Talking Iran and China on Danger Close with Jack Carr

If you’ve followed me for a while, you’ll probably recognize Jack Carr and his show Danger Close. Last week, he released our latest episode together and if you haven’t seen it yet, I encourage you to tune in.

This episode is about an hour long and we discuss a number of heavy hitting topics. We explore Iran’s historical and geographical influences on culture, along with the greater Iranian threat via proxy groups including Hezbollah, Hamas and the Houthis. We also discuss China’s birth rate crisis and the potential motives for a Taiwan invasion, portraying a bleak vision of the future as a desperate attempt to save a dying empire.

You can see more of Jack Carr’s content and watch the interview at the link below…

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Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.

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The US and Iran: Deciding What to Bomb

Iran drone attack kills three soldiers

Three US soldiers were killed in a drone attack carried out by an Iranian militia near the Jordan-Syria border. I expect a timely retaliation by the US, but what will that look like?

The Biden administration could choose to target Iranian-backed militias, Iranian military assets, or even Iran’s economy directly. Some of these are a bit more involved, but disrupting oil exports wouldn’t take much more than a fly-by of Iran’s primary export terminal on Kharg Island.

There will likely be global repercussions regardless of which option the US chooses; however, given the United States limited reliance on Middle Eastern energy, disrupting that system could prove beneficial for North American interests.

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Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.

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TranscripT

Hey everybody. Peter Zeihan here coming to you from Colorado. It is the 29th of January and the news today is that in a rocket attack, a Iranian militia operating near the border of Jordan in Syria managed to get a missile into an American base and kill three people in the vicinity of one of the barracks. These are the first deaths of American military personnel since the Iranians started pushing groups like the Houthis to attack Americans and international commerce in a large volume.

And it’s probably going to merit a response. Something to keep in mind is when the United States couple of weeks ago decided to start taking military action against the Houthis in Yemen. It wasn’t because these Iranian backed groups were attacking commerce in general. It’s because they fired an anti-ship missile at a U.S. military vessel, and that’s what started it all off.

So working from that same logic, now that some Americans have actually died, you can expect the Biden administration to strike back. The question is how? There’s kind of three things to consider. None of the options are great. Option number one, you do a semi proportionate because the Americans always believe in overkill assault against the militias that Iran backs either in the area in question or somewhere in the broader Middle East.

The problem with this is it doesn’t solve the problem. The people who are doing the attacks aren’t Iranian. They’re just using Iranian equipment and sometimes a little bit of Iranian intel. And even if you were to wipe them all out, they come from sectarian groups who are opposed to their local geopolitical orders. And so they tend to oppose Sunni groups who tend to be in the majority, especially in places like Jordan or in the case of Iraq, where you have a pseudo democracy.

And in these cases, even if you take them all out, you just have an aggrieved minority that would, again, push people in that the Iranians would recruit. So it might make things calm down for a few weeks to months, but it’s certainly not any sort of lasting solution that’s going to change the logic in Tehran at all. The second option is to strike military assets in Iran proper.

The idea is you go after the personnel that are making these decisions. The problem here is that there’s a lot of them. Iran isn’t like most strongman autocracies. You’ve got a ruling elite of the religious, the class, the mullahs, who’s over 10,000 people. And even if you were to somehow magically carry out an assassination program and within 24 hours, kill the top thousand of them, I mean, sure, they’d have some reshuffling, but it actually wouldn’t disrupt the regime in any meaningful way.

In addition, Iran is a series of mountains. It’s basically a fortress. And if you wanted to go in there and knock the government out, you would need a force significantly larger than what the United States pushed into Iraq, which is ultimately a flat and somewhat desert community. And that means you’re going over a mountain range in mountain range and mountain range.

So the distances are far. The logistics would be hard. The geography plays to the defenders strength. And then even if you were successful, well, then what are you going to stick around and try to reconstruct Iran in the way that we did Iraq? I think I think the U.S. learned that that’s not an easy thing to do. So and again, this wouldn’t change any of the logic in Iran about what they’re doing in the broader reading, if anything, were to intensify it.

That leaves us with the third option, which is a military option against Iran’s economy. Now, Iran, while it is nowhere near the peak that it once was back in the seventies, is an oil producer. What it was exporting, more than 4 million barrels a day is still in the game and still exports about a million barrels a day.

And that income is the primary source of hard currency that the Iranians use to fund everything that they do from purchasing social stability, from their population at home to funding these rocket attacks against U.S. military targets throughout the broader region. And unfortunately for the Iranians, it all flows through a single point called Kharg Island, which is on the northeast shore of the Persian Gulf.

And it would be very, very, very easy for the United States just to destroy the loading facilities or maybe even the storage tanks and the pumping stations in Kharg. They could probably do it with a handful of sorties, would probably take less than an hour. Iranian missile defense is is not very good. Their air defense is not very good either in the U.S. obviously is very good at striking in those sorts of conditions, especially when you’re talking about something that is on the coast.

So you don’t have to fly over too many defensive layers to get to it. It’d be a cost to this, of course, should the United States decide to do this step. It would take the role of the erstwhile global guarantor of maritime security and have the United States taking very discrete shots at very specific parts of the global economy that have relied upon international security in order to function.

