Is a War With Iran on the Horizon?

By Bob Dreyfuss, an investigative journalist and founder of TheDreyfussReport.com. He is a contributing editor at the Nation, and he has written for Rolling Stone, Mother Jones, the American Prospect, the New Republic, and many other magazines. He is the author of Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam. Originally published at TomDispatch

Here’s the foreign policy question of questions in 2019: Are President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, all severely weakened at home and with few allies abroad, reckless enough to set off a war with Iran? Could military actions designed to be limited — say, a heightening of the Israeli bombing of Iranian forces inside Syria, or possible U.S. cross-border attacks from Iraq, or a clash between American and Iranian naval ships in the Persian Gulf — trigger a wider war?

Worryingly, the answers are: yes and yes. Even though Western Europe has lined up in opposition to any future conflict with Iran, even though Russia and China would rail against it, even though most Washington foreign policy experts would be horrified by the outbreak of such a war, it could happen.

Despite growing Trump administration tensions with Venezuela and even with North Korea, Iran is the likeliest spot for Washington’s next shooting war. Years of politically charged anti-Iranian vituperation might blow up in the faces of President Trump and his two most hawkish aides, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton, setting off a conflict with potentially catastrophic implications.

Such a war could quickly spread across much of the Middle East, not just to Saudi Arabia and Israel, the region’s two major anti-Iranian powers, but Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and the various Persian Gulf states. It might indeed be, as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani suggested last year (unconsciously echoing Iran’s former enemy, Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein) the “mother of all wars.”

With Bolton and Pompeo, both well-known Iranophobes, in the driver’s seat, few restraints remain on President Trump when it comes to that country. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, President Trump’s former favorite generals who had urged caution, are no longer around. And though the Democratic National Committee passed a resolution last month calling for the United States to return to the nuclear agreement that President Obama signed, there are still a significant number of congressional Democrats who believe that Iran is a major threat to U.S. interests in the region.

During the Obama years, it was de rigueur for Democrats to support the president’s conclusion that Iran was a prime state sponsor of terrorism and should be treated accordingly. And the congressional Democrats now leading the party on foreign policy — Eliot Engel, who currently chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Bob Menendez and Ben Cardin, the two ranking Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — were opponents of the 2015 nuclear accord (though all three now claim to have changed their minds).

Deadly Flashpoints for a Future War

On the roller coaster ride that is Donald Trump’s foreign policy, it’s hard to discern what’s real and what isn’t, what’s rhetoric and what’s not. When it comes to Iran, it’s reasonable to assume that Trump, Bolton, and Pompeo aren’t planning an updated version of the unilateral invasion of Iraq that President George W. Bush launched in the spring of 2003.

Yet by openly calling for the toppling of the government in Tehran, by withdrawing from the Iran nuclear agreement and reimposing onerous sanctions to cripple that country’s economy, by encouraging Iranians to rise up in revolt, by overtly supporting various exile groups (and perhaps covertly even terrorists), and by joining with Israel and Saudi Arabia in an informal anti-Iranian alliance, the three of them are clearly attempting to force the collapse of the Iranian regime, which just celebrated the 40th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution.

There are three potential flashpoints where limited skirmishes, were they to break out, could quickly escalate into a major shooting war.

The first is in Syria and Lebanon. Iran is deeply involved in defending Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (who only recently returned from a visit to Tehran) and closely allied with Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite political party with a potent paramilitary arm. Weeks ago, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu openly boasted that his country’s air force had successfully taken out Iranian targets in Syria. In fact, little noticed here, dozens of such strikes have taken place for more than a year, with mounting Iranian casualties.

Until now, the Iranian leadership has avoided a direct response that would heighten the confrontation with Israel, just as it has avoided unleashing Hezbollah, a well-armed, battle-tested proxy force.  That could, however, change if the hardliners in Iran decided to retaliate. Should this simmering conflict explode, does anyone doubt that President Trump would soon join the fray on Israel’s side or that congressional Democrats would quickly succumb to the administration’s calls to back the Jewish state?

Next, consider Iraq as a possible flashpoint for conflict. In February, a blustery Trump told CBS’s Face the Nation that he intends to keep U.S. forces in Iraq “because I want to be looking a little bit at Iran because Iran is the real problem.” His comments did not exactly go over well with the Iraqi political class, since many of that country’s parties and militias are backed by Iran.

