The Myth of US War on Iran

29 January 2019 | 15:23 Code : 1981427 General category
Kaveh L. Afrasiabi
The Myth of US War on Iran

As Iran's Islamic Revolution turns forty, there is a great deal of media noise in the West regarding the likelihood of a US war with Iran. The assumption that the Trump administration populated by Iran hawks such as National Security Adviser John Bolton are plotting their way toward an open clash with Iran has been around since Trump took office 2 years ago and turned the previous Iran policy on its head by moving away from Obama's thaw to one of pure aggression led by a naked economic war. More recently, a New York Times disclosure that Bolton had requested from the military planners a plan for military strikes against Iran has obviously further fueled the concern that US has war aims on Iran that may put into practice sooner or later.


One of the principal reasons for this concern is the recent escalation of tensions between Iran and Israel, which has given further credibility to the coming war assumption, the argument being that Israel and its supporters in Washington are pushing the White House toward war with their chief Middle East rival accused of acting "hegemonically." Similar concerns about Saudi Arabia, which also accuses Iran of being "expansionist" and out to dominate the region, exist and, so the argument goes, there is a synergy of views between Riyadh and Tel Aviv acting as catalysts for the war scenario. But, should there be a US-Iran war, the dominant Western narrative would likely be along the lines of good versus bad, portraying Iran as the 'bad guy' wreaking havoc on the region and "exporting chaos," to paraphrase President Trump. Reminiscent of the 2003 Iraq war, a good deal of war propaganda as well as 'psychological warfare' goes along with any war scenario, making it difficult to distinguish facts from fabrications.


But, a key problem with the US war scenario is the underestimation of problems and challenges confronting the US military planners that, in turn, act as roadblocks and or disincentives against war. These planners are well aware of Iran's military capabilities that are in many respects quite formidable and capable of inflicting serious damages to US assets in the region, as well as to the assets of US allies. Any US attack on Iran risks engulfing the Persian Gulf, resulting in skyrocketing oil prices and triggering a global recession. It would also put at risk the oil installations of America's allies, e.g., Saudi Arabia, that are easily within the reach of Iran's precision-guided missiles. Iran has also threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz as well as other waterways in the region, which would mean that the US navy would have to shoulder the responsibility to keep them open for an indefinite period, representing a major costly chore.


Not only that, it is a safe bet that Iran's Hezbollah allies will rain down their missiles against Israeli targets as soon as US commences an attack on Iran, thus extending the theater of conflict. Armed with tens of thousands of missiles, Hezbollah’s strike capability plays an important role in Iran's deterrence and, therefore, any notion that a US-Iran war will be limited between the two countries is a naïve myth that needs to be debunked. Similarly, Iran can count on the solidarity of Shia popular mobilization groups in Iraq to strike back at the US assets inside Iraq, given Iran's critical contribution to Iraq's anti-ISIS campaign, and this too represents an important area of US vulnerability, just as its other forces in Iran's vicinity, such as in Afghanistan, could also be targeted.


Iran's asymmetrical warfare capabilities have been studied by Western think tanks for some time, and these by and large admit that although US superpower has a preponderance of power, it is liable to lose a number of warships in Persian Gulf in the event of a new US-Iran showdown. Compared to the previous showdown, when US destroyed a bulk of Iran's navy, Iran is not bogged down in a war with another enemy, has drawn the right lessons from that episode, and has considerable advantage over US in a number of crucial areas, such as superiority in ground troops, access to terrain, war morale, etc., while the US is overstretched as a result of its force deployments in other parts of the world and "war-fatigued." 


Of course, an important impediment to a US war on Iran has to do with just cause. US has no just cause against Iran, has acted like a rogue state by pulling out of the nuclear deal and defying the UN Security Council resolution 2231, and whatever its lame excuses for initiating a war against Iran would be a hard sell in the international community. The absence of a credible justification for war is, indeed, a principal reason against the war scenario. Thus, despite the occasional White House saber-rattling against Iran, Trump and his Iran hawk advisers ought to know the substantial risks to US national security interests if they embark on a reckless confrontation with Iran, which can easily turn into a regional conflagration.