And that means that any vessels that are part of a long supply chain along sail going through a dangerous area, near a dangerous area, or have multiple supply chain stops, meaning that if you interrupt just one of them, all of them become defunct. All of that would be in danger. And that is the entire electronics supply chain in Southeast Asia and East Asia.

That is the entire oil supply chain which either is sourced from or passes through the Middle East. The consequences of that would be significant on a global basis. But if you want to take the American populist view, which is something that Biden and Trump agree on, is that a lot of that doesn’t really matter. And in fact, there’s something to be said for stalling those international systems because they favor North American solutions.

The United States doesn’t get energy from this region anymore. Canada doesn’t, Mexico doesn’t. So the economies that we care about the most are heavily insulated already. And the economy that we’re most dependent upon or the most concerned about is China. And they get all of their energy from Pittsburgh reach that well, not all, but like half. And so if the Biden administration does take this step, two things will very much be in motion very quickly.

Bombing in Iran at Soleimani’s Death Anniversary

The Accidental Superpower: Ten Years On

With a new “10 years later” epilogue for every chapter, comes an eye-opening assessment of American power and deglobalization in the bestselling tradition of The World is Flat and The Next 100 Years.

There’s been a bombing in Iran that targeted the gathering for the four-year anniversary of Qasem Soleimani’s death. The attack resulted in at least 100 deaths and another 100+ injuries.

Given the nature of the attack, I doubt there is any US or Israeli involvement; however, the more likely culprits are one of the local ethnic groups in the region. Rather than focusing on who carried out this specific attack, it’s a reminder of how vulnerable Iran is.

Iran has a highly complex ethnic composition, and individuals like Soleimani played a critical role in ‘putting out the little fires’ as they popped up throughout the country. Despite Iran’s broader importance and influence in the region, internal problems will continue to plague the country.

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Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.

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TranscripT

Hey everybody. Peter Zeihan here coming to you from Colorado. It is Wednesday, the 3rd of January. The news today is that there’s been a terror attack in Iran, specifically targeting a group of people who was commemorating the four year anniversary of the death of a guy by the name of Qassem Suleimani. Now, for those of you who don’t follow Iranian internal politics like it’s a soap opera.

Suleimani was a military commander, paramilitary commander that the Iranians would dispatch around the region for the last 20 years to basically not so much stir up trouble, but find sectarian groups that were unhappy with how things were going in their neighborhood and arm them, frightened with intelligence and guidance and maybe even a few irregular troops from the IRGC.

That’s the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in order to stir up trouble and foment revolutions. He was very, very successful throughout the entirety of the war on terror, because basically what the United States did is it went into the Middle East and knocked off and tried to prop up certain governments that were not necessarily popular. And so there was always some sort of disgruntled group who was willing to work with the Iranians.

And so Suleimani kind of became a celebrated personality, kind of a cross between an American general who’d be in charge of special forces and Norman Schwarzkopf. So he was very, very, very popular in Iran and very, very, very unpopular everywhere else. And is conservatively responsible personally for the death of hundreds of people. And in terms of his operations, tens of thousands of people.

So not a nice guy unless you happen to be opposed to whatever the current order in your backyard happens to be. Anyway, someone set off a couple of bombs in the vicinity of these gatherings and killed at least 100 people with at least another 100 injured. I’m sure as information becomes more and more available in the days to come, it will turn out to be a lot worse than it sounds.

Let’s start with the the obvious suspects are probably not very likely and then talk about some of the underlying stuff. Everyone’s, of course, in Iran is pointing their fingers at the Israelis and the United States. If the United States is going to bomb someone, you’re going to know it because we’re going to use either a drone or an air explosive, which is going to kill a lot more people than the.

So definitely wasn’t the United States. As for the Israelis, they have demonstrated assassination capability that’s pretty robust. And to be perfectly blunt, they’re not going to target a crowd unless there is someone in it who is really important. And for all intents and purposes, it looks like that was not the case here. This is just a bunch of locals who happen to like somebody who is from their hometown.

It was in the town of Kerman specifically. Other more likely possibilities you’ve got the below cheese, which are an ethnic group in eastern Iran who have never been happy with Persian rule of their territories. You’ve got the Arabs in South western Iran who are probably the most put upon minority in Iran. And then you’ve got the Azeris. I think either submission is in the north who make up about a quarter of the population who from time to time get restive.

All of these are legitimate suspects. I’d say the blotches are probably the highest of that threat. But rather than pointing fingers and who done it, I think it’s more useful to talk about how this is just part of what Iran looks like. And it kind of belies not so much that Iran has feet of clay, but it has a vulnerability that most people don’t appreciate.

Now, the Persians are a Shia religious group in a sea of Arabs, ethnicity and Sunnis religion across the region. They’re definitely in the minority in both fronts, and that has in the past made them a relatively reliable American ally up until 1979, when they had a revolution. Because the United States has always tended to back the smaller group against the larger group, thinking that the smaller group is going to be more strategically dependent upon you, and they’re always going to be willing to bleed for the cause, because if they don’t, they’re just going to get swallowed up.

