Friday, September 10, 2004

Iran's Bid for Regional Power: Assets and Liabilities: "The best-case scenario for Iran is that the U.S. military is forced to withdraw from Iraq, leaving Iran with a dominant sphere of influence over a Shi'a-dominated Iraq or a breakaway Shi'a mini-state in the south, and that Iran is able to achieve nuclear weapons capability. Were this outcome to occur, Iran would be the dominant power in the Persian Gulf, displacing the United States. The worst-case scenario is that the United States or Israel launches a preemptive strike on Iran's nuclear complex, possibly associated with American military efforts at regime change."

"Iran's polycentric decision-making system is, in fact, a source of strength in its current situation, since it leads structurally, rather than by design, to a multi-pronged strategy that hits all possible vulnerabilities of its adversaries, confuses them and allows for flexibility. If one policy fails, it will be deemphasized in favor of another. If one faction is discredited, another is ready to take its place. If all possible proxies in Iraq and Afghanistan are backed by one Iranian faction or another, downside risk is minimized and opportunity is enhanced. If reformists pursue commercialization of foreign relations and hard line traditionalists pursue militarization, Iran potentially gets the benefit of both tracks. It is impossible to predict whether Iran will succeed or fail in its bid for security and regional power, but its regime has impressive and surprising assets that work in its favor."

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