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Why the United States Won’t Launch a Ground War Versus Iran

Submitted by Steve Brown…
Update to: Why the United States Will Not Attack Iran

In recent weeks we have seen numerous probing attempts and provocations in and around the Strait of Hormuz — whether false flags or actual events — intended to raise the profile of the US’s unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA, and renewed US sanctions versus Iran.  Iran is pushing the issue with the United States, and is apparently offering a sacrificial pawn on the board (or perhaps knight!) by seizing two British oil tankers alleged to be operating illegally in the Strait of Hormuz.

While it is too soon to predict how the United States and its allies Israel and Saudi Arabia (both sworn enemies of Iran) will react, let’s explore the reasons why any US reactionary response will be largely symbolic, even if that involves a token strike versus Iran.

Global alliances have shifted

Turkey has defacto announced its withdrawal from NATO, by its purchase of S-400 missiles. That purchase and collaboration with Russia guarantees its departure from NATO, even if Turkey has not publicly announced such a withdrawal.  Furthermore, while Turkey’s military bases host US aircraft and operations, Turkey says it will not allow its bases to be used in any attack on Iran, by the US.

Iraq, an ally of Iran, has likewise stated that it will not allow its territory to be used as a base for attacking Iran.

Next, Imran Khan’s Pakistan has moved away from its alliance with the US to court China. China is Pakistan’s largest trading partner, and China has guaranteed security to Pakistan for Kashmir. Thus, no bases in Pakistan will be provided to the United States for any attack on Iran.

China and Russia have warned Washington too that it must not attack Iran. Iran has guarantees from Russia, China, Pakistan, Turkey, and even Japan and India that its economic future is secure… despite US sanctions.

So, only Saudia remains as a host for US aggression versus Iran.  But Saudia has much to lose by hosting US aggression, especially with Russia pushing OPEC+.  And even the largely defunct Arab League opposes US aggression versus Iran, from any Saudi base.

Iran will fight back

Next, consider the military force that Iran has at its disposal. From advanced Grad rockets to the Kornet, expect an announcement soon that S-400’s and other advanced armaments will be provided to Iran to ensure its right to defend itself. That, in conjunction with an already formidable array of defensive weapons to secure Iran’s borders and sea lanes will guarantee a formidable defense.

The United States cannot afford another new war

While the Federal Reserve may print the USD at will, a new war – especially a major war versus Iran – will weaken the US economically, despite the gamed casino numbers we see daily from Wall Street.

If the US were to attack Iran, be sure that the oil market will be mightily affected, causing oil prices to surge exponentially. Gold too will surge. Indeed, such an oil and gold price effect may be the prick needed to deflate the multi-quadrillion inflated USD bubble of public debt and derivative speculation that can burst again… just as it burst in 2008-2009.  But this time when the financial collapse occurs, and as Donald Trump has warned, the new collapse will render the financial collapse of 2008-2009 to be a picnic.

The US is not capable of defeating Iran in a conventional war

This time, there is no “coalition of the willing” to posture and pretend that the US has many and varied allies engaged in some just cause to rid the world of evil, as it proclaimed in 1994 versus North Korea, and in 2003 versus Iraq.  Apparently, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau and Solomon Islands have no real grievance versus Iran right now.

But the possibility exists that France, the UK and Germany will consider Iran enough of a threat around the Strait of Hormuz to impose additional sanctions on the country, and increase Naval military patrols to accompany tankers through the Strait. The increased patrols will increase tensions in the region, but should not result in war unless the US takes the bait of Iran sacrificing a knight to leave the West’s queen exposed, ie a greater war in the Middle East which may involve Iraq, Syria, Israel, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.

Last time, just ten minutes prior to pulling the trigger (depending on accounts!) to consummate the Neocon’s dream for war with Iran, Trump had other ideas. Now,  let’s review the reasons the United States cannot initiate a ground war versus Iran.

Iran Strike Strategic map


Most likely candidate here would be to stage US air strikes on Iran from Bagram air base. But at this time Afghanistan seeks closer ties with Iran on trade; for example, to trade with India via Iran’s Chabahar port.

And while the US could stage air strikes from Bagram, to launch a ground attack from this region would be a virtual impossibility. That is, due to mountainous terrain and firmly entrenched and well-armed IRGC mountain troops, neighboring.