Trump’s declaration followed a Wall Street Journal report late last year that Bolton had asked the Pentagon — over the opposition of various generals and then-Secretary of Defense Mattis — to prepare options for “retaliatory strikes” against Iran. This roughly coincided with a couple of small rocket attacks against Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone and the airport in Basra, Iraq’s Persian Gulf port city, neither of which caused any casualties.  Writing in Foreign Affairs, however, Pompeo blamed Iran for the attacks, which he called “life-threatening,” adding, “Iran did not stop these attacks, which were carried out by proxies it has supported with funding, training, and weapons.” No “retaliatory strikes” were launched, but plans do undoubtedly now exist for them and it’s not hard to imagine Bolton and Pompeo persuading Trump to go ahead and use them — with incalculable consequences.

Finally, there’s the Persian Gulf itself. Ever since the George W. Bush years, the U.S. Navy has worried about possible clashes with Iran’s naval forces in those waters and there have been a number of high-profile incidents. The Obama administration tried (but failed) to establish a hotline of sorts that would have linked U.S. and Iranian naval commanders and so made it easier to defuse any such incident, an initiative championed by then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen, a longtime opponent of war with Iran.

Under Trump, however, all bets are off. Last year, he requested that Mattis prepare plans to blow up Iran’s “fast boats,” small gunboats in the Gulf, reportedly asking, “Why don’t we sink them?” He’s already reinforced the U.S. naval presence there, getting Iran’s attention. Not surprisingly, the Iranian leadership has responded in kind. Earlier this year, President Hassan Rouhani announced that his country had developed submarines capable of launching cruise missiles against naval targets.  The Iranians also began a series of Persian Gulf war games and, in late February, test fired one of those sub-launched missiles.

Add in one more thing: in an eerie replay of a key argument George Bush and Dick Cheney used for going to war with Iraq in 2003, in mid-February the right-wing media outlet Washington Times ran an “exclusive” report with this headline: “Iran-Al Qaeda Alliance may provide legal rationale for U.S. military strikes.”

Back in 2002, the Office of Special Plans at Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon, under the supervision of neoconservatives Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, spent months trying to prove that al-Qaeda and Iraq were in league. The Washington Times piece, citing Trump administration sources, made a similar claim — that Iran is now aiding and abetting al-Qaeda with a “clandestine sanctuary to funnel fighters, money, and weapons across the Middle East.”  It added that the administration is seeking to use this information to establish “a potential legal justification for military strikes against Iran or its proxies.” Needless to say, few are the terrorism experts or Iran specialists who would agree that Iran has anything like an active relationship with al-Qaeda.

Will the Hardliners Triumph in Iran as in Washington?

The Trump administration is, in fact, experiencing increasing difficulty finding allies ready to join a new Coalition of the Willing to confront Iran. The only two charter members so far, Israel and Saudi Arabia, are, however, enthusiastic indeed. Last month, Prime Minister Netanyahu was heard remarking that Israel and its Arab allies want war with Iran.

At a less-than-successful mid-February summit meeting Washington organized in Warsaw, Poland, to recruit world leaders for a future crusade against Iran, Netanyahu was heard to say in Hebrew: “This is an open meeting with representatives of leading Arab countries that are sitting down together with Israel in order to advance the common interest of war with Iran.” (He later insisted that the correct translation should have been “combating Iran,” but the damage had already been done.)

That Warsaw summit was explicitly designed to build an anti-Iranian coalition, but many of America’s allies, staunchly opposing Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear accord, would have nothing to do with it. In an effort to mollify the Europeans, in particular, the United States and Poland awkwardly renamed it: “The Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East.”

The name change, however, fooled no one. As a result, Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Pompeo were embarrassed by a series of no-shows: the French, the Germans, and the European Union, among others, flatly declined to send ministerial-level representatives, letting their ambassadors in Warsaw stand in for them.  The many Arab nations not in thrall to Saudi Arabia similarly sent only low-level delegations. Turkey and Russia boycotted altogether, convening a summit of their own in which Presidents Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Iran’s Rouhani.

Never the smoothest diplomat, Pence condemned, insulted, and vilified the Europeans for refusing to go along with Washington’s wrecking-ball approach. He began his speech to the conference by saying: “The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.” He then launched a direct attack on Europe’s efforts to preserve that accord by seeking a way around the sanctions Washington had re-imposed: “Sadly, some of our leading European partners… have led the effort to create mechanisms to break up our sanctions. We call it an effort to break American sanctions against Iran’s murderous revolutionary regime.”

