“A nasty, brutal fight”: what a US-Iran war would look like

An Iranian military truck carries a US-made Hawk air-defense missile system during a parade on the occasion of the country’s Army Day on April 18, 2017 in Tehran.
An Iranian military truck carries a US-made Hawk air-defense missile system during a parade on the occasion of the country’s Army Day on April 18, 2017 in Tehran.
 Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images

The bottom line: It’d be hell on earth.

https://www.vox.com/world/2019/7/8/18693297/us-iran-war-trump-nuclear-iraq

intraceable, ruthless proxies spreading chaos on multiple continents. Costly miscalculations. And thousands — perhaps hundreds of thousands — killed in a conflict that would dwarf the war in Iraq.

Welcome to the US-Iran war, which has the potential to be one of the worst conflicts in history.

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.

The crisis has become more acute over the past week. An Iranian-backed militia killed an American contractor while wounding others in rocket attacks, leading the Trump administration to order retaliatory strikes on five targets in Iraq and Syria that killed 25 of the militia’s fighters. In protest, the militia — Ketaib Hezbollah — organized a rally outside the US embassy in Baghdad where some got inside the compound and set parts of it ablaze.

That led Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to tell reporters on Thursday that “if we get word of attacks, we will take pre-emptive action as well to protect American forces, protect American lives,” adding “the game has changed.” The US killed Soleimani hours after that statement, underscoring that change.

Importantly, experts note that neither country wants a full-blown conflict, with President Donald Trump saying he prefers “peace” when it comes to Iran. But the possibility of war breaking out anyway shouldn’t be discounted, especially now that Iran’s leadership has sworn to avenge Soleimani. “The great nation of Iran will take revenge for this heinous crime,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tweeted Friday morning.

Hassan Rouhani

@HassanRouhani

The flag of General Soleimani in defense of the country’s territorial integrity and the fight against terrorism and extremism in the region will be raised, and the path of resistance to US excesses will continue. The great nation of Iran will take revenge for this heinous crime.

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Which means US-Iran relations teeter on a knife edge, and it won’t take much more to knock them off. So to understand just how bad the situation could get, I asked eight current and former White House, Pentagon, and intelligence officials, as well as Middle East experts, last July about how a war between the US and Iran might play out.

The bottom line: It would be hell on earth.

“This would be a violent convulsion similar to chaos of the Arab Spring inflicted on the region for years,” said Ilan Goldenberg, the Defense Department’s Iran team chief from 2009 to 2012, with the potential for it to get “so much worse than Iraq.”

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.

Fire and smoke billowing from the Norwegian-owned Front Altair oil tanker attacked in the waters of the Gulf of Oman on June 13, 2019. The US blames Iran for the bombing.
Fire and smoke billowing from the Norwegian-owned Front Altair oil tanker attacked in the waters of the Gulf of Oman on June 13, 2019. The US blames Iran for the bombing.
 AFP/Getty Images

It’s at this point that both sides would need to communicate their red lines to each other and how not to cross them. The problem is there are no direct channels between the two countries and they don’t particularly trust each other. So the situation could easily spiral out of control.

Messaging “is often more important than physical action,” Jasmine El-Gamal, formerly a Middle East adviser at the Pentagon, told me. “Action without corresponding messaging, public or private, could most certainly lead to escalation because the other side is free to interpret the action as they wish.”

Which means the initial tit-for-tat would serve as the precursor to much more bloodshed.

“What are we going to be wrong about?”

You may have heard the phrase “the fog of war.” It refers to how hard it is for opposing sides to know what’s going on in the heat of battle. It’s particularly difficult when they don’t talk to one another, as is the case with the US and Iran.

Which means that the way the US and Iran interpret each other’s next moves would mainly come down to guesswork.

Eric Brewer, who spent years in the intelligence community before joining Trump’s National Security Council to work on Iran, told me that’s when the Pentagon and other parts of the government rely heavily on their best-laid plans.

The problem, he noted, is that wars rarely play out as even the smartest officials think they will. A guiding question for him, then, is “what are we going to be wrong about?”

