Trumpian military end-games before the November election are about nukes
Threats against 52 Iranian “cultural sites” are more Trumpian gaslighting and a projection of hope that Iran will reciprocate by attacking the US in a way that galvanizes national support for military action like 9/11.
President Trump doubles down on his threat to attack Iranian cultural sites if it should retaliate for the U.S. killing of Gen. Soleimani https://t.co/JyOm8BOk3S
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) January 6, 2020
The reality is that whoever takes the White House in 2021 will be left with a decade or more of West Asian regional conflict. In the immediate future will be some version of an air campaign.
There will be a bombing campaign, only it will be about targeting Iranian nuclear facilities. Because that’s what the Israelis and Saudis want. It is what John Bolton wants. It is what Jared Kushner wants. It avoids the messiness of Iranian retaliation against the Saudis and Israelis because The Donald could do it and have Putin broker the cease-fire.
It is the big enchilada going back to Israeli attacks on regional nuclear facilities. It may or may not be called a “war”, but it now seems clear that withdrawing from JPCOA was step one to enabling future nuclear target strikes.
The air campaign will end with a “cease-fire” before the November election. It will likely begin with stand-off cruise missile airstrikes but will be preceded by or concurrent with what will be a standard suppression of the Iranian air defenses. The devil/Great Satan will be in the details.
The WH is pimping for some kind of 9/11 attack as it signaled with Pence’s false allusion to a AUMF rationalization, and why Iran has announced its “revenge would be against a “military target”, even as that does not bind its proxies from attacking “soft” targets. Trump has yet to get that casus belli. to rationalize a major strike.
There could be feints to suggest other targets like refineries or naval blockades but it’s always been about the nukes. An updated Vox article tried to make it seem like a big war with lots of ancillary speculation about what would be futile for example, naval activity. Yet there will be the random “fog of war”.
But it’ll be more about the nukes because Trump likes big splashes like killing Suleimani. And it might get announced by Tweet.
The Thursday night killing of Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who led Iranian covert operations and intelligence and was one of the country’s most senior leaders, brought Washington and Tehran closer to fighting that war. Iran has every incentive to retaliate, experts says, using its proxies to target US commercial interests in the Middle East, American allies, or even American troops and diplomats hunkered down in regional bases and embassies.
It’s partly why the Eurasia Group, a prominent international consulting firm, now puts the chance of “a limited or major military confrontation” at 40 percent.
But the seeds of conflict weren’t planted with Thursday’s airstrikes alone. Washington and Tehran have remained locked in a months-long standoff that only continues to escalate. The US imposed crushing sanctions on Iran’s economy over its support for terrorism and its growing missile program, among other things, after withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal last year; Iran has fought back by violating parts of the nuclear agreement, bombing oil tankers, and downing an American military drone.
How the US-Iran war starts
US-imposed sanctions have tanked Iran’s economy, and Tehran desperately wants them lifted. But with few options to compel the Trump administration to change course, Iranian leaders may choose a more violent tactic to make their point, especially after Soleimani’s death.
Iranian forces could bomb an American oil tanker traveling through the Strait of Hormuz, a vital waterway for the global energy trade aggressively patrolled by Tehran’s forces, causing loss of life or a catastrophic oil spill. The country’s skillful hackers could launch a major cyberattack on regional allies like Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates.
Israel could kill an Iranian nuclear scientist, leading Iran to strike back and drawing the US into the spat, especially if Tehran responds forcefully. Or Iranian-linked proxies could target and murder American troops and diplomats in Iraq.
That last option is particularly likely, experts say. After all, Iran bombed US Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983 and killed more than 600 US troops during the Iraq War. Taking this step may seem extreme, but “Iran could convince itself that it could do this,” Goldenberg, now at the Center for a New American Security think tank in Washington, told me.
At that point, it’d be nearly impossible for the Trump administration not to respond in kind. The recommendations given to the president would correspond to whatever action Iran took.
If Tehran destroyed an oil tanker, killing people and causing an oil spill, the US might destroy some of Iran’s ships. If Iran took out another US military drone, the US might take out some of Iran’s air defenses. And if Iranian-backed militants killed Americans in Iraq, then US troops stationed there could retaliate, killing militia fighters and targeting their bases of operation in return. The US could even bomb certain training grounds inside Iran or kill high-level officials.
We @BrookingsFP have been watching the escalation between the US & Iran very closely since Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal in May 2018. Here's my take after the September attacks on Saudi oil facilities: https://t.co/R9gpnOrTBb
— Suzanne Maloney (@MaloneySuzanne) January 5, 2020
"The bombing will be massive but will be limited to a specific target," said a Western diplomat.https://t.co/E3H1bo7Vz1
— The Jerusalem Post (@Jerusalem_Post) June 17, 2019