Will United States Attack Iran? – OpEd


The United States has openly accused Iran for the drone and cruise missile attacks on Saudi Arabia’s largest oil refinery. Now the question is what will it do in response? The attacks have not affected the sole surviving super power. On the contrary, the US will benefit the most from the hike in oil prices, which has overtaken Saudi Arabia as the largest oil producing country.

There is a temptation for the US to let the attacks slip into history. The US has formed an anti-Iran alliance in which Saudi Arabia is a key player. Doing nothing would put the coalition into question. Failing to respond to an Iranian attack on a vital Saudi facility could help Iran increase its power throughout the region.

Donald Trump’s inclination has been to avoid initiating direct military action against Iran but applying economic pressure. He has maneuvered to minimize and halt active military engagement. Military action would not only contradict the US strategy, but also endanger other alliance members.
An alternative option would be to introduce new sanctions, but there are two problems with this move. First, sanctions do not have the psychological impact and second, the US has already imposed sanctions on Iran and any more sanctions would have only limited effects.

The US could impose a blockade on Iranian ports and close of Strait of Hormuz. This strategy has three weaknesses. First, a large naval force of multiple carrier battle groups would have to be deployed for a potentially unlimited time. Second, the fleet could come under attack from Iranian missiles. To counter this, anti-missile air attacks as well as defensive measures would be needed, creating a second potentially costly dimension to this operation. Finally, such a blockade is by definition without a terminal point. If Iran does not fold under the pressure, the blockade could continue indefinitely, since ending it without a successful outcome would be seen as a defeat.

Another possible response would be to launch air strikes against Iran. The most appropriate target would be the factories producing drones and cruise missiles, along with storage facilities and so on. However, the biggest problem will be getting accurate intelligence. Acting on poor information could result in an Iranian strike on US forces or another sensitive site under informal American protection.

As regards an air campaign, history has shown that these tend to take much longer than expected and sometimes fail altogether. Any US attempt to eliminate Iran’s strike capability can be costly and hidden Iranian missiles can attack regional targets. An air campaign can go on indefinitely without yielding the desired results.

As for sending in ground troops, the US military fully deployed can defeat the Iranian military and take terrain, but to hold it against a hostile militia would create interminable conflict with casualties that cannot be sustained. Iran is a big and rugged country, with a population of 82 million people, more than twice as large as Iraq or Afghanistan. And the idea that US troops would be greeted as liberators is mere fantasy.

The US has been concerned about Iran’s expanding political influence, which also creates potential targets that are of high value to Iran. Hitting these targets would be less daunting as compared to attacks on Iran. Iran has its own or proxy forces in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. It has invested a great deal of time, resources and risk in creating these forces that are now holding territory in these countries.

Doing nothing could well destroy the anti-Iran bloc the US has worked hard to create. The likely but not certain answer to this problem will be a symbolic retaliation. The problem with retaliations, however, is that they get out of hand

Shabbir H. Kazmi

Shabbir H. Kazmi is an economic analyst from Pakistan. He has been writing for local and foreign publications for about quarter of a century. He maintains the blog ‘Geo Politics in South Asia and MENA’. He can be contacted at [email protected]

One thought on “Will United States Attack Iran? – OpEd

  • September 18, 2019 at 11:16 am

    I saw a similar analysis written elsewhere some days ago. My problems with this analysis is based on the assumption that the Islamic Republic of Iran ia a cake-like like Granada. If the USA can do all these reponses it could have done long time ago and replaced by the the system with the Shah’s sons. Previously, Iran was surrendered by many hostile countries and was weak. Still, the USA could not do that.
    Currently, the Islamic Republic of Iran is many times stronger whether by its military power, soldiers, weapons, and lethal allied forces equipped with fighters and weapons. As a whole you are talking about huge and wide area fully loaded and ready. These forces have had the fighting experience by fighting daesh, Al-Nusra, Israel, and the US forces. The outcomes were on the side of the Islamic Resistance forces. Israel was defeated in Lebanon, Daesh was defeated in Iraq and Syria, and the USA was defeated in Iraq for five year war of occupation. Now, you add to these Resistance forces, the Islamic Revolution of Iran with all its power.
    For the USA, first it does not have sufficient forces to enter Iran and bombed Iran as usually people talk about. Iran has load of air defense systems which destroys military jets and incoming missiles. Iran is a huge country and if US needed a half million soldiers to fight in Iraq, then the US will need two million troops to fight on Iran’s land. I do not think the USA has all this number of troops.
    Additionally, the water way will be closed in any war and the oil facilities of the Arab Gulf will be destroyed. The KSA and the UAE will be eliminated because these two countries have created most of the problems for Iran, Syria, and Iraq.
    Since the author of this article, Mr. Kazmi, is economist, then he can quantify the economic impacts of this war. Oil will be out the market and the price will go up for more than 350 dollars a barrel. The world economy and the US economy will collapse. All economic bubbles will burst from housing to student debt to bond. The US Dollar will not be a reserve currency and that will weaken and end the US empire. Printing dollar to purchase good and services and natural resources will not continue.
    This is just a simple look at the possible war the author explains. This also gives Iran all what it needs to become very defiant and will force the world and the USA to eliminate the sanctions. This war, if it occurs, will continue for the next quarter century, assuming it will end.
    Finally, if the allied forces of the US will come to the rescue of Trump’s decision they will be attacked as well. Israel, KSA, and UAE will be the most losers. The best action for Trump is to lift the sanctions and goes back to the Deal five plus one and achieves victory. He needs to do just like what he has done with North Korea.


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