Iran and Occam’s Razor

Intelligence Information into Intelligence Knowledge

National security depends on a continuing flow of reliable intelligence. Intelligence analysts use All Source information to construct a substantive threat picture for politicians and security policymakers. However, the collected intelligence is never complete and often has contradictory data. The analysts use a variety of methods and techniques to evaluate the raw data including statistical processes, contrarian theories, and Red Team based on the type of evidence available.1,2 However, there is an unusual technique that may have merit when examining one of the most challenging intelligence issues today. This unusual method is Occam’s Razor, a principle that suggests the best explanation for an event is the simplest, or the one with the fewest assumptions.3

Iran and Realpolitik

One of the most challenging and intractable intelligence problems today is Iran. Analysts understand the importance of intelligence and the role of a counter terrorism degree against the complicated new terror threats. Furthermore, the analysts understand the imperative to think within the frame of reference of the intelligence target versus how the West or the US perceives a rational course of action in a given situation.

The Islamic Republic of Iran has been in existence for 35 years as a ruling theocracy. Two men have governed the theocracy as Supreme Leaders within that time: Ayatollah Khomeini and Ayatollah Khamenei. An assessment of the 35-year strategic and political behavior of Iran could be summarized in one word: consistency. The steady pattern of behavior appears grounded in dogmas of “the Shiite faith” and realpolitik. The ruling clergy's Shiite dogma is based on the belief of the inevitability of the return of the Twelfth Imam and an establishment of a Shiite Caliphate. Additionally, the Twelfth Imam's return can be hastened based on a sequence of earthly actions.4

Outside of religion (but held in equally ardent belief) is the necessity to ensure Iran is self-sustainingly secure from external threats. This was indelibly imprinted on the ruling psyche after the catastrophic loss of lives and property in the eight-year war initiated by Iraq. Even as Iran fought for survival against the Iraqi onslaught, Iran reignited the then-dormant pursuit of a nuclear weapons' capability; this pursuit has become an Iranian pillar of national security against all future threats and a sign of Iranian international prowess.

A continuation of both Iranian dogma and realpolitik has been state-sponsored terrorism. The US State Department designated Iran as a state-sponsor of terror in 1984—one of four in the world. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Quds Force trains, funds and directs proxy groups like Hezbollah to conduct terrorism in the Middle East and around the world (Argentina, Bulgaria, Georgia, India, Israel, Kenya, Lebanon, Thailand, the United States and Yemen – as known examples).5 Iran funds and trains Sunni terror groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.5 In conjunction with the sponsoring of terrorism, Iran has also endeavored to provide financial and moral support to Shiite groups in Lebanon, Iraq and Syria; this is a hegemonic strategy to build a Shiite arc of influence across these nations. Iranian hegemony equals Iranian national security.

With this 35-year history of Iranian consistency, the P5+1 Group (China, England, France, Russia, the US + Germany) have begun again in earnest to engage Iran in talks of dissuasion from the pursuit of nuclear weapons in exchange for a reduction in sanctions. Any analyst with a counter terrorism degree and specializing in the Islamic Republic of Iran should be able to act as a human 'Occam's Razor' for the policymakers who are working on the negotiations with Iran. The importance of intelligence in this type of arena is critical when the national security of multiple countries is at stake.

Preparing for the Future Requires Understanding the Present

The importance of intelligence is simple and yet profound; intelligence is essential to the nation’s survival. Dedicated individuals with a counter terrorism degree are as important in the fight against terrorism as the special operations warriors. Online security education is a weapon in the fight against terrorism and other enemies of the United States.

1. Jones, Morgan D. The Thinker's Toolkit: Fourteen Powerful Techniques for Problem Solving. Three Rivers Press. 1998.
2. Heuer, Richards M. The Psychology of Intelligence Analysis. Central Intelligence Agency. 1999.
3. Webster’s New World College Dictionary. (2000). ISBN 0-02-863119-6
5. US State Department, Country Reports on Terrorism, May 30, 2013