And until 1979, that was Iran. Now, after 1979, with the revolution, things have changed. We’ve had fractures across the Arab coalition that are only now beginning to heal, and that has allowed Iran to be the larger power. It also means that personalities like Suleimani have been very, very useful for the Persians, because while you do have a majority Sunni Arab group ruling most of the Middle East, there are all kinds of small groups here in there.

And folks like Suleimani were excellent at driving wedges between those groups and whoever the majority group happened to be. Now, the reason that somebody exists, the reason that he was good at this, the reason that Iran is good in this, is because back at home, Iran is not a monolith. It is made up of dozens of ethnic groups, each of which have controlled historically one or two specific valleys.

And it’s only after a literally millennia of conquering ethnic cleansing and intermarriage that the Persians are actually now 51% of the population of modern day Iran. It’s taken them that long to get to that low of a number. So Suleimani’s expertise exists because it is needed at home. The Iranians have a million man army and it basically is responsible for occupying its own territory.

And groups like Suleimani are responsible for detecting fissures within the political system at home and working to keep them under control. One of the reasons why the Iranians are so good at stirring up trouble beyond their borders is because they have to be aware of those exact sort of splits within their own country. So they basically cut their teeth on keeping the whole system under control, and then they go out into the broader region in order to stir up trouble with exactly the same skill set.

So it means they’re very, very, very, very good at driving those wedges between different chunks of society. But it also means that Iran as a state, is always going to be vulnerable to a degree because it has those same fissures at home which make up 49% of its population, which is a much higher percentage than what you’ve got in much of the rest of the Middle East.

So it makes them good at stirring up trouble, but it comes from a vulnerability at home that has taken them thousands of years to get to this point of stability. And we’re not going to get much further any time soon, at least certainly not in the next few decades.

 

No Regional Powers Will Provide Aid to Hamas

As the situation unfolds in Gaza, many of you have asked who we might see getting involved in the conflict. So, let’s break down the key regional players and how this is playing out.

One of the few countries who could make a real difference in the conflict is Egypt – and given the dodgy history – I doubt that will happen. Hezbollah in Lebanon will likely keep their hands out as well. And despite Iran’s vocal support of the Palestinian cause, they have no interest in a confrontation with the US military.

Since none of the major players plan to intervene, this conflict will likely remain an isolated fight for Hamas. The Saudis are in a complex situation, so we’ll have to touch on that another time.

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Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.

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Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.

TranscripT

Hey everybody. Peter Zeihan here, come to you from Lost Canyon in Colorado. Today we’re going to talk about what’s going on with this situation in the very, very, very short version is that this is a has moss is really a fight and no one else is going to get involved. The big players have all now kind of made their announcements either by action or inaction.

Let’s start with the most important one and the only one who could really change the direction of the conflict, and that’s Egypt. The Israelis had been hopeful that they could convince the United States, you know, nations, you know, anyone with a pulse, that the solution to this problem is just to move all of the Gazans out of the strip and into the camps or into tent camps in the Sinai.

The Israelis have been trying to move the Palestinians for since its 1948, to be completely honest about it. But certainly since 1973, I will say there was no acceptance of that. The Egyptians were the ones who gave the most vociferous objection. In fact, the Egyptians really are broadly against even sending aid into the Gaza. People forget that the Egyptians used to control Gaza between 1948 and 1973 and no one had a good time.

And the only way that the Egyptians would like to see the Palestinians crossing the Egyptian territories in coffins, or preferably by trucks full of bodies. So there’s going to be no assistance there. The second one, the country or the faction that a lot of people were worried about is Hezbollah. Hezbollah is a Shiite Arab militia that operates out of southern Lebanon in particular, and they have had a number of scrapes with the Israelis in the past.

And they have the very powerful paramilitary force and a lot of rockets that every once in a while they rain down on Israeli cities and their leader, Nasrallah, gave this really fiery speech where he’s like, go, go, go, resistance fight the Jews. You know, And we we we’re just going to stay here and everyone have a great day.

Hezbollah has a lot to lose. This is clearly a Hamas operation. They’ve been clearly preparing for it for some time and Hezbollah has not. There was no coordination whatsoever. And so they’re certainly not ready to move. And even if they were, I really doubt they would. They’ve got different backers. They’ve got a different religion. They’ve got different approaches.

And at the end of the day, Hezbollah has got a lot of what it sought over the last 50 years. They are part of the government in Beirut now, and that gives them a seat at the table in a way that they’ve never had before, no Palestinians have ever had before. And they don’t want to give that up, especially since they’re not the ones who lit the fuze on this particular conflict.

Now, Hezbollah does have a sponsor slash ally in Iran, and that’s kind of the third country in question here. And kind of like Nasrallah, the supreme leader of the excuse me, of Iran, recently gave a speech and again, rah, rah, rah rah, fight the occupation, kill the Jews, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But, you know, Jews, if you don’t attack us right now, we’re going to reciprocate.

We hate you and you should all die, but not by our hand. And not today. So they’re going to be kicking off some low risk things. They’re taking some pot shots via their proxies in places like Syria, at American bases. So far, CENTCOM, which is in charge of American operations, that area has said that nothing has happened that has generated noticeable meaningful casualties or damage.

So the need to respond in the United States is relatively limited from a military point of view. And the Iranians certainly aren’t going to risk a broader confrontation with the American navy in the Gulf, which is like their sole source of economic income. Now, in order to defend a group that they have publicly denounced as apostates and animals and are worthy of only destruction.