That blast at the European allies should certainly have brought to mind Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld’s disparaging comments in early 2003 about Germany and France, in particular, being leaders of the “old Europe.” Few allies then backed Washington’s invasion plans, which, of course, didn’t prevent war. Europe’s reluctance now isn’t likely to prove much of a deterrent either.

But Pence is right that the Europeans have taken steps to salvage the Iran nuclear deal, otherwise known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). In particular, they’ve created a “special purpose vehicle” known as INSTEX (Instrument for Supporting Trade Exchanges) designed “to support legitimate trade with Iran,” according to a statement from the foreign ministers of Germany, France, and Great Britain. It’s potentially a big deal and, as Pence noted, explicitly designed to circumvent the sanctions Washington imposed on Iran after Trump’s break with the JCPOA.

INSTEX has a political purpose, too. The American withdrawal from the JCPOA was a body blow to President Rouhani, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, and other centrists in Tehran who had taken credit for, and pride in, the deal between Iran and the six world powers (the United States, France, Germany, Britain, Russia, and China) that signed the agreement. That deal had been welcomed in Iran in part because it seemed to ensure that country’s ability to expand its trade to the rest of the world, including its oil exports, free of sanctions.

Even before Trump abandoned the deal, however, Iran was already finding U.S. pressure overwhelming and, for the average Iranian, things hadn’t improved in any significant way. Worse yet, in the past year the economy had taken a nosedive, the currency had plunged, inflation was running rampant, and strikes and street demonstrations had broken out, challenging the government and its clerical leadership. Chants of “Death to the Dictator!” — not heard since the Green Movement’s revolt against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s reelection in 2009 — once again resounded in street demonstrations.

At the end of February, it seemed as if Trump, Bolton, and Pompeo had scored a dangerous victory when Zarif, Iran’s well-known, Western-oriented foreign minister, announced his resignation. Moderates who supported the JCPOA, including Rouhani and Zarif, have been under attack from the country’s hardliners since Trump’s pullout.  As a result, Zarif’s decision was widely assumed to be a worrisome sign that those hardliners had claimed their first victim.

There was even unfounded speculation that, without Zarif, who had worked tirelessly with the Europeans to preserve what was left of the nuclear pact, Iran itself might abandon the accord and resume its nuclear program. And there’s no question that the actions and statements of Bolton, Pompeo, and crew have undermined Iran’s moderates, while emboldening its hardliners, who are making I-told-you-so arguments to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country’s supreme leader.

Despite the internal pressure on Zarif, however, his resignation proved short-lived indeed: Rouhani rejected it, and there was an upsurge of support for him in Iran’s parliament. Even General Qassem Soleimani, a major figure in that country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the commander of the Quds Force, backed him. As it happens, the Quds Force, an arm of the IRGC, is responsible for Iran’s paramilitary and foreign intelligence operations throughout the region, but especially in Iraq and Syria. That role has allowed Soleimani to assume responsibility for much of Iran’s foreign policy in the region, making him a formidable rival to Zarif — a tension that undoubtedly contributed to his brief resignation and it isn’t likely to dissipate anytime soon.

According to analysts and commentators, it appears to have been a ploy by Zarif (and perhaps Rouhani, too) to win a vote of political confidence and it appears to have strengthened their hand for the time being.

Still, the Zarif resignation crisis threw into stark relief the deep tensions within Iranian politics and raised a key question: As the Trump administration accelerates its efforts to seek a confrontation, will they find an echo among Iranian hardliners who’d like nothing more than a face-off with the United States?

Maybe that’s exactly what Bolton and Pompeo want.  If so, prepare yourself: another American war unlikely to work out the way anyone in Washington dreams is on the horizon.

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41 comments

  1. JBird4049

    Oh goody. More economic stimulus by adding the entire Shia branch of Islam to the Forever War. A Iran aka Persia has been in existence in some form since Cyrus the Great founded the Achaemenid Empire around 2,600 years ago. Iran has more resources than the rest of the Middle East combined except nuclear weapons.

    The American military can no doubt defeat their military in open battle; we won every major battle in the Vietnam War too and lost. Iran wants to have peaceful relations with us and are far more a match to America than the ultra-conservative, neo-barbarian religious autocratic House of Sa’ud.

