In global affairs, Power–Risk–Leverage are a three-legged stool whereby nations (both friend and foe) evaluate whether and how they should relate to and work with each other.
Countries do not have friends; they have alliances which are driven by changing relationships amongst Power–Risk–Leverage.
Consider the relationship between the United States and Iran as an example.
During the Obama administration:
1. The nation of Iran believed it had little risk of the United States taking any kind of military action against it. They mocked the US and chanted, “Death to America!”
They seized US Navy vessels in the Strait of Hormuz. They supported terrorists who targeted Americans. They impudently conducted their terror affairs in the open. They maimed and killed US soldiers with their EFPs (explosively formed penetrators), shaped charges that cast molten copper to destroy vehicles and to maim soldiers’ limbs.
EFPs are the size of a coffee can and can fire copper slugs at the speed of Mach 6 — 2000 meters per second — which can penetrate armor and cut soldiers’s arms, hands, legs, feet off. The Iranians made them for deployment inside Iraq. More than 600 Americans were killed by EFPs and more than 1200 were wounded.
2. Iran believed they had considerable leverage because they had been on the verge of nuclear breakout with a nuclear weapon and the world valued that capability as an enormous risk, thereby attaching considerable value to forestalling it.
3. Iran had control of the Straits of Hormuz, and,
4. Iran had closed the Iranian Crescent (the land bridge from Iran through Iraq, through Syria, to Lebanon and the West Bank thereby exerting leverage over Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Israel).
The world fanned the Iranian self-assessment by entering into the infamous Iran Nuclear Deal also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. We, the US, led the world in allowing Iran to think they punched way above their weight class.
The Americans sent Iran gobs of money while simultaneously, impotently complaining of the decades old Iranian funding of international terror.
Develop your own power–risk–leverage construct any way that seems reasonable under the facts.
What happened, Big Red Car?
Shortly thereafter several other, competing facts worked their way into the equation:
1. The US became energy independent and the ability to conduct mischief in the Strait of Hormuz was devalued for the US — not for others, but the US.
2. There was a change in the leadership of the United States. President Obama was gone. President Trump, a more pugnacious American leader, arrived.
3. US military capabilities were improved and the military may be itching to show them off.
Who doesn’t want to take the new car on a road trip?
4. The US government began to be more firm in whose support they desired and to whom they were prepared to extend support — not just regionally in the Middle East, but worldwide.
5. The US wanted to get out of the region, but was determined to neuter ISIS on the way out.
The US emasculated ISIS.
6. The US twice took forceful action against Syria as it related to the use of chemical weapons against their own people.
The veracity of American threats had new teeth.
The cumulative impact of these changes began to make its way into US policy, slowly.
1. The first definitive action by the United States was the withdrawal by the US from the JCPOA.
Other American allies did not withdraw, so the fiction that the agreement would survive the American action was not challenged.
2. The US imposed crushing economic sanctions against Iran — anybody who did business with Iran could not do business with the US. <<< This is the big story that is not being reported. The Iranian economy is broke, inflation is 40%, and the sanctions are the reason. There is potent unrest; there are riots in the streets; the dissatisfaction with the Ayatollah is real and palpable.
3. Iranian oil exports went down some 90% further damaging the Iranian economy and the ability of the government to generate funding to be used to fund Hamas, Hezbollah, the Quds, and other terrorists.
4. The US struck Syria twice. The prior American administration had bought some red spray paint, made a few lines, but had not enforced them.
Suddenly, the US enforced this administration’s red lines — twice.
5. ISIS was defeated. It was rather a quick thing and was based on the change of Rules of Engagement and the commitment to more engagement, all Trump initiatives.
6. The Caliph — Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — was hunted down and killed. Another Trump initiative.
7. The American President was impeached, but will not be removed from office by the Senate.
8. The impeached American President authorized the killing of Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad by a rocket fired from a drone.
What has not been reported is the role of the Swiss government through its embassies in sending clear messages to the Iranians. The Iranians were warned that the US intended to take fierce military action against it if they retaliated for the killing of Soleimani.
There were a series of exchanges that were secret and did not match the pugnacious public exchanges, but the Iranians were warned that the US was going to attack.
Iran acted with a new assessment of Power–Risk–Leverage.
The Iranians, who are holding onto power with a tenuous grip made a facesaving attack against inanimate objects, claimed they had killed 30 Americans plus gobs of equipment, and announced smugly that they had sufficiently punished the Infidel.
In fact, the Iranians ensured the US knew where and when the attack was coming and the US ensured no Americans were killed. This also happened with Swiss cooperation.
Then, the wild card arrived in the form of the Iranians shooting down a civilian jetliner.
This accidental shooting down of a civilian airplane exposed the Iranian leadership as being incompetent thereby unleashing rioting.
In despotic regimes, the victims always believe the despots are competent. Once exposed as incompetent, the people will protest and will ultimately lose their fear because incompetence is like water — it flows.
There will be a new regime running things in Tehran before Christmas this year — 2020. I am predicting the festering economic unrest, the new Power-Risk-Leverage three-legged stool, the charge of government incompetence — results in regime change.
In the Power–Risk–Leverage matrix, there has been a huge shift and re-shuffle of the deck.
1. Iran now believes the US will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. They know the US will prevent it with war, if necessary.
2. The US believes we might strike Iran and be justified in doing so.
3. Most everybody thinks Donald J Trump will be re-elected. Nobody believes DJT will be removed from office.
4. Nobody thinks anybody can predict exactly what the Hell President Trump will do. This unpredictability, from a global affairs perspective, is good.
5. If a virulent opposition grows in Iran, the US will support it. Witness President Trump’s first Tweet in Farsi (the Iranian language) which had already become the most popular Tweet in Farsi for all time.
So, there you have it, dear reader: regime change in Iran by Christmas. Bring the troops home.
But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car. Be well.