Sat, May 18, 2019 - Page 9 News List

‘A confrontation from hell’: Iran versus the US

By Amin Saikal

Former US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power once called genocidal wars “a problem from hell.” As US President Donald Trump’s administration ratchets up tensions with Iran, the world must now reckon with the prospect of a “confrontation from hell” between the two nations.

For now, both the US and Iran say they do not want a war. Yet, step by inexorable step, they are moving onto a collision course.

The US has significantly stepped up its military deployment in Iran’s neighborhood, dispatching the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Middle East to warn the Iranian regime against taking any threatening actions. Meanwhile, Iranian leaders have decried the move as psychological warfare and regard it as a provocation aimed at drawing their nation into a military conflict.

Since he took office, Trump has been relentless in his depiction of Iran as the source of all evil — including international terrorism — in the region and beyond. He has reversed former US president Barack Obama’s policy of engagement and is exerting maximum pressure on the Iranian regime with three objectives in mind.

First and foremost, the Trump administration wants to bring about regime change, or at least a change in the regime’s behavior. It is also seeking to degrade Iran’s economy so that the nation can no longer be an influential regional player. It wants to shore up Israel’s position as Washington’s most loyal and powerful ally in the Middle East, and to forge close strategic ties between the Jewish state and Arab nations opposed to Iran, including the Gulf states — led by Saudi Arabia — and Egypt.

To achieve these objectives, Trump has withdrawn the US from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. His administration has imposed harsh sanctions on Iran that affect every sector of its economy, leading some foreign companies to stop doing business with the nation. In an unprecedented move last month, Trump designated the key branch of Iran’s military forces, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, as a terrorist organization.

White House National Security Adviser John Bolton, backed by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, has said that: “The United States is not seeking war with the Iranian regime, but we are fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps or regular Iranian forces.”

This takes the US and Iran a step closer to a military confrontation that could be triggered either intentionally or by miscalculation.

In the event of a war, Iran would not have the military capacity to stand up to the US’ firepower.

The US could quickly take out Iranian military installations, nuclear sites and major infrastructure facilities. In addition, it could prevent Iran from blocking the Strait of Hormuz, through which about 30 percent of the world’s oil is shipped.

Yet Iran is capable of making any US military assault — with or without Israeli and Saudi Arabian support — very costly for the US and the region. The Iranian regime might be able to sink a few ships at the Strait of Hormuz’s narrowest point — where the shipping lanes in either direction are only 3.2km wide — in an effort to choke it off. More important, Iran has nurtured an asymmetric-warfare strategy based on both hard and soft power. Although Iran lacks a modern frontline air force, for example, it has made significant progress in developing and producing short, medium and long-range missiles, which have the capacity to hit targets as far away as Israel.

This story has been viewed 1680 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top