So they found it useful maybe to nudge Hamas into this on a timing issue. But at the end of the day, they’re certainly going to bleed fallen. Okay. That’s it from me.

Armenia – Azerbaijan War: Turkey and Iran at Risk

After Azerbaijan’s lightning assault on Nagorno-Karabakh caused ethnic Armenians to flee the region, there’s potential that Azerbaijan will continue to invade Armenia proper.

The motivation for this second phase of the invasion would be to control a land corridor connecting different parts of Azerbaijan. Thanks to Stalin’s chaotic cartography, this region’s power dynamics are just a tad messy. Now mix in some complex geography and bippity-boppity-boo; welcome to the Caucasus.

There is a more significant issue playing out behind the scenes, though. If Azerbaijan is successful in this second invasion, it would place Turkish and Iranian powers within spitting distance of one another. And I can assure you that no one wants to see how that plays out.

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First, we look across the world and use our skill sets to identify where the needs are most acute. Second, we look for an institution with preexisting networks for both materials gathering and aid distribution. That way we know every cent of our donation is not simply going directly to where help is needed most, but our donations serve as a force multiplier for a system already in existence. Then we give what we can.

Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.

And then there’s you.

Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.

Transcript

Hey everybody. Peter Zeihan here coming to you from an exciting hotel room. The news I wanted to talk today is about something that has to do with caucuses again. For those of you who remember a few weeks ago, the Azerbaijanis launched a fair bit of a lightning assault on a place called Nagorno-Karabakh, which is an area that was populated with ethnic Armenians.

And the war was over in less than three days. And pretty much all of the Armenians who were living there have since absconded and left for Armenia proper, where there’s now going to be, it looks like a second phase of that conflict where the Azerbaijanis are likely to invade Armenia proper. What’s going on here is that the Azerbaijanis are looking for a land corridor to connect to parts of the country in order to explain the significance of that and have to do a little bit of screen sharing here to Google Zoom, which was Earth, which is one of my favorite programs ever.

Anyway, here we are looking at where the former Soviet space in the north meets with the Middle East in the South and the Caucasus is this mountainous land bridge in between. And let’s just go through a little bit more, okay. So the northern caucuses or the greater caucuses is this line here very rugged, very steep, home to a lot of ethnic minorities like you would expect in any number of mountainous zone.

This is an area where the Russians have always had a problem. The Chechens, if you remember them, live right here. And then you’ve got these two little enclaves in the north, Abkhazia here in South Ossetia here, where the Russians have sent in troops and basically occupy them and make them de facto Russian territory. And some people would say that the Russians are basically trying to do this in Ukraine as well.

But it’s I think it’s important to understand that for the Russians, it’s all about controlling the access point. So that’s Ukraine, where that’s the worst that they’ve watched here in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The Russians know that their population is dying out. So they believe that they came forward, positioned troops in the access points that they will have an easier time defending themselves.

So there is a coastal road here in Kasia. There’s a path that links the northeast Russian province, which is part of the Russian Federation with the South Ossetian province, which is part of Georgia. And they’re trying to plug those access points. So you’re going to see a lot of this, whether it’s in Central Asia or the western periphery that is near Europe.

And that actually is kind of relevant to the discussion about what’s going on in this region and where media. Now, here we’ve got the former Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan, the capital here is Baku. It’s got about half the population, the entire place, the former Soviet Republic of Europe, an independent Armenia, is right here. You have the Turks over here and the Iranians to the south know Egypt a little bit more.

And Yerevan, capital of Armenia, Mt. Ararat, is a zone that supposedly Noah’s Ark crashed into as the floods receded. It is the national symbol of Yerevan, of the Armenians, and it is not in their territory, it’s in Turkey, but they can see it. A dominates the skyline from the capital. Nagorno-Karabakh is this mountainous zone over here. This is the area that the Azerbaijanis recently liberated from Armenian control and the caravan, which is right here, is that chunk of Azerbaijani territory that the Azerbaijani would like to physically connect to the country.

And if all of this seems like just cartographic spaghetti, it is. And you can think Joe Stalin for that, because at the time that the Soviet Union was gaining control of this area in the twenties, he went through and modified all the borders to make sure that if any of these areas ever got independence again, that it would immediately be at one another’s throats.

And he wielded his pen with extreme levels of skill so that the people a little bit closer. The dominant issue in this area actually isn’t the Russians. The Russians had a defense agreement with the Armenians until very recently, and I guess technically it’s still in force. But the Russians have moved most of their troops out, moved them to Ukraine because they need every pair of hands and every gun.

And yet and that’s kind of held this area frozen. But once you get into the lesser Caucasus, remember greater Caucasus, which are the North less your Caucasus or this kind of broad zone in the south, the mountains are nearly as onerous. It’s still mountainous, it’s still difficult. But there are a lot more corridors that access this area. And in this zone, it’s traditionally not been the Russians that have been the major power.

It’s been either the Turks or the Iranians. Well, let’s see here on that. The local powers have always had those Turks and Armenians is accessing one another’s land. The Turks and the Iranians have always had a bit of a problem rubbing up against each other. There are a number of mountain passes and access points and corridors that allow access, but they’re all seasonal and limited, with one exception.