Furthermore, it is exceedingly likely that Dostum/Ghani would forbid any attack by the US on Iran from Afghanistan, that would result in a major new war. And note that Dostum is pushing for the removal of US troops from Afghanistan, including its air bases.

As a matter of conjecture, it is likely that the US presented Dostum / Ghani with an enticing “deal” to host US forces for staging their new war on Iran. And while initially accepting Trump’s deal, it is thought that with such high stakes for Afghanistan it would have ultimately been rejected. (An interesting bit of propaganda along these lines appears here.)

There is noise too from Trump about withdrawing from Afghanistan, but that eventuality is highly unlikely.


The “Hermit Kingdom” proves even more problematic for the US than Afghanistan, for attacking Iran. There is little infrastructure, no existing US air base, only a “secret base” proposed by various alt media sources. While such a base could be used for US harassment vs Iran, to initially stage a new US war versus Iran from Turkmenistan is exceedingly unlikely. Especially so, since Turkmenistan (a former Soviet republic) has very close relations with China, and China has already warned the US to refrain from attacking Iran.


Imran Khan has sought close ties to Iran, and agreed to mutual border protection.

US State is so concerned with Khan and his shifting alliance to Iran and China, the department recently released a counter to allegations re deteriorating US – Pak relations.

Based on its history and current leadership, Pakistan will not allow the United States to use Pakistan as a base for a ground war versus Iran.

United Arab Emirates

The US RQ-4 shot down by Iran on June 19th was launched from the UAE via a US military base there. This base is alleged to be devoted to US action versus ISIL, but is thought to be a major US base for reconnaissance on Iran.

The UAE is hostile to Iran, but has no land bridge with Iran, being directly across the Strait of Hormuz. Its location on the strait would certainly close the Strait in a full-blown US war, for which the UAE would be blamed as an accomplice.  The UAE has trade relations with Arab states too, that prevent it from being used as initial staging for a US war of aggression versus Iran.

It may be reasonably conjectured that the UAE agreed to allow US harassment strikes on Iran from its airfield there, but then withdrew that agreement abruptly.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is an ally of the US only for financial reasons, and a sworn enemy of Iran. Recently Saudi Arabia turned to China in an attempt to broaden trade and diversify its economy. Saudi Arabia must look to the future despite its cold war with Iran, and maintain reasonable relations with other Arab states.

Besides having no land mass directly adjacent to Iran, and based on its history, for Saudi Arabia to host US troops capable of undertaking a ground war of aggression versus Iran seems unlikely. However, the Crown Prince is a noted war hawk and apparently not averse to wars of aggression (example, Yemen) so reports of Saudi Arabia hosting a new US air base and hundreds of US troops in Saudi Arabia may present an opportunity for the US to threaten Iran by its military presence there.


Iraq has a significant history with the US military and has lost many thousands of its people to war and sanctions imposed on it by the United States. Even though the US has a significant presence in Iraq and many US bases still present there, the Iraqi government has on numerous occasions expressed its desire that the US’s 5,200 troops leave the country.

Recently, the call for US troops to leave Iraq has become more vocal and pronounced. Analyst consensus is of course that the US continues to occupy Iraq as a means to counter Iran’s influence in the country and elsewhere.

Iraq has a strong majority who now favour Iran, for trade, political, and cultural reasons.  Iraq has significant trade with Iran, and Iran leverages that trade in oil and electricity.

Many militias operate in Iraq, supportive of Iran, and anti-US. These militias are well-armed and battle-tested, and for the US to stage a ground war versus Iran from Iraq would be quite alarming to the populace generally, likely resulting in serious retaliation in Iraq, versus US forces.

So, while the US still has a significant presence in Iraq, a US attack and war on Iran based in Iraq would likely result in serious and immediate setbacks for the US.


Syria has no land border with Iran. In spite of Syrian objections, the US does host air bases to protect the terrorist region of al Tanf, and in Manbij. US harassment air raids on Iran could be launched from these bases, but a ground war could not be launched from Syria without a massive expansion of US bases there.  Such an expansion would constitute a move that would surely be militarily resisted by Syrian security forces and their significant allies.

What Options Does the US Have Versus Iran? 

