A Fearful American's Guide to Iran
Iran is the root of the word "Aryan" in that Iranians are ethnographically the original white people and then Mohammed happened and the Muslim conquests and there's ass-tons of history there but what you really need to know is that from a white people perspective? Lawrence of Fucking Arabia said "give it all to my buddy's kids" about the whole of the Middle East thereby demonstrating a patent lack of interest in a complex situation full of complex people with such stunning regularity that Edward Said launched an entire subclass of anthroprological studies criticizing it.
There are about four paragraphs of summary I'm not going to put here because while it's interesting to me? It's not vital to the discussion which is this: Iran went from being dominated by the Ottomans, who were overthrown by the British, who instilled a puppet, who was overthrown by the British, who installed his son as a puppet, who was ousted by Time Magazine's 1951 Man of the Year, who the British tried to overthrow and failed, so the CIA overthrew him, and installed the son as a puppet, who instituted death squads and all sorts of heinous shit but also threw righteous parties and made Europeans all happy and also let women vote and drive and banned the veil and supported intellectualism and also secularism but also Zoroastrianism because what he feared the most was the angry poor fundamentalist Shia who totally overthrew his ass in 1979.
You know how Venezuela is kind of nothing but poor people and government goons now? Same thing happened in Iran, where a massive diaspora of everyone with any means and a lick of independence bailed hard to the point where there are something like a million Persians in LA alone. Meanwhile Iran went from "place we dump more foreign aid than all other countries combined (yes including Saudi Arabia and Israel)" to "place that held our embassy personnel hostage for a year and a half." So that wasn't great.
Fundamentally, Iran was our bitch from 1954 until 1979. And then it belonged to a bunch of Death to America fundies who, erm, had been trained by Americans. Which is why we looked the other way while Saddam Hussein ground about a million people and a trillion dollars' worth of materiel into fertilizer and slag over the course of eight years without actually changing anything.
Here's the important bit: despite eight years of trench warfare, Iran managed to basically "win" the Middle East through Hamas and Hezbollah. Iraq invaded but Iran blew up our Marine barracks. Donald Rumsfeld backed Hussein while Hezbollah captured the CIA station chief for the whole of the Middle East. And while we gave Stinger missiles to future Al Qaeda to fuck with the Soviets, we also sold them to Iran to fuck with Iraq.
From the above paragraph, one might draw the conclusion that US policy towards the middle east is muddled, cloudy and poorly thought through. One might also draw the conclusion that the Iranians managed to survive as a regime of angry fundies despite long odds. One could even draw the conclusion that Iran hasn't felt the need to fight anything but a defensive conventional war in recent history (in fact, you have to go back to the Sassanid Empire to find a war of aggression) yet has also persisted.
The first statement from the White House talked about the "Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps" which is telling as they've been the "Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps" since 1979 which any decent intelligence analyst tasked with the region could have told you so it's a reasonable presumption that no decent intelligence analysts were consulted until the administration got dragged on Twitter. So. Our thoughtful, measured and insightful approach continues apace.
Thing is: nobody saying anything you're hearing knows enough about the Iranians to guess what they'll do next. Including me. Past performance indicates that they'll wait until the time is right and then they'll hit HARD and MEAN and DECISIVELY and really spin up whoever they're trying to piss off. Pile into tanks? Fly jet planes? Totally not their style.
Iran is also Shia, and nobody hates the Shia like the Sunnis, who are pretty much the rest of the Middle East. There were a whole bunch of twits going on and on about the Guns of August and Archduke Ferdinand and shit without acknowledging that the entire point of Guns of August was that it was a whole bunch of people who should have known better doing their duty to fight the previous war and grind themselves into fertilizer doing it. Iran hasn't fought that war ever and they were damn near the first ones out of the gate in the new war of "if I kill your guys with plausible deniability I can keep doing it for decades".
So Iran isn't likely to do anything obvious, and if we do anything obvious it'll look like obvious victory until it absolutely totally isn't. Iran was deeply involved in making the invasion of Iraq suck; Iran has been deeply involved in making the Syrian Civil War suck. The guy in charge of that? Is the guy we turned into hamburger last night and he was apparently super-effective.
So no. There's no "world war" here. There's a bunch of angry fundies who are exceptional at stabbing people in the dark and they've just had their motive amped to eleven and anybody who thinks they know what's likely to happen next? Is fooling themselves.
Don't let them fool you, too.