Marines Commission Intelligence Probe on Iran
The United States Marine Corps has hired Hicks & Associates for two intelligence assessments, one of which is to probe tensions among Iran’s ethnic minorities, principally in the only Sunni-majority Iranian province, Khuzestan, on the Iraq border. Its capital, Ahvaz, has seen significant violence, including deadly bombings in October of last year and again in January.
The purpose of the study, according to Marine Lt. Col. Rick Long, is “so that we and our troops would have a better understanding of and respect for the various aspects of culture in those countries.” Whether he should be taken at his word or his words taken with a wink is an interesting question.
Some say it could be preparation for the Marines to be more familiar with a potential ‘next environment’, a preparation sorely lacking before the Marines cut their swath through southern and central Iraq in the 2003 invasion. Yet, other “experts affiliated to the Pentagon” suggest that it is simply ”that diverse intelligence wings of the US military were seeking to justify their existence at a time of plentiful funding.”
To that end, it is worth noting that, no matter how plentiful funding may be at the Pentagon, it is rarely as proportionately plentiful to the Marine Corps. Further, if it were, it would be unlikely that Marine Intelligence would invest a nickel learning about an area simply to justify their existence. They’d justify their existence by looking where they just might potentially need to ‘get their game face on’ one day. Marine Intelligence is not in the business of amassing global dossiers for library completeness. It is in the business of supporting ground war-fighting operations in current and potential environments. It gathers information on these environments in descending order of combined threat-based and need-based priority.
Perhaps Marine commanders were satisfied with untold existing intelligence on Syria and/or the Horn of Africa or even Yemen, and Iran was the next need-based priority. Perhaps Iran was indeed elevated because of a threat level. But it is an almost iron-clad guarantee, more so than with any of the other sister services’ intelligence operations, that Marine Corps Intelligence did not simply attempt to ‘justify its existence’ learning about Iranian culture by pulling a rabbit out of it’s ‘well-funded’ hat.
This is not to suggest in any way that this study means an Iranian ground offensive is imminent or even in the works. It is simply noteworthy that an ever-frugal Marine Corps did not commission the analyses on Iraq and Syria or Iraq and the Horn of Africa. It commissioned them on Iraq and Iran.