And that is this right here. This is the Cross River, and this is the best point of access between Anatolia or Turkey or the Turks in Persia or Iran in the Arabians. The thing is, Stalin, again, it’s split. So in the north, the northeast section of that corridor is controlled by Armenian. It’s home to the Armenian, the capital of Europe in the northwest chunk is controlled by the Turks and is home to Mount Ararat.

The Southeast Choke is Nikitin and it is controlled by the Azerbaijani and in the southwest Choke is Iranian, right here in Iranian Azerbaijan. So goes the thinking. The Iranians are really happy with the current state of affairs because if this corridor is split into four different chunks, then no one can really use it to pour Turkish power down into northern region.

However, what’s going on with the Azerbaijanis is they want a corridor that crosses this zone of southern Armenia and directly links Azerbaijan to Nikitin. And then there’s a road and rail system here that goes into Turkey proper. If that happens and you have Turkish power controlling over half of the corridor and the Turks can directly reinforce Baku by road and by rail.

And from the Iranian point of view, this would be a disaster, a disaster from Armenian point of view as well. Not only would they lose control of some of their southern territories, but then they would be completely locked off and surrounded by Turkish power. And if you’re familiar with your history, the Armenian genocide carried out by the Turks in World War One was pretty brutal.

And so the Armenians are looking for anything, anything to kind of grab on to a degree of independence. They need a security gear, a security guarantor. And if they can’t have the Russians and the Iranians or the all the other player in town in Azerbaijan getting control of southern Armenia would basically end that forever. And then it would just be a matter of time before Armenia itself becomes a state repeating of the Turkish system, rather than the Iranian or the Russian system, something that the Armenians would rather avoid.

But for the Iranians, this is also a national issue, because this corridor, if you continue following the south, eventually reaches the city of Tabriz, which is the capital of the northern region. Excuse me, if Iran and northern Iran is primarily populated by ethnic Azeris who are basically the same ethnic stock as the folks who run as a region.

So they have always been the group in Iran that the Iranians have been most nervous about exercising a degree of independence, that the Turks get de facto control of this area, all of a sudden that is very much in play. So we have a situation here where maybe the Russian are only being stage left because of the situation in Ukraine.

They can only focus on the things that are core to them. And since they control Abkhazia and South Ossetia, they control the access points to the Northern Caucuses, and they’re kind of declaring that good enough. But with the Turks now rising, we’re going to have a second level of contest in this region between the Turks and the Iranians, with the Azerbaijanis being a very, very, very willing ally.

So what we’re going to see over the next several weeks or months, something that the United States is concerned about, is this point becoming in play, because if that becomes in play, then this whole or all of a sudden becomes in play. And we need to start thinking about what it means to have Turkish troops in the cave in hard on another part of the Iranian border.

That’s where it is. Okay. I think that’s everything. You guys take care.

An Iran Deal We Can Live With

There’s finally a deal on the table between the US and Iran that everyone can live with…it even looks like Israel has given it the green light. So what does this deal actually look like?

On the surface, this deal looks like the US is getting back those American prisoners who were unjustly detained and releasing $6 billion of frozen Iranian funds. However, this isn’t just about a few people who got caught with dime bags; it’s about the broader relationship at hand.

We’re talking about Iran discontinuing funds being sent out to their militias, spinning down some of their enriched uranium, coming back under IAEA inspections, and in exchange, the US will enable them to sell crude abroad.

In no way is this a done deal, but some factors are helping to push this along. The big one is the Russian sanctions’ impact on Iranian crude exports and the overall financial situation, which makes the $6 billion offer sound pretty appealing.

We could be looking at the most productive stage of American-Iranian relations since the 70s; all it cost the US was $6 billion of someone else’s money. Sounds like a win to me.

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Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.

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Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.

What’s Going On with Iran and Oil Markets?

Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen Iranian oil hit markets at nearly decade-high volumes…but production has remained relatively flat. So what’s really happening here?

Many of the sanctions being placed on Russia were originally used on Iran. And as we’ve seen Russia sell oil at a massive discount, Iran is following suit to come under the sanctions regime (rather than just smuggling it out). Basically, Iran is just selling oil LEGALLY now. Let’s compare Iran’s situation with Russia’s.

Russia is facing an existential threat, so nothing is off the table for them. Iran’s situation isn’t as dire, so they can have some patience. Russia produces most of the stuff needed to survive, so pissing countries off or stepping on toes isn’t a concern for Putin. Iran can’t sour their relationships because they still import a lot of stuff.

This gives Iran a chance to do something the Russians wouldn’t even consider…talking. Meaning there are opportunities for everyone still on the table.


Here at Zeihan On Geopolitics we select a single charity to sponsor. We have two criteria:
 
First, we look across the world and use our skill sets to identify where the needs are most acute. Second, we look for an institution with preexisting networks for both materials gathering and aid distribution. That way we know every cent of our donation is not simply going directly to where help is needed most, but our donations serve as a force multiplier for a system already in existence. Then we give what we can.
 
Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.
 
And then there’s you.
 
Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.

