Submitted by Steve Brown…
Let’s analyze, with the least aggressive options first:
Ending US Treasury Sanctions Waivers for Iran
Presently, Iraq purchases gas and electricity directly from Iran by waiver, and civilian nuclear products are likewise exported from Iran to Japan, Russia,
China and to some European countries. While all US waivers could be ended as a “measured response” to Iran’s alleged ‘misbehavior’ it is more than likely that both China and Russia will continue to do business with Iran as per usual, or even accelerate their trade.
Since full sanctioning authority invested in the US Treasury has already been imposed versus Iran, there are few-to-none real options for imposing additional US sanctions on Iran. Other US Treasury options such as limiting Iran’s access to the global financial system, gold market, and SWIFT system are already in effect
An MEK or al Qaeda Insurgency?
Iran is a relatively homogeneous society and culture, despite some deep political divisions. Even so, Iran has not been plagued by the sectarian strife typical of other Middle Eastern countries. Regardless, the United States has long maintained that a dissident group within Iran might be cultivated, and has curiously latched on to a strange and dangerous group of dissidents, known as the Mujahadeen-e-Khalq or MEK.
While the MEK has been described as cultish and not a true dissident movement far right Neoconservative ideologues such as John Bolton still hold out much hope for the MEK. Another Iranian dissident group is the National Council of Resistance of Iran, essentially a front group for the MEK, and somewhat more palatable to the West in appearance.*
Typically, Washington infiltrates ISIS terrorist groups to destabilize and conquer, as it did in Nahr al Bared, Yarmouk Camp, ain-al-Hilweh, and most notably in Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria. And while the United States alleges that al Qaeda acts quite freely in Iran, Iran has done more to eradicate radical Wahabi and Takfiri terror than any other nation, perhaps with the exception of the Russian Federation. Thus, no particular dissident group exists within Iran to mount a formidable challenge to destabilize the status quo, or to facilitate regime change there.
Siege or Blockade?
Due to its land mass and borders with friendly nations, a physical siege or blockade of Iran with regard to its neighbors cannot be accomplished. Due to Iran’s key geographic position, a US naval blockade is not possible either, since that would adversely affect global oil trade.
A Limited Air Attack
A limited US air strike might target Iranian oil infrastructure inside the country. A single air attack on Arak, Kermanshah, or Esfahan (probably not Tabriz) could be accomplished with precision, and with limited collateral damage. Most likely a US stealth bomber would carry out this attack, refueled or based from Saudi Arabia.
Now, recall Israel’s Osirak air strike in 1981 and the eventual popularity of that attack among US Neoliberals. While a limited air strike on an Iranian nuclear facility is unlikely, a US attack on an Iranian nuclear research facility – where no isotopes are stored – is a possibility and rumored to be advocated among Trump’s war hawks.
Exploring the consequence of such an attack is beyond scope of this article, but note that the Russian leadership has already warned the United States that it must desist from such an attack. In the event of an attack, the odds that Russia will supply S-400 missile systems to Iran will rise exponentially. A high probability exists too that as a result of such an attack, Iran will at least attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz, in its national defense.
Briefly, for the US to unilaterally carry out such a provocative limited air attack could result in international outrage, and may cause Blowback of a sort which even the Trump regime cannot contemplate.
Ground Invasion and Occupation
A US ground invasion of Iran similar to the invasion and occupation of Iraq is possible, but exceedingly unlikely on three fronts: financially, logistically, and militarily. It is impractical to explore all three topics in the space provided, but suffice to say that the United states has never been successful in any of its military endeavours.
The US military may exceed at “shock and awe” but no US military operation engaged in throughout its history has ever been successful at state-building. The success of Germany and Japan after WW2 is due to the enterprising and industrious nature of their people… not the United States. US military interventions from Afghanistan to Vietnam (and all nations between) have always ended in failure.
Iran is a formidable opponent, too, in its own right… and in its own defense. Highly disciplined and possessing a wide variety of advanced weaponry (and mountainous terrain) for the United States to take on Iran will certainly result in thousands of dead, and much damage to Iranian infrastructure. But for that, the United States is certain to pay a heavy price. Ironically, Donald Trump seems at least partially aware of the militarist peril he faces in that regard.
A Nuclear Attack
While some may scoff at this notion, note that the former United States is the only nation to have ever used nuclear weapons in anger. The US killed many thousands by its nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That outcome caused US war hawks to laud the use of nuclear weapons saying that the nukes ‘ended the war early’ saving thousands of American lives; that the result produced an economic miracle in Japan. That the US public is so inured to the idea that killing and organized violence is a means to enforce its role as global hegemon is depressing indeed. But America will not engage in a nuclear war over a downed drone; that idea is of course fantasy.
Considering the above, it is more than unlikely that the US can successfully engage Iran. After goading and inflaming tensions, only one man has the ability to decide who lives and who dies, whether an attack takes place or not, by whatever means. The foregoing apparently violates the Constitution of the United States, to whit his advisors seem unaware, or have no objection.
And yet, Trump is only human. As a result of the free hand he has been given, he seems to have adopted that arcane and risky policy of deliberate ambiguity:
Policy of deliberate ambiguity
‘A policy of deliberate ambiguity (also known as a policy of strategic ambiguity, strategic uncertainty) is the practice by a country of being intentionally ambiguous on certain aspects of its foreign policy. It may be useful if the country has contrary foreign and domestic policy goals or if it wants to take advantage of risk aversion to abet a deterrence strategy.’
* See Epictitus: ‘Appearances to the mind are of four kinds’