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Lecture series begins with look at Iran

Runs into March at UNG campus

POSTED: January 19, 2013 12:06 a.m.
 

A war with the Middle Eastern country of Iran could be more costly than the Vietnam War, a University of North Georgia dean told a group of about 60 people Thursday night at the University Center | GA 400.

Christopher Jespersen, dean of the university’s college of arts and letters, was the first of several University of North Georgia professors to present during this year’s Great Decisions Lecture Series.

The annual offering is organized by the Foreign Policy Association as a way for communities to come together to discuss current, international issues.

The association also produces a book covering each of the topics that can be purchased at any of the lectures.

Locally, the eight-week series is presented by the University of North Georgia. This year, sessions will be held at 6:30 p.m. every Thursday at the University Center | GA 400, off Pilgrim Mill Road in Cumming and on Mondays at the university’s Gainesville campus.

The final Cumming lecture will be March 7, and the final Gainesville presentation will be March 4.

In Thursday’s opener, Jespersen discussed the United States’ history with Iran, beginning at the end of World War II and continuing through President Barack Obama’s current term.

He also gave an overview of the nation, which is the 18th most populous in the world with 79 million people.

Iran is about the size of the state of Alaska and its gross domestic product is 93rd in the world, he said, with petroleum making up 80 percent of its exports.

Jespersen said Iran’s petroleum production is main reason the country and its relationship with the U.S. are significant.

“The reason is obvious and you know this, it’s because of the oil,” he told the audience. “Iran has the second largest world reserves of oil after Saudi Arabia and [the U.S.] is the largest consumer of oil products.

“So Iran’s got the oil, we consume the oil. Iran is inherently important.”

Jespersen said the positive relationship U.S. enjoyed with Iran in the 1950s, ’60s and early ’70s changed during President Jimmy Carter’s administration.

The Iran-Iraq War from 1980-88 further heightened those tensions, which continue to simmer today.

“Our view of Iran is a very dark one and many of the people who argued for invading Iraq are now making the case — especially they have been over the past year — for dealing with Iran using military means,” Jespersen said.

But he noted a war with Iran would be much different than one with Iraq.

“Iran is four times the size of Iraq … population, Iraq is 28 million while Iran is 79 million, and Iraq is a mixture of Sunni and Shia [Muslims], whereas Iran is primarily Shia at 89 percent,” Jespersen said. “These numbers are important for us to consider.”

Jespersen also took a look at the potential price tag of a war with Iran. It has been estimated that such a conflict could cost “at least $2 trillion in budgetary costs, $2.65 trillion with interest.”

“That compares to Vietnam in inflation-adjusted dollars of being about $686 billion,” he said. “If you think Iraq was expensive, Iran will be even worse … there is room for opportunity, room for discussion here, and I would say that diplomacy is probably the best path to take.”

Jerry Frank and his sister-in-law, Carol Limberg, were among those attending the lecture. They made it to most of them in 2012 and plan to do the same this year.

“You get a quick synopsis of things that would take a long time to try to do on your own,” Frank said. “If you have any interest at all in the subject, this is the place to come.”

Added Limberg: “They do a really good job.”

Great Decisions continues this week with “Myanmar and Southeast Asia” presented by Richard Byers, associate professor of the department of history, anthropology, religion and philosophy.

 

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