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Iranian Seizure of Oil Tanker Could Spell Disaster for China

The Iranians have seized the Advantage Sweet, a Turkish-owned oil tanker carrying roughly 800,000 barrels of Crude. The press release (or should I say ‘slap on the wrist’) issued by the US Navy should have the Chinese very concerned about their supply lines.

Since World War II, the US has patrolled the sea lanes and enabled the safe flow of international resources and products. However, this incident is just another indication that the US is slowly stepping away from its commitment to the maritime order of protecting the high seas.

While the US can just shut down its international energy trade and operate with its neighbors in North America, places like China have much more at stake. Since China falls at the end of a very long supply chain, any disruptions could spell disaster for the Chinese economy; that’s only one of many issues they face.

Prefer to read the transcript of the video? Click here


Here at Zeihan On Geopolitics we select a single charity to sponsor. We have two criteria:
 
First, we look across the world and use our skill sets to identify where the needs are most acute. Second, we look for an institution with preexisting networks for both materials gathering and aid distribution. That way we know every cent of our donation is not simply going directly to where help is needed most, but our donations serve as a force multiplier for a system already in existence. Then we give what we can.
 
Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.
 
And then there’s you.
 
Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.

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TRANSCIPT

Hey everyone. Peter Zeihan coming to you from Colorado. It is the 27th of April. You’ll be seeing this the morning of the 28th. The news that just came out is that the Iranians have snagged another tanker, a vessel called the Advantage Sweet, which is a SuezMax oil tanker, which means it probably is carrying about 800,000 barrels of crude. It is owned by a Turkish company and is registered in the Marshall Islands.

The U.S. Navy has issued a press release basically saying bad Iran, very, very bad Iran. And that’s it. This is your periodic reminder that when it comes to international energy markets, the U.S. just doesn’t care anymore. And if somebody wants to deal with Iran seizing tankers, then they will have to do it without the United States. This is a big change, of course in most people’s perceptions, especially compared to the policy sets that we have seen in the United States for the last several decades. But remember why those policy sets have existed. It’s not that the United States imports a lot of oil from the Middle East. It doesn’t, it really never has, but its allies do. And the entire basis of the American post-World War II global environment was that we will fight wars to protect resource flows and product flows so that “you” will sublimate your military needs to us. Basically, we will fight your economic war. So you don’t have to. And that gives us a free hand in control of your militaries in case of a confrontation with the Soviet Union. The Russians may be coming back in a big way, but they are not the Soviets and they do not have a global position. And so the United States, bit by bit under Obama, under Biden, under Trump, have all basically steadily reduced the American commitment to the maritime order that allows global trade and global energy markets to work. And so this Advantage Sweet, this tanker that’s been gone, the U.S. really doesn’t care.

But if you’re China, this is a problem because the entire existence of the Chinese economy and its strategic position is based on the idea that the United States, no matter what else happens, no matter what the Chinese do, no matter how much military action China carries out, that the Americans will still uphold civilian freedom of the seas. And as we’ve seen today, again, the U.S. has no interest in that anymore. So next time we do get a meaningful interruption to international energy flows, the United States basically closes its borders to energy trade. It’s self-sufficient within North America. And the Chinese are at the very end of a very long supply line that they have no hope of protecting. And that means they’ll deindustrialize. And that means it’s the end of China’s unified nation state. And of course, if you’ve been following me for a while, you know that that’s only one of the many reasons why the Chinese are going to end this decade.

Alright. That’s it for me. Till next time.

Iran Discovers a Huge Deposit of Lithium

The Iranians have stumbled upon what every Green dreams of…a massive store of lithium ore. If the numbers prove true, it would be the 2nd largest deposit ever discovered. But is it too good to be true?

Before I go crushing your dreams, I want to acknowledge that this is an exciting discovery, and it’s obviously a good thing that we found more Lithium. However, it will be a while before this lithium moves the needle…if at all.

The lithium was found in a very inconvenient spot, so transportation is going to be a pain in the ass. If the Iranians want to process this stuff themselves, they’ll have to build out the infrastructure from scratch. On top of all that, Iran’s policy towards private & foreign investment is…less than friendly. So maybe we’ll hold off on the lithium parties for now.


Here at Zeihan On Geopolitics we select a single charity to sponsor. We have two criteria:
 
First, we look across the world and use our skill sets to identify where the needs are most acute. Second, we look for an institution with preexisting networks for both materials gathering and aid distribution. That way we know every cent of our donation is not simply going directly to where help is needed most, but our donations serve as a force multiplier for a system already in existence. Then we give what we can.
 
Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.
 
And then there’s you.
 
Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.

CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT MEDSHARE’S UKRAINE FUND

CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT MEDSHARE’S EFFORTS GLOBALLY

Update: Iranian Protests Continue

By Michael N. Nayebi-Oskoui

I think an update will be helpful as Iran’s current spate of protests continue into their third month. I would like to state at the beginning of this update that as a personal matter, I stand with all people—especially the world’s youth—who yearn to live free, safe and productive lives. The people of Iran are no exception.

It’s also important to note that Iran has no semblance of a free or impartial media; there is a dearth of objective information about crowd sizes, and the number of deaths and arrests. This is by the regime’s own design. I have no doubt that the regime is arresting as many people as they can, and that state violence has proven to be fatal—likely hundreds of times. But every video and anecdote and photograph and story shared by protestors with the outside world is done with a stated goal and purpose. As I tell members of my own family, everything you’re seeing come from Iran is designed to break hearts, enrage, drive up engagement and support—not too difficult a thing when the opponent is the Islamo-fascist Iranian regime. But take certain characterizations with a grain of salt.