    Our ruling “elites” are morons ruled by folly and my country is fucked, just simply, absolutely, and totally fucked.

    Reply
    1. Steve

      Agree! Things look very bleak on every front and all of it is because of a minority of powerful psychopaths :(

      Reply
      1. John Wright

        Aided and abetted by a US media that worships and promotes authority and celebrity.

        There is a game plan for the US media:

        1. give unconditional support for US military actions initially
        2. give very favorable and patriotic coverage of the early portions of the war
        3. point out a few problems with the ensuing “peace process”
        4. later when TSHTF, mention that it was “poor execution” and “we meant well”
        5. Then write a retrospective, discussing “What we got wrong”.

        Don’t look for skeptical coverage of the upcoming Iran War in the New York Times for a while.

        It will be there in the upcoming “What we got wrong on Iran” retrospective, that is penciled in for about three or four years after the new Iran war is initiated.

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        1. Jerry B

          ===Aided and abetted by a US media that worships and promotes authority and celebrity.===

          IMO the US media is just reinforcing the socialization practices of it’s society. From early childhood we are programmed to defer to authorities and consequently to not think for ourselves. Parents, Teachers, Religious Figures, Bosses, Ideologies, on and on. People in the US and the world are intentionally socialized to look to people who are supposed to have the “right” answers. We are taught “not to question” when in fact there are mostly no “right” answers and it depends on context, culture, and other factors that have a bearing on whether something is the right answer or not.

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    2. Procopius

      I wonder if the current leaders of our military understand how close Vietnam came to breaking our Army. They’d all be too young to have served then, and unlike earlier wars I believe we did not conduct studies to see what we did wrong and should have done better. We just adopted the dolchstosslegende and tried to forget our failure. An overt attack on Iran is sure to produce retaliation against Israel and their allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. After the first day or so Iran will probably not have the ability to launch overwhelming numbers of missiles, but their Hezbollah proxies will likely still be able to conduct sabotage operations on a daily basis. Our armed forces are not going to be able to conquer Iran in a short war. Remember that in Vietnam we won every open battle, but what Americans forget is that the VC and NVA always had the initiative and every open battle was initiated by them. Also, it is not possible for American forces to just get on planes and fly into Tehran and start fighting. We spent a year building up forces in Saudi to conduct Gulf War I. We spent a year building up forces in Kuwait to conduct Gulf War II, and that attack was imperiled by Turkey denying us passage for one third of the planned forces. Of course Trump has probably been persuaded that we can “win” with air power and maybe thinks we can have the Iraqi Army and the Kurds do all the ground fighting.

      Reply
      1. The Rev Kev

        I agree with everything that you say except the bit about winning every battle in Vietnam. Sorry, but came across a page that demolished that myth and gave a few examples of battles that the US lost. It is one of those Pentagon myths that they spread to make themselves feel better. Would it surprise you to learn that during the Vietnam war, that the North Vietnamese even managed to sink an aircraft carrier? Another embarrassment that the Navy covered up. And you know that I am not making it up.

        Reply
  2. Geo

    Considering the Dems have their immense distain for Russia who is an ally of Iran it’s hard to see how there would be any strong opposition to such a war.

    Also, two days ago Trump effectively ended the rule on counting civilian casualties (as faulty as that counting was) and has launched a massive new strike in Syria which is being cheered on by all those who freaked when he threatened to withdraw.

    Beyond just war, we currently have sanctions against 30 countries (more than any time in history) which, I assume, impacts many more nations than just those thirty. It’s hard to imagine this will continue without some form of new power dynamic arising. A war with Iran where our only allies are Israel (who Netanyahu just stated today is a Jewish State and not a nation for others) and the Saudis (who have never hid being a tyranny) it would be clear as ever how our claim of promoting freedom and democracy are outright lies.

    It seems hard to believe anyone would be dumb enough to start this war with Iran but almost nothing in our foreign policy in the past two decades except a few brief glimmers of sanity in the post-Clinton Obama era reveal the decisions are being made by smart people.

    Reply
    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Team Blue elites celebrated Trump’s withdrawal from the one good thing Obama did. Chuck Schumer was preening when this happened. They don’t need “IMG Russia.” They did pick up voters were in favor of the Iran deal and have since shut their mouths, but the Team Blue elites haven’t really changed.

