Trump’s Iran conflict could be his undoing
Today, Iran let its stock of low-enriched uranium exceed the 300kg limit set by the 2015 nuclear deal from which President Donald Trump withdrew last December. The State Department promised more “maximum pressure” punishment.
The deal’s other signatories– France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China — continue to support it although it allows them to impose harsh sanctions on Iran within 65 days. They are unlikely to do so because that could cause catastrophic economic depression in Iran or even war, which they want to avoid as best they can.
But Trump is a wild card because he might provoke a punitive war, egged on by some of his advisers, Saudi Arabia and Israel. It may be Trump’s undoing and make irreversible the unravelling of the power of America and its Arab allies in the region.
Awestruck by the destructive capabilities of American military power, the pro-war group is fundamentally misreading the ramifications of a military conflict with Iran, however limited in scale.
The straw that broke the Soviet Union’s back was its failure in backward Afghanistan. Iran could be the straw that breaks American power by creating fierce dissension inside the US over the worst of its unwinnable wars. That would make it impossible for Trump to ever make America great again.
Even limited surgical strikes inside Iran could ignite the mother of proxy wars as America’s adversaries band together for relentless attrition through a thousand cuts on American interests.
A look at the map is enough to notice that Iran is a vital strategic region. Its fall into the hands of the US and its allies will pose a direct national security threat to Russia and China.
The Iranian people’s suffering in a civil war fused with proxy war, as in Syria, is a cost Russia and China would willingly pay to keep Tehran’s rulers in power if that meant reliably debilitating America.
Trump is being seriously misled into looking at the region through the lens of conflict between Sunni and Shia Islam. The region’s enmity is between Arabs and Persians and predates that 1350-year-old religious divide by a millennium.
The region’s balance of power is among Turks, Persians and Arabs. The Turks are Sunni Muslims but will never allow the Gulf Arabs to become regional hegemons by using American power to subjugate Persians. The core issue is not Islam but ethnicity. The Turkic people are Central Asians and Eurasians. They have no sympathy for Arabs from the Gulf’s deserts. They have more affinity with Persians.
Iran’s regime will not be a pushover for Trump. Yes, it is a totalitarian theocracy engaged mainly in enriching the top clerics and their Praetorian Guard. And the Iranian people would certainly benefit from being rid of it.
But Iran is not Vietnam, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan or Libya. It has learned from those wars to plan and build asymmetric fighting capabilities against the US and its allies. Its people know how to suffer. They have survived a US-aided 8-year invasion attempt by Iraq, when the economy collapsed and a million Iranians were killed — some by Western-made chemical agents.
Overrunning Iran will not be a simple matter, unlike the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan in the early years of those long, expensive and, as yet, unconcluded conflicts. Even if overrun, Iran cannot be held.
That America bleeds wealth and lives in Iran serves the interests of Russia and China because Trump’s financial, trade and other sanctions are transforming them into covert enemies. If Trump does intervene in Iran, they will do everything they can to create a quicksand that continuously drains American power.
Neither Russia nor China will allow Iran’s entire war machine to be destroyed by American bombs. They will resupply Iran and provide intelligence. Trump and his Arab allies have no power to stop the supply chains unless they’d like to go to war against those vast lands as well.
The capabilities of Russian and Chinese lethal weapons, satellite espionage and cyber warfare are not less than those of the US. America’s numerous military bases and aircraft carrier and destroyer groups are sitting ducks for Iranians fighting with fury in the confined spaces of their Persian Gulf.
Russia and China expect that the Gulf Arabs will not be reliable allies for the US as soon as their own sheikhdoms start to shake under attacks from Iran-backed local militias. Seeing them shake could incite Al Qaeda and Islamic State to deliver the coup de grace to the Sheikhs, who they already see as craven servants of the American “crusaders” and “Jews”.
“Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force. In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration,” Trump has tweeted, pridefully noting that “the USA is by far the most powerful Military Force in the world, with 1.5 Trillion Dollars invested over the last two years alone.”
However, obliteration of selected sites and cities does not end asymmetrical wars. It is the start. For instance, almost all urban centers in Syria have been obliterated, yet Syrian ruling cliques still stand and it is the US and its allies that are preparing to leave.