June 10, 2018
Why did the US withdraw from the Iran Nuclear Deal; re-imposing economic sanctions against Iran; risking a major war that could easily turn nuclear; and even alienating its major allies in NATO?
The main reason may be traced back more than a century ago, in 1904, when a British Lord and geographer Sir Halford Mackinder formulated his now famous geopolitical doctrine: “Who controls Eastern Europe rules the Eurasian Heartland; who controls the Eurasian Heartland rules the World Island; who controls the World Island rules the World.”
Since that time, up to now, big global powers have exerted efforts to control the so-called “Heartland” of Eurasia; i.e., that huge and relatively flat land mass bounded by the Volga River in the West; the frozen ice caps of the Arctic in the North; the deserts of the Gobi and Taklimakan in the East; and the Himalayas and the mountain ranges of Afghanistan and Iran in the South. It is like a natural fortress with a huge, plain, land mass in the middle that is rich in oil, gas, mineral and human resources; just the right ingredients needed by a great power for world domination. Sir Halford Mackinder called this “Heartland” the “Geographical Pivot of History”.
The term “World Island”, in turn, refers to the three continents of Asia, Europe, and Africa taken as one. UK and Russia tried to gain control of the Heartland in their so-called “Great Game” during the past century. Adolf Hitler tried to control the “Heartland” when German forces invaded Russia during the Second World War – but failed. The US, too, had tried to gain control of this so-called “Heartland” with its wars in Korea, Vietnam, the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan, Georgia, Ukraine, and Syria – all of which have failed so far.
Iran may hold the key to US control of the Eurasian “Heartland”. If Iran falls in US hands, it will open the floodgates to US entry and control of the vast plains of Eurasia. Iran is like a fortress guarding the front door of the “Heartland”. It is one of the most mountainous countries in the world; defensible against any form of foreign invasion using tanks; with terrain ideal for guerrilla or asymmetric warfare. Underneath its mountainous terrain are extensive and complex webs of strategic tunnels hiding missiles that could hit targets all over the Middle East, to include Israel. Said missiles can also be used against any ship entering the Persian Gulf, including US aircraft carriers.
Iran’s current anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles can turn the entire Persian Gulf into a modern-day “Battle of Cannae” for the US Navy and its allies Saudi Arabia and Israel in the event that US decides to war with Iran. In addition, Iran controls the Strait of Hormuz where 60% of NATO oil and 90% that of Japan pass through. Iran’s closing of the strait with mines and land-based missiles can force NATO’s war machine to grind to a halt. Iran straddles both the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf – two of the richest regions in the world when it comes to oil and gas. Working in tandem with Russia who is now the biggest oil and gas producer, and with some key oil and gas producers in Central Asia like Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, they could squeeze out the US and its allies of their oil and gas requirements – or require Japan and US NATO allies to pay only in gold and no longer in petro-dollar.
Iran has a population of 80 million, the second most populous in the Middle East. It also has the highest literacy rate in that region. So if war breaks out against the US and its allies, Iran will have a sufficient supply of highly educated warriors to man and defend its nation-fortress. The strategic importance of Iran extends to geography: it lies at the vital crossroads of Central Asia (the “Heartland”), West Asia, and South Asia; exerting influence on these important regions of the Asian Mainland. And looking at it on a wider perspective, Iran also lies at the crossroads of Asia, Europe, and Africa – what Mackinder calls the “World Island”! Iran lies smack in the middle. Unfortunately for the US, Iran is applying for full membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, or SCO, where China and Russia belong; together with India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, and some other Central Asian countries belong – all occupying the Eurasian “Heartland”. With the entry of Iran into this aggrupation of nations, the Eurasian “Heartland” will then be under the full, solid control of the SCO. Mackinder’s geopolitical theory will then be fulfilled. And it will be cemented by China’s Belt and Road Initiative or BRI.
This is also the reason why the US abhors and fears the BRI. With BRI, the Eurasian Heartland is being criss-crossed by high-speed rail, superhighways, fiber-optic networks, economic corridors, ports, airports, power facilities, and new financial institutions that do not use the US dollar (i.e., they use gold-backed currencies instead).
Now covering more than 60 countries, it is fast spreading to cover the “world island” consisting of Asia, Europe and Africa. Pretty soon, South America and Central America will also be covered. China is now starting a high-speed rail in Panama going to Costa Rica. So now, it seems that the lone Superpower US is panicking. It sees that the Eurasian Heartland, the key to its continued global domination and hegemony, is slowly being interconnected by thousands of kilometers of high speed rail; while its own territory does not have a single kilometer of high speed rail up to now! And such ironclad control is being initiated by its chief geopolitical rival China.
Unable to gain physical presence and control of the Eurasian Heartland, the US tried to establish its control by setting up hundreds of naval, air, military, and drone bases on the Eurasian Rim-land; surrounding Russia, China, and Iran with hundreds of these bases. And with the unilateral scrapping of the Iran Nuclear Deal, egged on by Israel and Saudi Arabia, the US seems poised to go for the jugular. What could be the possible worst-case scenario if the US really go for full control of the Eurasian Heartland using military means? That would be my topic of discussion in my next article.
* The opinion of this author is his/hers alone. It is not necessarily the views of Beyond Deadlines.