      Reply
  3. Another Anon

    I think the upcoming Israeli elections will be a factor.
    If Netanyahu thinks he is going to lose, then conflict
    becomes more likely. Losing the election also
    makes it more likely that he will be indicted for corruption
    given the rumors that such an action is being sought after by
    their attorney general. The Syrian government also just said that
    it could mean war with Israel if they don’t get back the Golan Heights.

    Reply
  4. integer

    General Wesley Clark: Wars Were Planned – Seven Countries In Five Years

    Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Iran. It’s taking a bit longer than expected, but there’s no reason to think the plan has changed. Regarding Somalia and Sudan:

    US airstrikes kill hundreds in Somalia as shadowy conflict ramps up The Boston Globe

    The war in Somalia appears to be “on autopilot,” [the chief of staff of the International Crisis Group] added, and one that is drawing the United States significantly deeper into an armed conflict without much public debate.

    383,000: Estimated Death Toll in South Sudan’s War NYT

    South Sudan declared independence from Sudan in 2011, becoming the world’s newest country, with the backing of Western nations. But two years later, civil war erupted in South Sudan.

    So, Lebanon and Iran are the only countries left.

    Reply
  5. The Rev Kev

    Some idle thoughts of an idle fellow. I can see why Europe balked at even the idea of yet another madcap adventure in the middle east. Oil prices would sky rocket and could even trigger recessions in countries across the world. Thanks Trump. In discussing a military attack on Iran, I thought that it might be an idea to have a map handy showing Iran and the main US military bases in this region as these would have to be used to launch and sustain most of any attacks. Here is a handy map-

    https://www.antiwar.com/blog/2011/12/06/u-s-military-bases-in-the-middle-east/

    The problem is that the countries that might help are also those most vulnerable to counter-attack. Turkey has good relations with Iran and they would not want Iran aiding Turkey’s Kurds in the east with advanced weaponry. Iraq would go ballistic if they tried to launch an attack on Iran from their soil and US bases might find all supplies cut off from their bases with demands that they pack up and leave. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states would love Iran to be attacked but if they help, then those very same states can kiss all their oil infrastructure and water-filtration plants goodbye to Iranian missile attack. If they think that US Patriot batteries can defend their infrastructure, then good luck with that. Next on the list is Pakistan but with the trouble that they are having with India, helping pick a fight with Iran would be a sticky wicket which Imran Khan would know a lot about.
    Finally there is Afghanistan. Sure the US can attack from there but then there would be nothing stopping Iran sending teams across the border with man-pads and ATGM missiles which would change the whole military equation. Then it wouldn’t be duck season or wabbit season but US Base in Afghanistan season. As for attack by the US Navy, that is always open but they cannot get too close and certainly not survive in the gulf. Like Pearl Harbour in 1941, it is “a god-damned mousetrap” with only one way in or out.
    And what if Russia goes in with S-400 batteries to help protect Iran? How does it end? The US has nowhere near enough troops to occupy Iran. And if Trump says that , after a series of attacks, “That’s all folks!” there is nothing to say that Iran would stop their counter-attacks. And there would go the elections for 2020 for both him and the Republicans as the butcher’s bill became know. The trouble is that in war, the enemy gets a vote too.

    Reply
    1. MRLost

      I expect the Europeans would also worry about a new flood of refugees streaming towards them. European leaders would not appreciate that since the previous wave from Syria almost destabilized half a dozen European countries and has led to a number of populist challengers to current leadership.

      Also, the Persian Gulf is a bathtub. You cannot operate an aircraft carrier effectively – or keep it safe – in a bathtub. If there is to be a war, and if the Navy has anything to say about it, I would hope the Navy would pull the vast majority of its ships out of the Gulf before the shooting started. Unless they want to lose a ship. Loss of a Navy ship would justify a wider, and more intense, war.

      Reply
  6. Ignacio

    This is all too stupid. If the US was to attack Iran, apart from the cruelty, the killings and all that stupid “collateral” damage that comes with war, the geopolitical drifts already in place would widen well above the level of the cold war. Any US secretary, congresscreature, diplomat, etc. with more that two working neurons in their brains must realise this is a recipe for disaster.

    Reply
    1. Procopius

      Apparently Bolton and Pompeo don’t, and they seem to have many allies in The Blob. I really don’t believe in RussiaRussiaRussia, and feel its use by the neoliberals has been a strategic error of the first magnitude — in realpolitik, not in domestic politics.

      Reply
    1. John Wright

      Remember the late “Saint McCain” joked about “Bomb, Bomb Iran”?