Here’s one scenario in which the US might get something wrong — and open up the door to chaos: After America launches its first set of retaliatory strikes, Iran decides to scatter its missiles to different parts of the country.

Now the Trump administration has to figure out why Iran did that. Some people in the administration might think it’s because Tehran plans to attack US embassies, troops, or allies in the region and is moving its missiles into position to do so. Others might believe that it was merely for defensive reasons, with Iran essentially trying to protect its missile arsenal from being taken out by future US strikes.

Without a clear answer, which interpretation wins out comes down to which camp in the Trump administration is the most persuasive. And if the camp that believes Iran is about to launch missile strikes wins, they could convince the president to take preemptive action against Iran.

That could be a good thing if they were right; after all, they’d have made sure Iran couldn’t carry out those planned attacks. But what if they were wrong? What if the other camp guessed correctly that Iran was merely moving its missiles around because it was scared the US would strike once more? In that case, the US would have bombed Iran again, this time for essentially no reason — thus looking like the aggressor.

That could cause Iran to retaliate with a bigger attack, setting off a spiral that could end in full-scale war.

Iran could make a grave error too. Imagine Trump sends thousands of troops, say 25,000, along with advanced warplanes to the Middle East in the hope that they’ll deter Iran from escalating the conflict any further.

Tehran could just as easily read that buildup as preparation for a US invasion. If that’s the case, Iranian forces could choose to strike first in an effort to complicate the perceived incursion.

US Navy sailors on the flight deck of USS Abraham Lincoln on May 10, 2019 in the Red Sea.
US Navy sailors on the flight deck of USS Abraham Lincoln on May 10, 2019, in the Red Sea.
 Mass Communication Specialist Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Amber Smalley/US Navy via Getty Images

Of course, cooler heads could prevail in those moments. But experts say the political pressures on both Washington and Tehran not to be attacked first — and not to be embarrassed or look weak — might be too strong for the countries’ leaders to ignore.

“Unintended civilian casualties or other collateral damage is always possible, and it is not clear that this administration — or any administration — understands what Iran’s own red lines are,” El-Gamal, now at the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington, told me. “As such, the greatest risk of a full-blown war comes from one side miscalculating the other’s tolerance” for conflict.

If that proves true, and the US and Iran officially escalate their fighting to more than a few one-off attacks, it’s war.

What the US-Iran war might look like

At this point, it’s hard to be very precise about a hypothetical full-blown conflict. We know it would feature a series of moves and countermoves, we know it’d be very messy and confusing, and we know it’d be extremely deadly.

But unlike with the path to war, it’s less useful to offer a play-by-play of what could happen. So with that in mind, it’s better to look at what the US and Iranian war plans would likely be — to better understand the devastation each could exact.

How the US might try to win the war

The US strategy would almost certainly involve using overwhelming air and naval power to beat Iran into submission early on. “You don’t poke the beehive, you take the whole thing down,” Goldenberg said.

The US military would bomb Iranian ships, parked warplanes, missile sites, nuclear facilities, and training grounds, as well as launch cyberattacks on much of the country’s military infrastructure. The goal would be to degrade Iran’s conventional forces within the first few days and weeks, making it even harder for Tehran to resist American strength.

That plan definitely makes sense as an opening salvo, experts say, but it will come nowhere close to winning the war.

“It’s very unlikely that the Iranians would capitulate,” Michael Hanna, a Middle East expert at the Century Foundation in New York, told me. “It’s almost impossible to imagine that a massive air campaign will produce the desired result. It’s only going to produce escalation, not surrender.”

It won’t help that a sustained barrage of airstrikes will likely lead to thousands of Iranians dead, among them innocent civilians. That, among other things, could galvanize Iranian society against the US and put it firmly behind the regime, even though it has in many ways treated the population horribly over decades in power.

There’s another risk: A 2002 war game showed that Iran could sink an American ship and kill US sailors, even though the US Navy is far more powerful. If the Islamic Republic’s forces succeeded in doing that, it could provide a searing image that could serve as a propaganda coup for the Iranians. Washington won’t garner the same amount of enthusiasm for destroying Iranian warships — that’s what’s supposed to happen.

