July 19, 2004

Redrawing the Middle-East Map: 2000-2004


I have always considered the Iraq war, coupled with Afghanistan, as a strategy against IRAN, and that the benefits which came along with it (seed of democracy, Saddam on trial, etc.), secondary. I think to any halfway informed individual, Iran is the ultimate reforming goal. I do believe, the strategy has been "misunderstimated".
To which Professor Reynolds remarks:"It is interesting to put this stuff on a map...."

Like these: [Note: red=hostile to the United States, white=non-hostile, controlled by, or allied with the United States.

The Situation in the Middle East in 2000 - Click for larger view

The Situation in the Middle East in 2004 - Click for larger view

Note: This is a repost from a February 2, 2004 item -- American Digest: The Facts on the Ground

Posted by Vanderleun at July 19, 2004 11:21 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

"... a strategy against IRAN" A strategy in the mind of the beholder is a beautiful thing. Anyone in government or even a think tank hold this idea?

Posted by: Charles Croninger at July 19, 2004 12:51 PM

Why color red the PA? Israel has not given away that land -- just the authority to govern it. The PA has not yet declared statehood.

Posted by: David V.S. at July 19, 2004 2:14 PM

Superimpose an image of oil reserves and a strategy to counter Saudi Arabia rather than Iran becomes apparent. Pre-war, there was no alternative to the Saudis, and no policies could be considered that risked the fall of Saudi Arabia to its radical elements. With an Iraqi alternative, an attempt to address the source of radical islam w/in Saudi Arabia through becomes a risk that can be considered.

Posted by: J Barton at July 19, 2004 4:50 PM


A lot of people have held this idea for a very long time (which is several years in post 9/11 time).

Myself. Charles of LGF. Wretchard of Belmont Club. Trent Telenko of Tech Central and Winds of Change. And many others. The idea of looking at a map and seeing the obious is the first requirement for a military evaluation of any situation.

If it actually is our government strategy (jeez you can read a map can't you) I doubt that they will ever announce it.

Posted by: M. Simon at July 19, 2004 7:31 PM

M. Simon,

That is what I like about a dictatorship. They get things done.

Posted by: Charles Croninger at July 19, 2004 9:13 PM

"That is what I like about a dictatorship. They get things done."

Never been in an actual dictatorship, then?

Posted by: Charlie (Colorado) at July 21, 2004 7:22 AM

I don't think this is a secret. I recall reading an article about Paul Wolfowitz in early 2003 in which both strategies (i.e. isolating Iran and using Iraq as leverage against the Saudis) were discussed quite openly. My support for the liberation of Iraq was in part predicated on my belief that it was the key element in these two strategies.

If these strategies aren't widely understood, I can see why support for the liberation of Iraq has been so weak.

Posted by: Tedd McHenry at July 21, 2004 7:57 AM

i don't see why toupling one of iran's biggest enemies (iraq) would help topple iran. if anything, the shiite extremists in iraq are now free to mingle with those in iran. the only benefit i see is letting iran realize the US is willing to attack pre-emptively, thereby scaring iran into _preparing_ for the inevitable invasion... i think the 'seed of democracy/free market' is the real reason for iraq invasion, to leverage against both iran AND SA.

Posted by: josko at July 21, 2004 8:51 AM

Charles: What does dictatorship have to do with it?

Strategies need not be announced, even in non-dictatorships. Especially when announcing them would make them much more likely to fail.

Last I checked Congress was still in control of major military operations (see War Powers Act), and our President didn't take military action against Afghanistan or Iraq without Congressional approval.

Doesn't sound like a dictatorship to me.

(And as others have said, the idea isn't new. Plenty of think-tankers have had it. I'd be astounded if nobody in the administration had... but they're not talking about it, to avoid stirring up the usual nests of gnats. Such as, it appears, from your dictatorship comment, yourself.)

Josko: Look at the map. Notice that Iran is now surrounded by white. This can only encourage the dissenters and make the Mullahs nervous. Democracy is important, too, for just the same reasons (and strategically, moreso).

Iraq was one of Iran's enemies, but not a militarily significant one (that is, a REAL threat to Iran's existence), after 10 years of sanctions (and they fought each-other to a stand-still before that).

Posted by: Sigivald at July 21, 2004 10:06 AM

While I generally agree with the hypothesis of strategic fragmentation of Islamists/dictatorships, there are several inaccuracies in your map. Firstly, Jordan has been an American ally since the mid-90s. It should not be red.