      The problem is far more extensive than one “apprentice”.

      A good political process, that worked for the common good, would self correct for bad judgments by its leaders.

      But see how George W. Bush is deferentially treated by the media (and Joe Biden) and given medals (See Liberty Medal at https://constitutioncenter.org/liberty-medal)

      This is evidence that the US establishment is quite comfortable with “apprentices” in the White House who do what the political elite want.

      I believe “apprentice” Trump is allowed to stray only so far before he is reeled back in.

      Reply
  7. Ignim Brites

    Objectively, the US has no future interests in the Middle East and subjectively the US citizenry has absolutely no interest in the Middle East. Therefore, any major military action will be instantly and dramatically polarizing with support for the action really being only support for the President. Consequently, any major action would have to be decisive and conclusive quickly. This is only likely to be the case if tactical nuclear weapons are used. But the taboo against nukes means the US cannot use even tactical nukes first. Therefore, the prerequisite to war in the middle east is to provoke Russia into a tactical nuke use. It is difficult to imagine the circumstances under which this might occur because there is no significant area of conflict between the US and Russia.

    Reply
    1. Procopius

      Vladimir Putin has shown himself to be a prudent, thoughtful strategist, carefully avoiding hasty responses. He also has excellent relations with Israel. Netanyahu has made at least six trips to Moscow in the last two years. He is not going to allow the use of “tactical” nukes. Period. The idea that any use of any type of nuclear weapon is possible is as stupid as the idea that a “small” “bloody-nose” attack against North Korea would not unleash a devastating response against South Korea and full-scale war. Don’t these people remember how successful “sending a message” through varying intensity of bombing was in Vietnam? No, they don’t.

      Reply
  8. Norm

    This will all be an opportunity for a “serious” Democrat presidential hopeful to put himself or herself forward as one who does NOT subscribe to this insanity. I’d love to see Bernie step forward on this, but I’m not holding my breath.

    Reply
  9. Norb

    What the elites are taking for granted is that the American people will show up and participate in such a conflict. That will be a very hard sell. There are people of integrity around willing to point out the outrageous contradictions in American policy. In order to suppress these views, drastic authoritarian measures will have to be taken, proving the hypocrisy underlying the narrative. Only the truly dumb and brainwashed will continue to support such insanity- and outright imperialists.

    What we are seeing is the death throws of imperialism as an ideology. A very strong defensive posture by attacked nations should be enough to resist the onslaught. Who would be best able to withstand a growing conflict, people who have been actively fighting for decades, or a delusional American public, safely pursuing their individual dreams and aspirations?

    America becomes more outright authoritarian by the day, while the rest of the world struggles for independence and autonomy. Ask Americans what they are fighting for and the answer rings hollow and false.

    So much work needs to be done. Getting sidetracked in another war is just a ploy by the elite to mask their lack of vision and true purpose. If no one shows up to participate, they are finished- and the few can’t win the war by themselves. The military in the US is a gigantic jobs program- and a wasteful one at that.

    As other nations integrate and perfect their defensive networks, Americans will be the biggest losers. Stalemate will have been reached, and even the most insane warmongers realize that breaking that stalemate would require nuclear attacks that would disrupt the economic system to such an extent that all their dreams of conquest would be for nothing.

    The American way of war has been to strive for world conquest indirectly. It has been attempted thru subterfuge.
    That way doesn’t work any more- the remaining adversaries are too strong.

    Saner heads must prevail and strive to reach accommodation, not aggression.

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    1. Summer

      As long as they have people attributing foreign policy to the designs and minds of one individual “The President,” it’s hard for such an uprising to occur.
      Too many still think that by changing the person that does the PR and war photo ops, a big difference will be made.
      More signs need to be protests about those unelected lifers in the swamp.

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    2. lyman alpha blob

      I think you’re right that the public is war weary however we do have the robots. It might not “win” a war, but you can blow a lot of stuff up with unmanned drones. Replacement bombs is what keeps the arms makers in business which is half the point of starting a war in the first place, the other half being the Texas Tea that was misplaced in the Middle East somehow.