Being a major military power, the US does have limited military options versus Iran, in addition to economic sanctions already imposed, while noting that an attack could certainly provoke the Russian or Chinese leadership to aid Iran. While the United States has never ‘won a war’ — and only in the case of Vietnam, Laos, Cuba, and North Korea has the US ever been forced to flee its chosen theater — as Greer points out, there is a difference between outright losing a war, when compared to not winning one.

Even if a war is not won, the result may benefit western powers, as it has (arguably) in the case of Israel-Palestine, Vietnam, Korea, Laos, Lebanon, Cambodia, Panama, and perhaps even Iraq, if imposed western participation in Iraq’s oil business and production is considered.

For the US to consider Iran to be among the “attack-worthy” group noted above, the US must first consider Iran to be weak enough (economically and militarily) to be worth attacking — since an outright quick US military victory versus Iran is an odds-on impossibility. The US must also consider the response of either Russia or China to be muted, as trade and diplomatic relations continue to sour exponentially with both countries.

Neither scenario above (militarily/economically weak) really applies in Iran’s case, so any attack on Iran must be largely symbolic and unlikely to result in massive retaliation; or to provoke the Russian or China’s leadership to intervene militarily, to assist Iran in its defense.

According to the western press, the targets chosen for Trump precisely one month ago on June 19th were three military and radar installations within Iran, the destruction of which would have resulted in relatively few deaths. Will those same targets be on the cards for the US military again?  We shall see.

Should Trump fire cruise missiles at those targets or bomb them from the air, it is highly likely that Russia’s or China’s leadership (China still receives significant amounts of oil from Iran) will quickly provide Iran with upgraded air defenses and possibly even warplanes.  And as this author has already suggested, the latter is the greatest concern for Washington in the face of a US-led attack on Iran.

Indications that the United States will attack Iran or not, even in a limited air strike, will likely appear on social media with the usual attack dogs – Bolton and Pompeo – rattling their sabers and exhorting the usual nonsense about the “danger” Iran poses to the west… or not. So far social media is quiet on the subject, but Trump may hold his counsel and engage in a surprise move. We shall see who is surprised!

This author speculates, perhaps incorrectly, that the US will take no action versus Iran for now, assuming the UK’s oil tankers are released promptly within the next few days… probably subsequent to a joint US-UK statement/demand.  Should the tanker seizure drag on, I believe the odds of a limited US strike versus Iran will rise exponentially by the day. That’s because the UK is of course a NATO participant, and the US could thus consider seizure of British ships to be militarily actionable.

What of Iran’s Motives?  

The culture that invented the game of chess never makes a move without careful and calculating consideration. Iran has been forced to play black for decades now, and has done so with skill, alacrity, and will take the initiative whenever possible.

Whether Iran has sensed a particular point of weakness in the West at this time, or Iran has hidden agreements in place with significant allies to come to its defense in the event of an US attack, is of course unknown.

That Iran may be holding a surprise move in check with support from its allies must be of extreme concern to the US Hegemon.  And eventually that concern must be all of ours, when the hegemon inevitably fails to intimidate and control the board with its white advantage, and its queen is taken.

Steve Brown is the author of “Iraq: the Road to War” (Sourcewatch) editor of “Bush Administration War Crimes in Iraq” (Sourcewatch) “Trump’s Limited Hangout” and “Federal Reserve: Out-sourcing the Monetary System to the Money Trust Oligarchs Since 1913”; Steve is an antiwar activist, a published scholar on the US monetary system, and has appeared as guest contributor to theDuran, Fort Russ News, and Strategika51.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.

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July 21, 2019

No inclusion of the role of Israel. How interesting.

Reply to  JNDillard
July 21, 2019

The problem with israel is (if you read into their posturing and rhetoric carefuly) that they are on a defensive. To use them as a base would give so much excuse for Syria, Iran and potentially the UAE via more duplicitous means, to bury Israel as any major aggression would take resources and man power Israel doesn’t have, not to mention leaving Israel even more vulnerable to attack. No Israel has used proxies and cheap tricks for a good reason. They can ill afford to leave the gates open for an all out attack from within its borders, even by… Read more »

Blue Republic
Blue Republic
Reply to  cudwieser
July 23, 2019

“No Israel has used proxies and cheap tricks for a good reason. They can ill afford to leave the gates open for an all out attack from within its borders, even by their proxies.”

More sober heads in the Israeli military and intelligence might see it that way.

