Play the long game on Iran

Everything is focused on Iran. Everyone seems worried we’re going to war in Iran. And every time someone says President Trump is a warmonger (unlike President Obama, who was just quiet about killing people overseas), he goes off and does something non-warmongerish, like attacking the firms that ship oil to Iran.

He’s doing this because it really isn’t about Iran. The Iranian economy and government is on the brink of collapse. It’s propping itself up, but there are increasing protests against corrupt regime officials. There are similar protests in Hong Kong against corrupt Chinese regime overreach, and in Russia against election rigging.

War has a funny way of uniting an entire population against another population. Iran is itching for a war, not because it would win, but because it would distract its population from the poor economic situation they live in every day. Going to war with Iran, right now, is that last thing that we should be doing.

Instead, we need to apply pressure to what is propping up the Iranian regime, in this case Russia and China. Clamping down on illegal oil shipments is a start. But let’s take it one step further. The Russian oligarchs and Chinese officials that control most of the wealth in these countries are extremely unpopular. If their roles were emphasized, and sanctions imposed on their foreign investments, it would stoke the sympathy of Chinese and Russian populations.

The other point is looking at emerging countries and tamping down on their future oil requirements. Part of the reason oil continues to exert influence is that every time one country begins to ween off of oil, another emerging economy requires it. If the population of India suddenly started joining the middle class lifestyle, it would place a huge demand on oil that gives Russia and Iran significant influence. If the U.S. began exporting cheap, safe nuclear energy, that would make public transit viable in these countries, and keep oil from coming back in vogue. That’s playing the long game, but its our best bet for a long term win against Iran.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

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