      Reply
  10. Carolinian

    There is the theory that all of Trump’s foreign policy bluster is really about domestic politics and that he hired Pompeo and Bolton to placate people like Adelson who is a major campaign money source., Similarly the attempted coup in Venezuela is a sop to the south Florida Republicans and like all things Trump is more about posturing than any serious plan to achieve a result. Add in the long standing Pentagon opposition to war with Iran (which might not go well for them) and the above article seems a bit dubious. Indeed many reasons for dubiety appear within the article itself including that Warsaw conference where the warmongers were conspicuously snubbed. It’s common to view Trump as a loose cannon but in fact his actions, as opposed to his words, have been rather restrained compared to, say, Hillary who wanted Obama to bomb Damascus and confront Russia with a no fly zone over Syria. One can never say anything for sure about DT, but he doesn’t quite seem to have that same warmonger spirit, despite all the trash talk.

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    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      There is the theory that all of Trump’s foreign policy bluster is really about domestic politics

      All war is about domestic politics. HRC after all lost in 2008 due to her support for the Iraq War. She took too long to repudiate it, but Team Blue had pushed the “SMRT” war for so long I suspect her primary motivation for Libya was to give her an out on Iraq by pointing to the miracle victory in Libya. The expectation of an easy victory is what mattered.

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      1. Carolinian

        I’m not sure your blanket statement is really valid. There have been plenty of wars throughout history that occurred at the whims of sovereigns and that’s one reason the US setup–theoretically–placed war power with the Congress.

        And it’s hard to say that the Bush/Cheney decision to attack Iraq was out of some political necessity. After 9/11 Bush’s approval rating was 90 percent. These two oil men may have had some non politics reason for what they did. Trump on the other hand is not an oil man and it’s murky what the source of his animus toward Iran really is. Some would claim it’s only a way of getting back at Obama (“whatever he’s for I’m against it”). In fact his animus may be far less real than people think.

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  11. WJ

    So far as I know there is no situation in which a war with Iran does not immediately lead to three things:

    1. Heavy U.S. casualities in vulnerable bases all across the Gulf
    2. Heavy damage to Israeli infrastructure, cities, military, with heavy civilian casualities
    3. Closure or destruction of the gulf of Hormuz as navigable trade route

    In other words, I am not certain how a hot war with Iran would actually improve the political popularity of either Trump or Netanyahoo. I suspect that there will be a ratcheting up of the rhetoric, and perhaps one or two proxy skirmishes in Syria, but I don’t think there will be anything more than this.

    Just ask yourself why Israel has avoided any ground activity in Lebanon since 2006. They are scared to death of Hezbollah and Hezbollah has already stated that a direct attack on Iran will be responded to by their bombardment of Tel Aviv.

    Besides, I don’t believe that Russia and China would allow a direct and sustained attack upon so important an economic partner to happen. The destruction of Iran would harm both of these countries’ interests in a substantial way. Russia has already shown its presence can serve as an effective deterrent to unmitigated U.S./Israeli aggression in Syria. A war with Iran would not be able to be contained, but would quickly involve the direct or indirect involvement of Russia and China (and Lebanon, via Hezbollah) and the U.S. and Israeli cannot win such a war, they can only be destroyed by it.

    Reply
    1. John k

      The most amazing player to me is Saudi… all of their oil and most desal plants are just across the gulf from them. Clearly missiles are aimed at those vul targets… how long was Kuwait production off line? Remember Iraq quickly pushed out, allowing fire fighters to go in… would this be quick? You mean quick like Iraq?

      plus Hormuz closure… so world loses most of saudi, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait exports of about 15mb/d.
      Us exports oil, but imports more. Net imports are 3-4mb/d. At what price?
      New records to come with Iran war. World will bid high numbers to avoid going without. Owners may regret Truck and suv infatuation. Some gas pumps may have problem with price above 10/g.
      Good for Tesla… who else? The oil patch will be hiring… commuters that can afford it, or went electric, will see open freeways.
      Hedge with small us oily e&p’s.
      Deep recession.

      Reply
      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        The whole point of democratic forms of government is the recognition rulers will inevitably descend into nepotistic madness.

        The other issue with Saudi Arabia, besides the funding of religious extremism and what to do with them, is there are about 5,000 Saudi “princes” of fighting age who can’t afford to bug out. They have a brigade truly invested in the regime. I think Yemen is about keeping the regular army away from the capitol. Given the population, what is to stop a military junta from deciding to seize power with a few well placed orders? Or even popular support. One of the mantras which feeds Western egos out of the House of Saud is the idea Muslims need a steady hand. The West and especially the U.S. is full of elites who ascribe to forms of Bookerism for non-whites. A democratic style of government, even with the religious dimension (such as the UK), made up of Muslims might present a threat because the local population might get ideas. The Soviets weren’t a threat to the West. A productive Soviet society might give people ideas especially about those European royal families.