As I mentioned in our last update when protests began to escalate, Iran has been in the midst of several—often overlapping—periods of significant unrest, correlating with the sharp decline of the economy beginning in 2017. The current phase of protests lead by Iranian youth is not one that lists economic grievances at its core. The pithy, emotive slogan of “woman, life, freedom” presents a (n exceedingly Western friendly) set of demands around human rights and basic dignity. But make no mistake: Iran is a very poor country, and only getting poorer.

It’s also worth noting that despite many peoples’ assumptions, Iran is not a very young country. The 18–30-year-old cohort is the smallest segment of Iranian society.

Since the early 1980s, Iran has seen one of the most precipitous drops in birthrates in the world:

Data and image courtesy of World Bank

But let us not gloss over the truly sorry state of the Iranian economy. Iran’s current GDP per capita is less than Egypt’s. This is not a comparison most countries would welcome, and certainly not on the losing end. (Both are poorer, on a per capita GDP basis, than Iraq.) Iran’s youth face entrenched unemployment (near 30%). Iranian inflation is high (over 50%). The average Iranian household’s annual income is less than $10,000 USD. This is important context—for Iranian expats and descendants of Iranian expats living abroad, especially those who left Iran during the 1950s and the 1979 Revolution, the idea of deeply entrenched poverty in Iran is a surprise. Or a reality they have chosen to ignore.

But in the various and constant pensioner protests (pensions haven’t kept up with inflation), in the protests to fuel price hikes that lead to 2019’s Bloody Aban, in Khuzestan’s violent water protests of 2018, 2021, and 2022, in the various localized labor disputes of petroleum workers, the Haft Tappeh sugar factory, et al the common unifying thread is a deteriorating economic condition. And most of all: individuals’ dependance on the regime, its subsidies, and cash payments.

Tehran will blame sanctions and yes, sanctions have played a large role in eroding the Iranian economy, but blame is most fairly set squarely at the feet of the regime’s bad actions and economic mismanagement. This doesn’t change the fact, though, that most Iranians would struggle to pay for groceries if the regime disappeared tomorrow. Economic realities are not determinative, and I am not claiming that the limited ability of the Islamic Republic to soften the harshness of day-to-day life means that they will stay in power forever. But the quandary between freedom and food is not unique to Iranians, especially in their neighborhood: Libya, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen are all salient examples of the difficult transitions facing post-Revolutionary societies.

Which should not suggest I’m advocating for one outcome or another. I’m sure my “dream scenario” would align with many Iranians’, but I am in the business of delivering objective, data-driven analysis. This is why my overall assessment from August still holds: I don’t think the protests in Iran have risen—yet—to global geopolitical significance, despite the very emotional and human toll being paid by protestors. Why not? We haven’t seen any dissolutions or cracks within the ruling elite. Iran’s regional ambitions have not been curtailed. Tehran has not been cowed into accepting limits on its nuclear ambitions. Its regional adversaries are not ascendant. And we have not yet seen the kind of sustained, massive, cross-societal uprisings or protests needed to push a government out of power.

It’s also worth noting that due to geography and demographic makeup, Iran’s vast military, security and intelligence services are designed with domestic occupation in mind. This was as much true under the Shah as it has been after 1979—that the very same apparatus used to subjugate Iran’s population can be used to achieve regional ambitions beyond Iran’s borders is a bonus. Iran’s largest security challenge has always been from within; every region, sometimes every set of neighboring mountain valleys hosts a stunningly diverse array of cultures, ethnicities, languages and sectarian differences. I find it exceedingly unlikely that popular unrest will bring down the current clerical regime in Iran unless elements within the regime themselves choose to use public unrest to shift the structures of power.

The situation remains fluid, however, and there are several things I’m watching for to see any potential changes to our assessment:

