Let’s begin with a caveat. I have no expertise in military or intelligence matters, nor terrorism, or even much in international affairs. I do have a pretty good handle on domestic politics and global political reality. The entirety this piece is simply common sense and the analysis of history and people I trust.
We are about to see a dramatic increase in Middle East asymmetric warfare “terrorism,” most of it not directly against Americans or American forces. It will be against proxies, Saudi Arabia, Israel, perhaps tit-for-tat hits against U.S. forces, we will see only a back and forth of limited acts. Iran must feed its people’s hunger for revenge, while also not attacking so strongly that half the United States is calling out for “real war.”
“Real war” for our purposes is something akin to the objective in Iraq, regime change. It will not happen, in my opinion, for many reasons.
The single biggest reason is that neither country can afford the investment, all things considered. It is not worth the risk.
For the United States, we cannot go to war with Iran unless well over (well over) 50% of the population demand it. That is not going to happen unless the Iranian military itself attacks the United States military “bigly.” Too many people remember three recent wars in the Middle-East. These wars don’t “work,” and people know it. It doesn’t matter that the Military-Industrial-Neo Cons want it badly, it simply won’t happen.
In part, it won’t happen because Iran would be the worst of those wars by an exponential factor. As I’ve said before, Iran has a real military, with a real air force (critical), real troops (a lot of them), real equipment, with a lot more money and WAY more land. If we thought Iraq was a slog, we have not seen one like this. This is not expert analysis, just look at the two countries side by side, Iraq-Iran, look where the Tehran is compared to Iraq’s capital, read some analysis, and imagine the time and effort to get the tanks and divisions there. So this would be – in effect – the most significant war since at least Vietnam, if not longer. And few want it.
Trump really doesn’t want it because he is fundamentally a coward in the end. Thursday’s strike represented the perfect option to him. He gets to puff his chest out, tweet a flag, talk all bad ass, make threats, get the heat off him for a while, blah blah blah. But when the Joint Chiefs sit him down for a presentation about what a “real war” with Iran looks like, Trump will see: One million troops, $250 billion (just a down payment), two years minimum and only if we hit with everything we’ve got, and a lot of U.S. losses, 10 to 20 thousand would be “limited.” We will get no help from any other nation (except maybe Saudi Arabia, which is not the U.K., which will not be there). Trump has blown his wad with respect to allies and the world hates him.
Now think about it, there is simply no way Trump is making a decision of that magnitude. He has no principles, it is all about “him,” and he won’t see this as “good” for him, because it absolutely is not. Even IF it were good for the country, he still won’t do it if it’s bad for him.
Speaking of things “good and bad for Trump,” Putin will not allow either country to get into a real war.
What on Earth does Putin have to gain if the countries go to war? Middle-East influence? He already has it! Right now, he can tell either nation to limit what they’re doing and do his bidding. Putin can tell Trump that Putin will keep Iran’s response very limited, but let Trump know that Trump owes Russia a huge favor for it. And then Putin will tell Iran the exact same thing. Put it this way, Iran bombed Saudi Arabia’s biggest refinery. How did the Saudis respond? With no response at all, and how does that happen? Not hard to figure out. Putin stepped in and took control. Putin allowed Trump to hit Iran because no one liked that Soleimani and Trump was desperate politically, and hurting. But Putin won’t allow much more.
Now, what does benefit every leader? Sporadic, dangerous, explosive, but also isolated attacks by all kinds of factions. ISIS, Iranian-backed people, Syrian-backed folks, Israel (usually as a victim, first) Sunni versus Shia, maybe a full-blown civil war in Iraq, and some small attacks against American-backed forces, and American strikes like Thursday. It keeps the world’s attention, and allows leadership in the U.S. and Iran to appear “necessary” in such a “dangerous world.”
The Middle-East will be extremely dangerous for any Western citizen, and even more dangerous for any Middle-East citizen just trying to go to work or school.
Is it dangerous, because a real war might spill out if everything spirals out of anyone’s control? Definitely. But the situation will likely happen anyway. In the same way that no one wants “real war,” I don’t see anyone wanting “real peace,” either. Trump wants “fights,” but fights like the embassy and the bomb hit. Iran wants revenge, but not revenge that gets one million troops invited. The isolated factions are already at war.
Even if Trump wants real war, he has to go through four huge hurdles opposing him: Every sane nation, the American people, Iran, and Putin. Iran doesn’t want to go to real war with the U.S. for the same reason no one ever wants to go to war with the U.S.. There is no way Iran’s leadership can ultimately “win.” Iranian leadership, including business leaders will likely lose their life and their stuff if the real American military comes. Even if it’s a slog stalemate like Iraq and Afghanistan, leadership loses. Saddam is dead, the Afghani leadership is dead, because that’s how it goes. The country may get a draw over a decade, the leaders won’t.
Perhaps we can feel good about the fact that a “real war” won’t break out in the Middle-East. But it will not be some “accomplishment.” We can be absolutely sick about the fact that – at least with respect to Iran – Obama had them tied down, with an invitation into semi-respect internationally, getting richer instead of angrier. Now the Iranians will be “sort of” out of control. Iraq will only get more dangerous.
Of course it is right to worry that they’ll accidentally set off a real war in the Middle East, and yet I still don’t think it will happen. A lot of people will die, the world will be more dangerous, things like gas will get much more expensive, the wrong people will get richer, and on and on.
In other words, this sucks. But that’s what you get when Putin is in ultimate control, and our leadership is thoughtless. You didn’t think Putin wanted what’s “best” for us, did you?
firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @MiciakZoom