Generational Dynamics: Forecasting America's Destiny Generational
 Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's


Generational Dynamics Web Log for 17-Mar-07
Iran and Russia increasingly at odds over Iran's nuclear development

Web Log - March, 2007

Iran and Russia increasingly at odds over Iran's nuclear development

Saying that Moscow "will not play anti-American games" with Iran, Russia gave Iran a strongly worded warning on Monday: If Tehran does not meet the demands of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), then Moscow will withdraw its support.

"For us, Iran with a nuclear bomb or the potential to make one is unacceptable. We will not play anti-American games along with them," said the Russians. "Unfortunately, the Iranians are abusing our constructive relations and have done nothing to convince our colleagues of the consistency of Tehran's policies."

Russia backed up its threat by canceling delivery of nuclear fuel to the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant. Russia has been building the plant since 1995, but is now canceling the scheduled September opening. Russia gives failure to pay $25 million monthly payments as the reason.

This is only the latest in a long series of humiliations for Iran, and especially for its colorful president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad has done one thing after another to inflame world opinion against himself and Iran -- threats to wipe Israel off the face of the earth, a moronic holocaust denial conference, and game-playing with the UN agencies, the EU and the US over nuclear development.

Ahmadinejad is being strongly criticized, even by former supporters in Iran, for having gotten the world so angry. The holocaust denial conference brought from Iranian students. His power appears to have taken a major nosedive in December 15, 2006, municipal elections, which saw defeat for many of Ahmadinejad's allies.

Long-time readers of this web might possibly have noticed that I've avoided discussing a lot of issues about Iran. This is because I've been confused about where Iran is going, since Iran seems to be contradicting itself in a sense. I'd now like to provide some additional analysis. I apologize for the long, rambling nature of this article, but there's a lot to be said.

The main contradiction is that Iran under Ahmadinejad has been far more belligerent than is appropriate for a country in a "generational Awakening" era. During such an era, like America's last Awakening era, in the 1960s, the public has little or no taste for war, except to prevent a worse war.

When Ahmadinejad started repeatedly and so aggressively talking about wiping Israel off the face of the earth, I realized that something was going on that I didn't completely understand. Why would a country in a generational Awakening era be trying to provoke a war with Israel, a country which was not its enemy? That's something that might happen during a generational Crisis era, but not an awakening era.

Generally speaking, Generational Dynamics analyzes and predicts the behaviors and attitudes of large masses of people, entire generations of people. It does not attempt to analyze the attitudes of individuals or small groups of people, even groups of politicians, because any individual has a free will to do what he wants. It's only the behaviors and attitudes of large masses of people that go in repeatable cycles. The attitudes of politicians are not important except insofar as they reflect the attitudes of the masses of people.

So the first time that Ahmadinejad talked extremely belligerently about Israel in this way, I assumed it was simply a gaffe, and that it wouldn't be repeated. But when he kept repeating the same threat over and over and over again, I made the following assumption: That he must have the support of large masses of people in this threat. It must be the will of large masses of Iranian people to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. It still didn't make sense to me that this would happen in an Awakening era, but I thought there must be some issue with Israel that I wasn't recognizing.

Now, 1 years after Ahmadinejad starting making these threats, I'm beginning to understand more clearly what's going on. The key is to look at where Ahmadinejad is succeeding, and where he's failing.

From the beginning, I've tried to understand Ahmadinejad by comparing him with President John Kennedy. Some people have found this strange, but it's actually a highly relevant comparison: Ahmadinejad became president at the start of Iran's Awakening era, and Kennedy became president at the beginning of America's Awakening era, at a time when the public was still very fearful of a third world war against the Soviet Union and China.

Let's begin by quoting some of President Kennedy's inauguration speech:

"In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility -- I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it -- and the glow from that fire can truly light the world. And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country."

This was not an "antiwar" speech by Kennedy; it was actually a very idealistic statement, in the context of the "Truman Doctrine," that under his leadership, Communism would not be allowed to spread.

The context of this speech was that Kennedy was a young President, the from the Hero generation of World War II, and he and other Americans saw his job as stopping Communism. (It was widely believed that World War II could have been avoided if Hitler had been stopped early. Generational Dynamics tells us that this isn't true, but it was still widely believed, and is still believed today. Thus, people believed that stopping Communism meant preventing World War III.)