        Every day Iran isn’t a villain or even a more restrained Baath Party operates doesn’t it raise questions about the fitness of Saudi thugs with their religious extremism. The Koran doesn’t provide for their current society. The original Mohammed led communities were multi-cultural and religious. Muslims had to pay a special tax.

        Westerners don’t learn this, but around the 1810’s and 1820’s, Ottoman and Egyptian troops tried to exterminate the Saudi tribe for basically being land pirates. They killed half. I have no doubt the Saudi tribe remembers.

        Reply
        1. Procopius

          If you notice, the Saudi “regular forces” have not been active in Yemen since the first attack, in which they suffered about 50 casualties. Unacceptable loss. Ground troops in Yemen are mostly mercenaries recruited from Sudan and Somalia by the United Arab Emirates. The Saudi National Guard is more a jobs program than an actual fighting force. Those “5,000 ‘princes'” are not going to war. The Israeli Defense Forces are not going to invade Iran, either.

          Reply
  12. Susan the Other

    It has been almost 20 years since little George mobilized us for war in the ME. That’s a long time to accomplish a military goal. War is traditionally something that you “mobilize” to take care of immediately or imminently. We are playing a waiting game. When I first saw the map (c.2010) showing how we had surrounded Iran, and heard the accounts of how we had transported massive amounts of materiel to Iraq and just plopped it there like a cache for future use, all these things pointed to one thing: Iran. Now we are destabilizing Iran using our usual tricks. But in our procrastination we have lost our allies. Europe is decidedly fed up with us. Israel and SA are not allies – they are our surrogates. The reality is that the rest of the ME wants us out. To start a war would be insane. But to abandon all that oil, including the Caspian, would also be suicide. Rock and a hard place. And even if we “took the oil” we would destroy our own country trying to hold on to it. What are we going to do – turn the entire region into another Syria?

    Reply
    1. John k

      Yeah, like we took Iraq oil. If we go into Iran we probably get kicked out of Iraq.
      In the war we had the advantage that sadism was a minority ruler. Not the case in Iran… granted the city folks might dislike religious rule, but they will all fight to defend their country if attacked. Long guerrilla war unless nukes. And Iran will not shy from sinking a vulnerable carrier or two… and where else can we attack from? Turkey and Europe will be closed.
      Military will resist. Retired generals might post op Ed’s.

      Reply
      1. WobblyTelomeres

        We don’t take oil, we just disrupt the global supply chain, driving up prices, which creates profit for oilmen in Texas, Oklahoma, and Saudi Arabia. Same old same ole.

        Reply
  13. John k

    One reason to go to war is when a leader is weak and might be toppled in an election, such as trump and Netanyahu, or assassinated like MBs. Trump generally too cautious, but goaded by those around him…
    Bernie and dems should fight this drift into war, problem is there are two war parties plus a mostly war press that never saw one they didn’t like. This is much too likely,
    If brexit, brits need a trade partner… support the war and continue trade with us… otherwise…

    Reply
  14. Johnny Pistola

    Undoubtedly, the msm will have little or nothing to report on the affect such a war would have on the Iranian people. Clearly, this forum doesn’t care much. As usual, political strategy and economic impact are much more interesting to the academic mind.

    Reply
    1. WJ

      My sense is that the general thought here is that of course a war on Iran would be a horrible and damnable act of barbarous violence on the Iranian people, but sadly considerations of that sort are never the kinds of things that determine whether wars of aggression take place.

      Reply
      1. Johnny Pistola

        I claim no more compassion than any other NC reader. Public opinion can be a powerful force, as currently demonstrated in Canada, where PM Justin Trudeau has been prevented from rewarding his corporate sponsor SNC Lavalin, due to the resignation of two prominent cabinet members. Similarly, a few well chosen photos and/or some loud pro humanity statements from popular legislators and celebrities just might prevent the US from committing genocide in Iran.

        Reply
  15. Roger

    Reason there’s still a standoff is because if US takes Iran, Russia takes Ukraine & China gets Taiwan. And in that equation both China & Russia end up in a much better position than what the US ends up with. Three way chess waiting for the US to make their move.

    Reply

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