating the centuries old Shia/Sunni feud.
What is the end game? It's likely that Iran will temper its provocative rhetoric as the threat of an invasion increases. It may even suspend work on its nuclear program to appease critics. Assaults on other nations will be more conspiratorial and difficult to ascribe to Iran; terrorism is the obvious way to accomplish this. Iran will increase diplomatic rhetoric against the West in public forums such as the United Nations and in meetings amongst the oil producing nations. It may try to manipulate the oil market to put pressure on western countries. Iran will be subjected to more demands from its own people, who are unhappy with oppressive rule. It is this last item, in conjunction with increasing sanctions from the West, that could lead to the downfall of the current regime.
What are the risks to the global community? Oil, oil, oil. Any conflict will disrupt the flow of oil and have a detrimental impact on the global economy. If the pressure on Iran were increased to a very high level, it may strike out against its neighbors; Israel and/or Saudi Arabia would be the obvious choices. Retaliation, in this case, is inevitable and would be led by Israel and the U.S. Iran’s actions and attitudes will fracture the fragile status quo of the region. Countries will have to choose sides, especially if conflict ensues. The situation could easily lead to a Gulf War-like scenario, in which the global community of nations supports an invasion of a hostile country.
What are the odds that violence can be avoided? Iran is in total control of its own destiny. It is not too late for it to change its course and avoid conflict. To do this, Iran would have to immediately decrease its rhetoric, suspend its nuclear program, provide a path to democracy for its people and set aside its objectives for Shiite domination of the Middle East. The odds? Not great.
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