The situation around Iran has been cranked up to fever pitch, and another American war in the Middle East seems just around the corner – a war that spells devastation for both the region and Trump’s presidency, analysts believe.
The US is allegedly mulling a war plan against Iran with 120,000 troops potentially involved, according to a recent New York Times report which cited unnamed officials. US President Donald Trump denied that his administration has been planning to send troops, but added that if they did, it would be “a hell of a lot more” than what the Times report suggested.
Nonetheless, Washington has been notching up war talk in recent days and weeks, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo touring the world threatening Iran at every stop – at times even going out of the way to make these treats from more strategically-important spots, like Iraq.
The chant has been that the US doesn’t want war, but stands ready to hit “swiftly and decisively” should Iran or its nebulous “proxies” attempt any attack against American “interests or citizens.” As if on cue, such an apparent attempt came on Sunday, when oil tankers – two of them Saudi Arabian, one bound for the US – were hit by “sabotage” just off the Strait of Hormuz.
Nobody was hurt, no oil was spilled, and no-one has officially accused Iran – yet, – but unofficially, there already are reports that US officials are blaming the convenient culprit. Trump, in particular, didn’t wait for confirmation, threatening the Iranians would “suffer greatly” if they “do anything.”
And while analysts in even the mainstream media appear to be somewhat alarmed by the looming war, obviously spurred on by the militancy of Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, influential critical voices among Washington politicians are all but absent – despite the eerie similarities with the build-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
That one became a quagmire that swallowed an estimated 400,000 lives, over 4,000 of them American troops, as well as billions of dollars. Even the fact that Trump is about to break another of his platform promises – to end senseless American wars abroad – can’t seem to inspire a rebuke among his many opponents in Washington.
Disastrous for Trump’s presidency
While the consequences of war with Iran in terms of death and destruction would be “literally incalculable,” starting such a conflict could also be a colossal mistake for Trump politically, James Jatras, a former US diplomat and Republican Senate policy adviser told RT.
Jatras said that while the White House strategists and war hawks like Bolton and Pompeo may “think” they know how events would play it, these things “very rarely actually go according to plan.”
Trump will have “betrayed everything he promised” to the electorate if he dives into another potentially endless conflict, having promised no more pointless regime change wars during his 2016 campaign. At that point, Jatras said, his presidency would look more like a “third term for George W. Bush.”
Regional allies on the line
A war with Iran would also undoubtedly put the US’s regional allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia, at risk, although Bolton and Pompeo seem determined to bring regime change to Tehran despite all these potential dangers, regional and otherwise.
Jatras believes such thinking is the result of “imperial hubris.” Even though Washington may understand Iran’s military capabilities, there are still influential figures in the White House who are “so arrogant” and believe so much in the US’s “overwhelming superiority” that they believe Iran would turn out to be a “paper tiger.”
While Israel and Saudi Arabia may believe they will benefit in the long run from a US attack on their Iranian foe, it is almost “100 percent” certain that if Washington attacks Iran, Iran will attack both “facilitator” countries in return, according to Foad Izadi, professor of political communication at the University of Tehran.
If the conflict did prompt Tehran to attack Israel and Saudi Arabia, Izadi said the Israelis and Saudis would want to fight Iran “to the last American soldier” — a comment which should give American citizens and media pundits pause for thought before cheerleading for another disastrous regime change war, as many did in the lead up to the Iraq war.
‘No winners’ and everyone knows it
The sheer catastrophic scale a US-Iran war would spill out into, is exactly what stands in the way of it actually happening, says Vladimir Sazhin, a senior fellow at the Iran sector of the Oriental Studies Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Whatever the belligerent rhetoric by Trump’s hawk nest or Rouhani’s generals, neither really want the war.
Nobody wins from this, a big war would be a disaster for the Middle East,” Sazhin told RT. With Washington and Tehran mutually declaring each other’s militaries ‘terrorist organizations,’ there’s plenty of casus belli – but all the buildup is just psychological warfare, he believes. About the only likely way that Tehran can provoke a strike is by following up on threats to block off the Strait of Hormuz.
“Should the Iranians do that – it’s not difficult even without a military force – then the US and their allies… won’t stand idly by and will strike,” Sazhin said. Even then, however, he believes “it won’t go as far as any kind of massive warfare, because both in Washington and in Tehran everyone understands it won’t result in anything good.”
Can Iran put up a fight?
Should it come to blows, Iran’s chances look bleak, Sazhin says. Its ground forces can’t stand up to the US’ and allies’, and while it has missiles capable of reaching nearly every American and Israeli base in the region, Israeli missile defenses are good enough to intercept them, and the US has recently bolstered its force of Patriot air defense systems in the area.
One battlefield where the US and its allies could be in for more than they bargained for is the sea, thanks to Iran’s swarms of tiny, fast strike boats known as dhows.
Iran has a very significant small-size fleet, belonging to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. These are small boats, very high-speed… which zip around, carrying various weapons, including recoilless rifles and even small missiles. Besides, they are almost invisible to radar thanks to their small size. There are a lot of them – like mosquitoes, they can emerge from bays and inlets, chase down enemy vessels and destroy them,” Sazhin said.
Iran’s other major advantages are morale and resilience, says Izadi.
“The US military is larger than Iran’s military, but Iran showed in the eight years of the Iran-Iraq war that the Iranian people are resilient. They may be weaker in terms of military capability, but they are stronger in terms of resilience against foreign interference.”
Besides, it would be a “war of choice” for the US, driven by nothing else than the ambitions of war hawks in Washington. Echoing Jatras, Izadi said this would make war a “disaster” for Trump’s image, because the world’s “public opinion will be with Iran and against the US.”
Ultimately, however, there would be no way to contain the catastrophic consequences of a conflict with Iran in terms of sheer death, destruction and regional spillover, which Izadi said could have a “lasting effects for decades.”