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Jedburgh
06-14-2008, 04:03 AM
USIP, 12 Jun 08: Mullahs, Money, and Militias: How Iran Exerts Its Influence in the Middle East (http://www.usip.org/pubs/specialreports/sr206.pdf)

....in the past five years, Iranís regional power has expanded considerably. Benefiting from Bush administration policiesóespecially the toppling of Saddam Husseinóas well as record oil prices, Iran has deepened its relationships with militant factions in Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine and accelerated a nuclear program that could give it the ability to make atomic weapons within the next few years. President Bush, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and other administration officials have repeatedly labeled Iran a major, if not the major, threat to U.S. interests and U.S. allies in the Middle East. Yet Iranís reach remains constrained by an open-ended U.S. military presence in the region, domestic weakness, and historic divisions between Arabs and Persians, Sunnis and Shiites, and among Shiites. Though happy to take advantage of power vacuums, Iran neither wants nor is able to recreate the Persian Empire, nor is it about to become a second Soviet Union. As Mohammad Atrianfar, a veteran publisher of Iranian reformist newspapers, said in a March interview in Tehran, ďWe are not going to stretch our legs beyond the capacity of our carpets.Ē

Iranís goals appear to be largely defensive: to achieve strategic depth and safeguard its system against foreign intervention, to have a major say in regional decisions, and to prevent or minimize actions that might run counter to Iranian interests. In the service of those interests, Iran has been willing to sacrifice many non-Iranian lives.

To achieve its goals, Iran exerts influence in three major ways: through ties with Shiite clerics, or mullahs, financial aid for humanitarian and political causes, and weapons and training supplied to militant groups. Much of this support pales in comparison with U.S. contributions to American allies and with other resources available to Iranís partners, although Iran appears to get (literally) more bang for its bucks. Recipients of Iranian largesse, especially the Lebanese group Hezbollah, are not mere proxies and appear to have considerable tactical autonomy and influence on Iranian policies. Many Iraqis, including Shiite groups close to Iran, are trying to hedge their ties with Tehran by maintaining links to the United States.....
Complete 24 page paper at the link.

J Wolfsberger
06-21-2008, 04:25 PM
From The Jordan Times, Iranís options (http://www.jordantimes.com/?news=8687)


With President George W. Bush in Europe getting EU leaders to agree to toughen UN sanctions against Iran, and with the ongoing debate between John McCain and Barack Obama about whether the US needs to talk with Iranís rulers, the issue of Iranís nuclear programme is heating up. Iranians, no surprise, are watching this debate with interest. They need to do more than watch.

Iranís political elite sees the United States, rather than Europe, as their appropriate international counterpart. Only the US can give the Islamic Republic the security guarantees it craves. The US, indeed, should be prepared to eventually give such guarantees if it wants Iran to stop the more suspicious parts of its nuclear programme.

Bold mine. Given the source, and the tone of the article, the assertions seem (to me) to have some credibility.

Jedburgh
07-10-2008, 08:34 PM
RAND, 9 Jul 08: Iran's Political, Demographic, and Economic Vulnerabilities (http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/2008/RAND_MG693.pdf)

This monograph is intended to help analysts and policymakers assess the political, demographic, and economic vulnerabilities of Iran to potential U.S. policy measures. The study dissects the political complexities and vulnerabilities of the Iranian government, evaluates ethnic and demographic tensions in Iran, and assesses recent economic developments and potential trajectories of future economic growth. It concludes with a set of policy recommendations for the U.S. government based on the analysis.