Secondly, Yemen is now an American ally and should not be red in 2004. There are American special forces operating in Yemen and the government has cracked down hard on Islamists.

Thirdly, are we talking about general public sentiment or governments? If the former, almost all of the mid-east should be red now. If the latter, Egypt should always have been considered an ally. It's the second-biggest recipient of US military aid in the world.

Lastly, create a similar map set for Europe. The results aren't pretty.

NB: I supported the war and still do, but this analysis is simplistic at best.

Posted by: Krypter at July 21, 2004 10:13 AM

Yeah, in what sense are Iraq and Afghanistan no longer "non-hostile, controlled by, or allied with the United States" ?

Posted by: phil jones at July 21, 2004 12:15 PM


Thanks for covering my backside. Outstanding job.


Any way of looking at things is a simplification. We simply do not have enough brain cells and sensors to get it all. Any generalization is prone to falisification at specific points. The deal is: can you use the generalization to formulate and solve problems?

If you want a very quick shot of overall strategy the map for all its faults is a fairly good representation of the broad outline of the American strategic plan.

Posted by: M. Simon at July 21, 2004 5:54 PM

Both Afghanistan and Iraq were appropriate wars in their own right. After all, going after Iran with Saddam sitting there would have been tricky.

But the use of those invasions to negatively influence Iran has been obvious for quite a while. It is why Iran is supporting insurgents in both countries.

But now we've got them surrounded. The people already want democracy and did before Iraq. So what do we do next? We have most of our army tied up in Iraq (although it's possible that there's a bunch of reserve combat power sitting there not being used). The Israelis have commandos in Iraqi Kurdistan.

It's a race. If Iran suddenly announces possession of several nukes, we have a real problem unless we know where they are (wanta bet on our intelligence?). Furthermore, Iran has ways of threatening both the US and Israel: Hizballah has 10,000 or so rockets and missiles on Israel's northern border, some with chemical warheads, and capable of reaching Haifa. Iran might take the chance of using those to prevent an Israeli attack on nuclear facilities (of course, they take the chance of an Israeli nuclear retaliatory strike in the process). Likewise, Hizballah has a number of cells operating in the US, which could mount significant terror attacks, possibly with chemical or biological weapons, and perhaps pin the blame on Al Qaeda.

On the other hand, it is clear now that Iran was involved in facilitating 9-11. It is unlikely that they knew what the plot was, but facilitating the travel across Iran, and more important, the passport cleansing of a bunch of Al Qaeda terrorists was an act of war against the US (one of many over the last 25 years). Add to that Irans obvious nuclear ambitions and probable rapid acquisitions of those weapons along with IRBM's, and Iran is a danger that must be pre-empted rapidly.


Posted by: John Moore at July 21, 2004 7:47 PM

You can add John Ringo to the list of those who wrote long ago of such a long-term strategy. When he was discussing it on Fox two years ago they described him simply as "writing about military matters". Fact is that most of what he writes is science fiction, but he grew up in Iran and eslewhere in the former Ottoman Empire, and has combat experience, so I took him seriously.

Posted by: triticale at July 21, 2004 8:14 PM

Divining grand strategies from colored maps and the ruminations of bloggers has about the same explanatory power as astrologers looking at a random view of stars and seeing causes of action.

Posted by: Charles Croninger at July 22, 2004 7:53 PM

John (Hi!) is right, it's a race. I think democracy in Iraq will beat nukes in Iran, but I'm not sure.

Thanks for the map, Gerard, but I think Sudan should surely be Red, too.

And I submit that a Sudan regime change may occur even before Iran & Saudi Arabia (& Syria) -- but I fully expect to live to see all 4 undergoing significant regime changes. Which could include, without military invasion, real democracy. I just would bet a LOT more on needing an invasion first.

Posted by: Tom Grey at July 23, 2004 3:55 AM


Iraq holds all of the most holy shrines for the Shia'a faith. If you're a Shia'a, which the vast majority of Iranians are, then you're obliged to visit the Tomb of Ali at least once in your lifetime. This requirement not only forces Iranians to experience a free and open democratic society in Iraq, we hope, but it also gives an easy pretext for any Iranian dissidents and radicals to leave Iran and reorganize in Iraq.

Don't discount the effects of personally experiencing life outside of a repressive brutual dictatorship. In many ways this act towards tremendously destabilizing the surrounding nations by giving their citizens a serious contrast.

Posted by: ed at July 23, 2004 9:13 AM

M. Simon, That is what I like about a dictatorship. They get things done.

Posted by: Horve at November 4, 2012 5:00 PM