His belief that by stopping Communism, America could "truly light the world" is particularly ironic in view of what happened. First, when Fidel Castro took over Cuba, right off America's shore, Kennedy's promise was put to the test, a test that he believed that he could not fail. President Kennedy launched TWO pre-emptive wars against Cuba -- the first, based on faulty CIA intelligence, led to the "Bay of Pigs disaster," and the second, the blockade of Cuba, risked nuclear war with Russia. Then, when a Communist government in North Vietnam threatened to spread Communism to South Vietnam, Kennedy launched the Vietnam War, which led to America's first defeat.

Looking at Kennedy's actions in light of our understanding that America was in a generational Awakening era helps us understand Ahmadinejad's actions in Iran's Awakening era today.

Iran's last generational Crisis war was the Iran/Iraq war of the 1980s. But let's go back to some of the previous crisis wars of Persia, as it was then known. The Battle of Chaldiran, occurring on August 13, 1514, was the major battle that established the borders between two great empires -- the Ottoman Empire, practicing Sunni Islam, and the Persian Empire, practicing Shia Islam.

In fact, it's always important to remember that several great civilizations meet in the Mideast. Constantinople had fallen to the Ottomans in 1453, causing the seat of Orthodox Christianity to move permanently to Moscow. In later wars, the Sunni Muslim Ottomans would fight major wars against Christians in the Balkans and in the Caucasus.

Persia also fought major wars with the Russians (Orthodox Christians), especially in the Caucasus. The Persians defeated Russia's Peter the Great in a crisis war that ended in 1723, and the Russians defeated the Persians in a crisis war that ended in 1813.

The war that ended feudal rule in Persia was the Great Constitutional Revolution of 1906-1911. This war transformed Iran into a modern parliamentary state, ruled by the Pahlavi Shahs who were allied with the West and with the United States in particular.

The Shah of Iran was overthrown by the 1979 Islamic Revolution civil war, and this was followed by the Iran/Iraq war.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, it's a crisis war that sets a country's agenda for decades to come. A crisis war is so horrible that it becomes the survivors' lifetime goals that their children and grandchildren should never have to suffer like that. The survivors impose austere rules and create new institutions to guarantee that the (alleged) mistakes that led to the crisis war should not be repeated. Problems arise with the generation born after the war. These kids have no patience with the austere rules that are being imposed on them, and this leads to the "generation gap," and huge political battles that occur during the country's Awakening era.

So we can list some of the major factors for Iran that went into this period, because these are the factors that are influencing Iran as they enter an Awakening era:

I'll next reach some conclusions about where Iran is going, but first I'd like to summarize the methodology I've been using.

There are mobs of journalists, analysts and pundits in Washington who have written analysis pieces on Iran in the recent past, and they're all the same. They say that what happened in 2006 was caused by what happened in 2005. What happened in 2005 was caused by what happened in 2004. Or else, what happened in 2005 was because of something that Bush said in 2005. This is true of serious analysts as it is of popular writers like New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.

The Generational Dynamics methodology correctly identifies relevant events from decades or even centuries back, and relates them to what's happening today. These historical events aren't selected at random; they're selected according to solidly established generational principles. The analysis of Iran given above illustrates this methodology.

I want to single out the importance of the Iran/Iraq war of the 1980s. There must be hundreds of journalists and analysts who write so-called "analyses" of Iran, Iraq or the Iraq war without even understanding how important the Iran/Iraq war is to these topics today. If they'd only stop and think for a moment, they'd realize, for example, how important our own Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights are to American's strategic thinking, especially since politicians and journalists invoke them all the time. Well, why wouldn't similar historical concepts apply to Iran and Iraq?

Having completed the generational timeline analysis above, we can now speculate on possible future directions for Iran, and we have to imagine two possibilities: Iran with Ahmadinejad, and Iran without him.

An Iran like Ahmadinejad will continue the same contradictory policies, because Ahmadinejad will force them as long as he can. He will make more and more mistakes, just as Presidents Kennedy and Johnson did in 1960s America, when they pursued confrontation with the Communists, first in Cuba then in Vietnam. Ahmadinejad will be forced to abandon his unpopular policies either because he'll be driven from office or because the people will force him to.

Generational Dynamics tells us that the only policies Iran will continue to follow will be those supported by the masses of the Iranian people; the other policies put forth by Ahmadinejad will not last long.

In fact, a web site reader referred me to a interview by CNN's Christiane Amanpour with a "very high level official" in the Iran government. The interview apparently assumed that Ahmadinejad would be gone; at least, he wasn't mentioned in the article.