  • What is the size and make up of protests? Rather than seeing current protests as a new phenomenon, I instead see them as the entry of Iran’s youth into a growing, years-long movement of unrest against the Iranian regime. As I laid out earlier, the regime’s ability to contain dissent has all but disappeared. This is one of the most difficult questions to answer, as both the government and protest channels are not objective sources. Outside of restive areas like Kurdistan and Baluchistan, however, videos and photos of protests rarely show crowds larger than a few dozen to low hundreds. The crowds, especially when hooliganism takes over at night, are very young and disproportionally male. This will have to change if we’re going to see security forces shift tactics.
  • Are security forces shifting tactics? The regime has been able to continue relying on local police and Basij forces, using a mix of live fire and less-lethal methods to push back crowds of protestors. This tells us several things, including protestor tactics are not becoming more sophisticated, and the numbers of protests (and numbers of protestors) are not overwhelming this first-line defenses of the regime. There have been no serious defections loss of support among the regime’s enforcers.
  • Are protest tactics shifting? Despite social media hashtags claiming an #IranRevolution, or some journalists’ descriptions of scenes in certain cities being a “war zone” protestors are largely disorganized and diffused, contained to neighborhoods. Protestors are still largely using tire fires, burning the contents of dumpsters, and using petrol bombs (Molotov cocktails) and hurling stones in their engagements with regime security forces. We’re not seeing the formation of neighborhood militias. There are no significant signs of people being armed. Protestors aren’t building IEDs. The smoke, especially from trash and tire fires, equally obfuscates and adds dramatic flair to clashes—but hasn’t caused a substantive weakening to the regime. It is likely inhibiting larger/older crowds from gathering on the streets. Similarly, I tend not to focus on statues, banners, and posters of regime figures being attacked. If the parliament building gets sacked, however, that’s a different story…
  • Is there unified, nation-wide participation? Many activists and the journalists they speak to will point to crowds of people in cars, shuttered shops, calls for labor strikes, etc as signs of passive but unwavering resistance to the regime. Maybe? The reality goes both ways. I would suggest many people look to the George Floyd protests that rocked cities across the United States (and eventually lead to the largest domestic mobilization of National Guard forces since WWII). Whether or not a business is closed in solidarity or in anticipation of violence isn’t always immediately discernable—leading both sides to be able to claim what they want. During the 1979 Revolution, the bazaaris, local business owners and traders, added considerable economic and social pressure on the Shah when they joined protestors in the streets. After decades of sanctions and the rise of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards’ (IRGC) role in the domestic economy, the number/size/scope of bazaar participation in modern protests is limited but still excites the expat community.
  • Has the regime lost civil society? As of now, despite all the heartache, teachers and professors are still working. People are still sending their kids to school. Debris from protests is still being cleaned out of the streets. Mail is still being delivered. Fuel is still being refined. Food is still showing up on shelves. The quotidian minutia of the system comes together day after day, even after weeks of protests.

And most important:

  • Is the regime still able to meet its basic economic commitments to the Iranian people? This might not make a sexy TikTok or dramatic share on Twitter, but if fuel prices rise—or petrol stations run out, the regime is in serious trouble. If the Islamic Republic can no longer provide subsidized bread, it likely has no future. Think of the ignoble end of the Rajapaksa dynasty in Sri Lanka—once the government could no longer guarantee access to basic staples like food and fuel, their fate was already sealed.

In addition to the things we’re looking for, I have some additional observations:

  • There is a different kind of intensity when it comes to protests within Iran’s Kurdish regions, and in the long restive province of Sistan and Baluchistan. These are Sunni majority areas with distinct cultural and linguistic identities and histories of agitating for independence even before the 1979 Revolution. Iran’s Kurds are also the most politically organized pocket of resistance, with ties to militant Kurdish groups in Turkey and Iraq and a large, international diaspora. While protestors might chant “woman, life, freedom” the tone and timber of resistance among Iran’s Kurds and Baluchi populations (and to a lesser extent, Azeri) leads me to think that we are looking at the early stages of a renewed and bloody phase of conflict in both areas.
  • Kurdish and Baluchi independence is anathema to most Iranians, however, which is likely why protestors are still organizing around the death of Mahsa Amini, a young Kurdish woman who died in police custody, and under the current banner of “woman, life, freedom.” But expect challenges to Iran’s territorial integrity, militancy, and a different magnitude of violence from state forces in response. The Islamic Republic will be keen to follow in the footsteps of Saddam’s Iraq and Syria’s al Assad regime in pitting restive minorities against its majority populations.
  • While many are comparing Iran’s Supreme Leader to the Assad and Saddam regimes, there is a major difference: Iran’s ruling elite does not represent an ethnic or sectarian minority.
  • I don’t see any outside power—US, EU, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Israel, etc—stepping in and forcing regime change. Also, I would not hold my breath regarding the return of the Shah’s family to power…

We’re not there yet, but I am often asked what I think “comes next” in terms of Iran, or what a post-ayatollah world looks like. I think the rule-by-ayatollah model is the most unpopular and weakest link of the current system. On paper, Iran’s clerical elite lend legitimacy to the IRGC, its subsidiaries like the Basij, and so on. And minus an initial short period after the revolution, Iran has only had one non-clerical president: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In reality, however, the ayatollahs and mullahs and so on are enabled and defended by the IRGC and the various state apparatuses they control. While I do not think this was always the case, the dependency of the part of the mullahs has increased significantly in recent years, especially since the 2009 Green Movement and with the rise of the sanctions economy. (If you want to get especially conspiratorial and discuss how the only winners in an Iran with an entrenched social protest culture and never-ending sanctions are the IRGC, you’ll find plenty of people who’d agree with you.) All this is to say, I think a charismatic, nationalist-populist leader could do very well for himself. Especially if he came from an IRGC background and could present a non-clerical face that would maintain much of the various state elements in place—namely the plum position of IRGC alumni.


Here at Zeihan On Geopolitics we select a single charity to sponsor. We have two criteria:
 
First, we look across the world and use our skill sets to identify where the needs are most acute. Second, we look for an institution with preexisting networks for both materials gathering and aid distribution. That way we know every cent of our donation is not simply going directly to where help is needed most, but our donations serve as a force multiplier for a system already in existence. Then we give what we can.
 
Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.
 
And then there’s you.
 
Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.

CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT MEDSHARE’S UKRAINE FUND

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