The Saudi King is Dead; Long Live Persia
The Challenge is to Focus on the Problem
Strategic intelligence, the bedrock for national security, requires an understanding of the present to prepare for the future. Individuals who aspire to be hired for intelligence jobs need to understand that strategic intelligence has both near-term and long-term ramifications. Furthermore, the lessons of history relate to various immediate events producing a complex analytic challenge. Intelligence analysts and policymakers must discern the priorities and maintain a focus to avoid ‘solving the wrong problems.’ The Middle East of the early 21st Century poses a profound strategic intelligence problem. The near-term and long term strategic threats are intertwined and at times apparently contradictory.
History Comes Around and Goes Around
In the midst of the ongoing conflicts and disintegration of nations in the Middle East a strange situation is emerging with highly uncertain near and long-term strategic consequences. Persia is one of the world’s oldest cultures. Persia, now Iran, also is known historically for building empires and attempting to dominate the Middle East region. The first Persian Empire under Cyrus the Great goes back some 2,500 years.1 While Persia has changed its name to Iran and the religion from Zoroastrianism to Islam Shiism, the Islamic Republic of Iran, created in 1979, has rediscovered the Persian penchant to dominate the Middle East.
Iran began a quest, from the birth of the Islamic Republic, to create a Shia “Arc of Influence” from Iran to the Mediterranean Sea. This “Arc of Influence” covers much of the territories that comprised the earlier Persian Empire.1,2 The Sunni branch of Islam strongly opposes any extension of Shiite influence and Iranian hegemony. The devolution of the Arab Spring into regional chaos confounded Western intelligence analysts as Iranian strategic interests appear to have prospered during the turbulence sweeping the region.2 While the West is overly focused on the Islamic State and the nuclear weapons program negotiations with Iran, the strategic balance seems to be shifting in favor of Iran.
The Shia government of Iraq, backed by Shiite militias and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, has tilted toward Iran as the country fractures into three parts. The pressure on the Assad Syrian government, an ally of Iran, is reduced as attention is shifted to combating the Islamic State. The Iranian-backed, Shiite Houthi tribe success in Yemen further expands the geostrategic footprint of Iran in the region. Iran now has effectively encircled Saudi Arabia and holds a strategic stranglehold on the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. Iran now exercises political and religious influence in Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, and Sanaa. The US appears to be unable to bring effective closure in negations to curtail the Iranian nuclear weapons program. However, the concerns for Iran developing nuclear weapons have overshadowed other Iranian strategic military developments. Iran is developing and producing an array of ballistic missiles that threaten the Middle East and globe. Iran has a growing cyber warfare capability. As Iran engages in a sectarian war with Sunni Muslims, Iran benefits from the US airpower against Sunni ISIS.
The weakness of the Iranian economy due to sanctions and low oil prices may be the primary barrier to an immediate breakout for Iran to emerge as the dominant power in the Middle East. Meanwhile, the primary opponent to Iran, the wealthy Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, vacillates during a regal leadership transition and the continuing conflict with modernity and the strict tenets of Wahhabi Islam.3
Preparing for Profound Consequences
The world is intractably linked to Middle East energy supplies and the maritime flow of commerce through the Suez Canal, the Persian Gulf and Red Sea choke points. The US needs a clear vison of immediate and long-term strategic intelligence issues. This opens opportunities for intelligence jobs in service to the country. However, to win these intelligence jobs, applicants must prepare thoroughly with an education from a school that specializes in national security and intelligence. Select online universities provide a resource that meets the national security criteria. Schools that specialize in national security offer faculties that have exceptional qualifications from experience working in the real world that complements their academic knowledge. These online schools are in fact part of the US system for national security.
1. The Origins and Impacts of the Persian Empire. Retrieved: www.eduplace.com
2. Debka-Net-Weekly, Volume 14 Issue 651, February 6, 2015. Electronic newsletter.
3. Profile of Saudi Arabia. (2015). BBC News. Retrieved: www.bbc.com