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The United States, Iran and the Continuing Salience of Geography
[ Dylan Kissane ] - Assistant Dean, Centre d’Etudes Franco-Américain de Management (CEFAM), Lyon, France
With recent US political and strategic goals unmet after ineffective diplomatic efforts and economic sanctions, some commentators and foreign policy experts have begun urging American strategists to employ military force to effect change in Iran’s domestic and foreign policies. Presumably inspired by American success in establishing a US-friendly regime in neighboring Iraq, such commentators suggest that a similar strategy of overwhelming military force could overcome the existing military and political structure of Iran and establish a pro- Western regime in its place. Such notions, however, rely on ignorance of one of the most basic elements of Iran: her geography. This ignorance, in turn, renders all such notions of military invasion notonly unimaginable in theory but impossible in practice. The current paper begins with a short précis of the regime change via invasion rhetoric in the United States with particular focus on the recurring references to US air power despite its lack of historical utility in effecting regime change without associated ground forces. Then, drawing on the geopolitical analysis of Gray and Friedman, this paper explains how Iran’s geography, while not offering protection from air strikes, does render it largely protected from enemy invasion and occupation. With specific reference to the geographical barriers that are the Zagros and Elburz Mountains and the inhospitable Dasht-e Kavir and Dasht-e Lut deserts, this paper demonstrates that attempts by enemies of Iran to force regime change through the use of air power alone or a combination of air and land military elements are inevitably bound to fail. In concluding the paper, it is suggested that this inescapable geopolitical reality should encourage US policymakers to consider carefully their positions on Iran and seek non-military means by which to engage with one of Asia’s historical and strategic nations.
geopolitics, air power, Iran, United States, regime change