According to this article, Iran and the U.S. are "natural allies," because "The one country that never invaded us was America."

And he added, "We are natural allies. Why? Because now the major threat for both Iran and the U.S.A. is al Qaeda."

This is exactly right, and it exposes once again the major contradiction in Ahmadinejad's policies: He's siding with and supporting Palestinians and other radical Sunni groups that have been Iran's enemies for centuries. America is not Iran's enemy, and neither is Israel. Sunni Arabs are Iran's enemies, and Ahmadinejad is supporting them in their conflict with Israel.

Let's return to Amanpour's interview and focus on two points: nuclear weapons and Israel. First, nuclear weapons:

"Indeed, this senior government official told me the first step between Iran and the United States must be for each side to accept that the other is secure, and to say so.

"We do not want to have to prove that we are strong. Our nuclear program is not to show the U.S. we are strong. It is because of our previous centuries of threats and invasions," he said.

Aha, I intervened, "so you do want the bomb?"

The official replied: "No, our nuclear program is not about the bomb it's about power. We want to say -- that without the UK, U.S., France, Russia, Germany -- we have done this ourselves [set up a peaceful nuclear program].That is our strength."

He said the need to show power was "just common sense after 300 recent years looking over our shoulder," running through the list of those who have sent armies into Iran -- from Alexander the Great to the Mongols to the Ottomans to Russia to Saddam Hussein.

Then he paused. "The one country that never invaded us was America."

Here you can see how utterly foolish are all the so-called analyses written by almost every Washington analyst or journalist, and why Washington politicians are completely ignorant when they spout suggested policies about Iran (or Iraq). This Iranian official is listing important historical events, and EVERY SINGLE ONE of those historical events relates to a Generational Crisis War. Ordinary journalists and analysts don't have a clue about any of this.

But Generational Dynamics also tells us that the Iranian official is not telling the truth about not wanting the bomb (though he didn't really say they didn't, did he?). Iran wants security, and they believe that getting a bomb is the way to gain security. This is what Iran learned from the Iran/Iraq war.

However, it does show the way to gain a TEMPORARY postponement of Iran's nuclear weapons development. Today the assumed threat is that either America or Israel will bomb Iran's nuclear facilities if they pass the "point of no return" for weapons development. If America and Iran became allies, then America could provide security for Iran against their common enemy: al-Qaeda and hardline Sunni extremists.

How could America and Iran become allies? Once again, we have to go back to the Iran/Iraq war to see. We would have to "forgive" Iran for the Iranian hostage crisis; this would not be easy, but it could be done. If we can do business with Vietnam, then we can do business with Iran.

For its part, Iran would have to "forgive" America for supporting the Shah. Once again, this would not be easy.

This brings us to the second major issue: Israel. Israel has never invaded Iran either. Even though Amanpour's interviewee called Israel "my enemy," Iran has no historical reason to be enemies with Israel. In its brief existence, Israel's enemies have always been the Palestinians, the Arabs, the Sunnis, but not the Persians, not the Shia.

An American alliance with Iran would also require an alliance between Iran and Israel. This would not be easily accepted by EITHER Iran or Israel -- and just the thought of it would dumbfound al-Qaeda and the entire Arab community.

So this scenario seems very unlikely at first, but there's one more factor that makes it possible: There's Clash of Civilizations World War coming, and one component of this war will be Arabs versus Persians. Most Arabs will be on the side of al-Qaeda, against Israel. But they will not want Iran to become the dominant power in the region, so they'll be fighting against Iran, as well.

Iran is in a generational Awakening era, and is in no way desirous of another crisis war, being still traumatized by the Iran/Iraq war. But a crisis war is about to forced upon them, whether they like it or not, and one thing about crisis wars is that you have to choose sides. When Iran is forced to choose sides, they may well choose to ally with Israel. However, the larger consideration will be their alliance with Pakistan and China, so there are a lot of possibilities.

I apologize for the long, rambling nature of this article, but Iran is much more confusing to analyze than other countries. There are two reasons: Most countries today, 62 years after the end of World War II, are in a generational crisis era, while Iran is in a generational Awakening era, and Awakening eras are harder to evaluate for predictions; and second, Iran is currently following a contradictory policy, thanks to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and it's not clear how the contradictions will resolve themselves. (17-Mar-07) Permanent Link
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