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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.


Why shouldn't we take LtCol Long at his word? It is most certain that if the need arises to make a ground offensive against Iran, our Marines will be required to respect the culture. That said, it seems to me that neither Syria nor the Horn of Africa present(ed) as formidable and cohesive a force as Iran may.

If my Marines have to go into Iran I'd prefer they have all the intel they can garner.


I fully agree, Sam. With what I said, I was not suggesting that it is not important to know and understand these same things that were sorely lacking ahead of the invasion of Iraq. They most assuredly are, just as you have said.

I was, rather, meaning to counter the assertion made by “experts affiliated to the Pentagon” that it was just making sure that Marine Intelligence was spending its full lot of funds in some arbitrary nature. The way Lt. Col. Long's quote was juxtaposed in the article, it suggested that they just wanted to learn about such things for sake of learning them, and I read it as to suggest that they were merely completing their library of global intel.

It was not what they were learning that I was focused on, but rather where they chose to learn it: Iran.

This is what I meant by taking his words with a 'wink'. He's not going to say such things directly to the media.