Sunday, January 5, 2020

Don't expect a magic fix for Iranian conflicts - By Joseph Somsel

Various commenters opine this or that, saying we will someday, somehow resolve our conflicts with the Iranians.  Sanctions will make then a "normal nation," or killing so-and-so will pacify them, or sinking their navy will defang them, or bombing their oil refineries will bankrupt them.
The British never really conquered them but did have enough power over a backward 19th-century Persia to keep them from causing too much trouble in the region.  The exploitation of Persian oil by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (founded 1908) helped to restore some modicum of influence to the country.  It was Persian (and Iraqi) oil that fueled Churchill's dreadnoughts in WWI.  The Brits suffered nationalization of the oil after WWII and were relieved by the 1953 CIA effort to topple the socialist prime minister responsible.  As a marker, one could use 1953 as a handy start date for Persian resurgence against the West even with the temporary restoration of a shah friendly to the West until displaced in 1979.
The Roman Republic first went to war against the Persians in 69 B.C.  The Roman Empire continued the fight and then handed it off to their rump in the East, the Byzantine Empire.  Fighting finally ended in A.D. 629, not so much because the Persians became a "normal country" as because they were swept away by the conquests of Islam beginning in A.D. 633.
The lesson of history is that until the Persians are internally weakened, they will push against their neighbors in search of conquest and dominance.  Today, they face a weak oil market, reducing their export cash flow.  The rulers' fundamentalism works against modern economic development.  They see a demographic collapse, as few normal Persians have the hope of a better tomorrow to drive them to reproduce themselves.
So if we say the clash between the Persians and the West started in 1953, we're less than 70 years into our modern conflict.  The Romans suffered almost 700 years of the same.
Don't put any bets on some magic recipe for peace with the Persians.
Joseph Somsel is an American residing on the shores of the Arabian Gulf.