But who knows what Bibi and the other Likud nut-jobs would resort to if
they can call the shots.

Scary to contemplate.

Blue Republic
Blue Republic
Reply to  JNDillard
July 23, 2019

Nor mention of Oman – whose territory includes the Arabian
Peninsula side of the Strait of Hormuz and where the US has
a significant military presence…

“Saudi Arabia is not our ally…”

– Tulsi Gabbard

Reply to  Blue Republic
July 23, 2019

Did you see the leaked missile sites. America are in dangerous territory where allies are barely that. Oman is persona non grata at the minute as is Turkey, yet America have a place in both.

peter mcloughlin
July 21, 2019

Steve Brown has presented an excellent analysis why the US should not attack Iran. There does seem to be some hesitation on the part of President Trump. Sanctions may be America’s strongest weapon as a way of avoiding dangerously escalating the conflict. But if sanctions are successful they might force Tehran to initiate the conflict: if they’re unsuccessful Washington might be pushed into war, in the face of appearing weak. When conditions become critical governments convince themselves they will win. History shows that this confidence is often at odds with reality. Yet they embark upon disastrous wars. For the US… Read more »

Reply to  peter mcloughlin
July 22, 2019

“if sanctions are successful they might force Tehran to initiate the conflict:”

Iran has been living under sanctions for decades and while under Trump they are more biting Iranians will deal with that. Iran keeps its word and has stated numerous times that it will NOT initiate a war with the US.

Guennadi Fedorov
Guennadi Fedorov
July 21, 2019

Cracks in the global elite The current mode of the globalization started with the political decision of the United States to stimulate  the economic development of Japan so that it become a counterbalance to the Soviet Union and China in the East. As a result, the custom taxes were removed in the United States on the import of several industrial products from Japan notably textiles and consumer electronics. The results were impressive. Japan did propel in its economic development, with the standard of living significantly being improved. Simultaneously, cheap, diligent and industrious Japanese labour ensured, in the labour intensive  industries,… Read more »

Richard Steven Hack
Richard Steven Hack
July 22, 2019

This guy gets all his facts right – and all his conclusions wrong. The fact that Saudi Arabia does not have a land border with Iran is irrelevant. It’s the one country that can actually host hundreds of thousands of US troops – as it did in the first Gulf War. The fact that such hosting cost it criticism from radical Sunnis and caused Al Qaeda to target the US on 9/11 is also irrelevant. No one in power in either country cares about such things. The important thing is that the US has some place to put troops which… Read more »

July 22, 2019

WTH are we even doing IN that area?? Syria?? Eye-raq? Afghanistan? Iran?? What… pray tell…are we doing there for years anyways? 29 years ….if you count the 1991 Desert Storm! The US Military is like all militaries…only great at killing folks and breaking, maybe the politicians [maybe] can finally tell us WHY… we have been messing IN the Middle East so long? What exactly did the Afghan or Iraqi or Syrian or Iranian people DO to Americans? They didn’t attack us on 9/11 did they? No, since (IF the attack was not by drone-planes, as many believe), most of… Read more »

Bill Gradwohl
Bill Gradwohl
July 22, 2019

Excellent analysis! If Trump had any brains, he would immediately announce a 100% pull out of all US forces in the Middle East soon to be followed by a 100% pull out from all the other foreign bases in the world. He would win the next election in a historic landslide. The Neocons would be caught off guard and once public opinion firmly sides with Trump it will be too late to voice their objections. Just think of all the money reducing the military budget by 90% could make available for infrastructure and other needed investments. At some point the… Read more »

July 23, 2019

What a load of opinionated crap article. They said that the USA couldn’t defeat saddam hussein….

Molly Pitcher
Molly Pitcher
July 24, 2019

Left wing Iran apologist

Molly Pitcher
Molly Pitcher
July 24, 2019

Left wing Iran apologist for the most brutal regime in the world today that the demo brain dead illiterates just suck up. Iran’s own people DESPISE the Mullahs so the way to take down Iran is to squeeze it more and more and if need be take out every one of their nuclear facilities and decapitate the leadership while leaving the people alone. Iran is nothing more than a totalitarian, demonic oligarchy who, if allowed to lie and surreptitiously obtain nuclear weapons, would become a defacto Fourth Reich , only this time , with nuclear weapons which they would use… Read more »

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