May 16, 2007

Time is NOT on Iran's Side

The two major currents in Shia today are Grand Ayatollah Sistani's quietism and Iranian khomeinism. They are unalterably opposed to each other, one shunning direct political activity, the other wholeheartedly embracing it. This conflict, like many others had its lid kept on by Saddam's Baathist dictatorship. Iraqi quietism is probably the best vector we have to implement a firm kill as opposed to Tom Barnett's soft kill option (killing via connectivity), a scenario that I've never quite got with regards to Iran since the Iranians aren't stupid and know how to make themselves repulsive enough that they will always be able to limit connectivity sufficiently (through foreign disconnection campaigns) to maintain a grip on power.

Yet Barnett has a real point when he says:

We have Iran over the barrel but can't see the opportunity because of our strange fixation on global gun control.

Proliferation is irrelevant when the government of Iran is our friend. An illustration is that we fundamentally do not care that Japan could become a nuclear weapons power inside of a year and that they are too vital to the world economic system to ever become subject to a significant sanctions regime. Even the PRC (no friend of Japan there) does not dream of denying or rolling Japan back to a position where they do not have this breakout capacity.

Thus the solution to the Iranian problem is making the government of Iran our friend (at least to the level of friendship with France) no matter which faction is in power. But the US is singularly ill equipped to fight a religious conflict. We would tear apart our 1st amendment if we were to do such a thing. Here is where Grand Ayatollah Sistani comes in.

For his own reasons and completely independently of the US, he is the mortal enemy of khomeinism. He wants quietist Shiism to prevail. And he is winning.

In Tehran's storied central bazaar, an increasing number of merchants are sending their religious donations, a 20 percent tithe expected from all who can spare it, to Iraq's most senior Shi'ite cleric -- rather than to clerics closer to Iran's state power structure, said Jawad al-Ghaie, 48, a wholesaler of false eyelashes and nail extensions and a respected lay donor.

Speaking carefully to avoid directly challenging the Iranian government, he and several fellow merchants suggested that Iraq's Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani holds more spiritual sway because of his lifelong commitment to quietism. That is the school of thought that says Shi'ite leaders should stay out of government, and Sistani has stuck to it despite the great temptation to wade into the chaos of Iraqi politics.

This is not the kind of fight where they hand out a scorecard and you know all the players. It is also a fight where the Heisenberg principle is in partial effect. Observing the participants too energetically affects the outcome, usually to our disadvantage. It's not out of line, however, to observe that your religious enemy is squashing pygmies for you because you have such mojo inside their own camp that they have to protect you to some extent. It's a rare public sign that they're losing the fight and the battlespace is being set for the firm kill.

Posted by TMLutas at May 16, 2007 01:39 PM