The adversarial relationship between the United States and Iran is familiar to the world and has gone on for more than 60 years. But when last week the US began manifest war preparations – evacuating some of its nationals from Iraq, leaking its secret security deliberations on the number of troops it intends to deploy for a war with Iran, and, before all this, the assembly and dispatch of an aircraft carrier group reinforced by additional warships, positioning of B-52 heavy bombers, and the deployment of anti-missile batteries – it became obvious that the argument has gone beyond rhetoric.
The Iranians seemed to take things in their stride – no noticeable mobilisations except TV footage of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and President Hassan Rouhani addressing Iranian leaders and vowing not to be intimidated, yet toning down their rhetoric. They were no more threatening to block the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow sea lane through which passes much of Middle East oil to the West. Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zariff, met with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, to exchange ideas and unify their viewpoint on the crisis. An Iranian general was quoted as dismissing US sabre-rattling, saying that US forces had ceased being a threat to Iran, they are now targets.
US anxiety about the safety of US forces is justified remembering the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing which killed 241 US troops. US intelligence intercepts showed that the Iranians were loading missiles into small boats, but Americans are not sure of Iranian plans. But if the Iranian plans are a riddle, the sabotaging of four oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, close to the Strait of Hormuz, has been cloaked in mystery. The most that can be said is that unknown persons surreptitiously damaged those oil tankers. Saudi Arabia owns two of the tankers, the United Arab Emirates own one, and the fourth belongs to a Norwegian company, the Thome Group, which simply said in a statement that its ship has been struck by an unknown object. The incidents became even more mysterious such that even the Saudis and the UAE are reluctant to hold the Iranians responsible for the mischief. Only the US has attributed the sabotage to Iran which in turn vehemently denied it and credited it to Israel of whom there is no proof of its guilt yet.
Comparison has been made of the current war fever with the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. There is no resemblance. Even the White House seems not united on the issue. Indeed, only the National Security Adviser, John Bolton, would merrily go to war against Iran without prodding. President Donald Trump would sign up to please Israel and his friend Prime Minister Netanyahu in putting pressures on Iran, but Trump can only be dragged to a war with Iran kicking and screaming. Since Iraq, Americans have demonstrated they do not want their young men and women to fight and die in the Middle East any more, which is why they refused to be involved in the Syrian civil war. The struggle with the Islamic State is a global one, and that’s different.
The US Congress won’t vote for a war with Iran. Many Americans do nurse misgivings about the Islamic Revolution and its regime. Few, however, would push for and make the enormous sacrifice that must be made to effect a regime change. Iran is not Iraq. Iran is infinitely more complex, territorially huger and militarily much stronger. At a certain point in Iraq, the US had nearly 500,000 troops, tied down, almost in a stalemate. In Iran, the US wThe war with Iran is unlikely because it will go down as one of those wrong wars. As one US Senator observed, it makes US the bully. It was the US which pulled out of the Iran-nuclear deal, not Iran. It was the US that re-instated sanctions on Iran over the objections of the Security Council members who literally sponsored and were witnesses to the deal. It was the US that has been doing the sabre-rattling, not Iran whose economy has all but been strangulated. Even the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the independent UN agency dedicated to monitoring Iranian behaviour, has testified to Iran’s faithfulness to the deal. And, this time, there is no September 11 to be used as a backdrop. Therefore, the US should go back to its deal with Iran on nuclear programme and respect its provisions. By doing so, it will save the world of the looming war.