An Iranian Army soldier stands guard on a military speed boat, passing by a submarine during the “Velayat-90” navy exercises in the Strait of Hormuz on December 28, 2011.
An Iranian Army soldier stands guard on a military speedboat, passing by a submarine during the “Velayat-90” navy exercises in the Strait of Hormuz on December 28, 2011.
 Ali Mohammadi/AFP/Getty Images

Trump has already signaled he doesn’t want to send ground troops into Iran or even spend a long time fighting the country. That tracks with his own inclinations to keep the US out of foreign wars, particularly in the Middle East. But with hawkish aides at his side, like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, there’s a chance they could convince him not to look weak and to go all-in and grasp victory.

But the options facing the president at that point will be extremely problematic, experts say.

The riskiest one — by far — would be to invade Iran. The logistics alone boggle the mind, and any attempt to try it would be seen from miles away. “There’s no surprise invasion of Iran,” Brewer, who is now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington, told me.

Iran has nearly three times the amount of people Iraq did in 2003, when the war began, and is about three and a half times as big. In fact, it’s the world’s 17th-largest country, with territory greater than France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, and Portugal combined.

The geography is also treacherous. It has small mountain ranges along some of its borders. Entering from the Afghanistan side in the east would mean traversing two deserts. Trying to get in from the west could also prove difficult even with Turkey — a NATO ally — as a bordering nation. After all, Ankara wouldn’t let the US use Turkey to invade Iraq, and its relations with Washington have only soured since.

The US could try to enter Iran the way Saddam Hussein did during the Iran-Iraq war, near a water pass bordering Iran’s southwest. But it’s swampy — the Tigris and Euphrates rivers meet there — and relatively easy to protect. Plus, an invading force would run up against the Zagros Mountains after passing through, just like Saddam’s forces did.

It’s for these reasons that the private intelligence firm Stratfor called Iran a “fortress” back in 2011. If Trump chose to launch an incursion, he’d likely need around 1.6 million troops to take control of the capital and country, a force so big it would overwhelm America’s ability to host them in regional bases. By contrast, America never had more than 180,000 service members in Iraq.

And there’s the human cost. A US-Iran war would likely lead to thousands or hundreds of thousands of dead. Trying to forcibly remove the country’s leadership, experts say, might drive that total into the millions.

That helps explain why nations in the region hope they won’t see a fight. Goldenberg, who traveled recently to meet with officials in the Gulf, said that none of them wanted a US-Iran war. European nations will also worry greatly about millions of refugees streaming into the continent, which would put immense pressure on governments already dealing with the fallout of the Syrian refugee crisis. Israel also would worry about Iranian proxies targeting it (more on that below).

Meanwhile, countries like Russia and China — both friendly to Iran — would try to curtail the fighting and exploit it at the same time, the Century Foundation’s Hanna told me. China depends heavily on its goods traveling through the Strait of Hormuz, so it would probably call for calm and for Tehran not to close down the waterway. Russia would likely demand restraint as well, but use the opportunity to solidify its ties with the Islamic Republic.

President Donald Trump and Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, stand side by side in the group picture at the G20 summit on June 28, 2019.
President Donald Trump and Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, stand side by side in the group picture at the G20 summit on June 28, 2019.
 Bernd von Jutrczenka/picture alliance via Getty Images

And since both countries have veto power on the UN Security Council, they could ruin any political legitimacy for the war that the US may aim to gain through that body.

The hope for the Trump administration would therefore be that the conflict ends soon after the opening salvos begin. If it doesn’t, and Iran resists, all that’d really be left are a slew of bad options to make a horrid situation much, much worse.

How Iran might try to win the war

Retired Marine Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart left his post as the No. 2 at US Cyber Command in 2019, ending a decorated four-decade career. Toward the end of it, he spent his time at the forefront of the military intelligence and cybersecurity communities.

If anyone has the most up-to-date information on how Iran may fight the US, then, it’s Stewart.

“The Iranian strategy would be to avoid, where possible, direct conventional force-on-force operations,” he wrote for the Cipher Brief on July 2, 2019. “They would attempt to impose cost on a global scale, striking at US interests through cyber operations and targeted terrorism with the intent of expanding the conflict, while encouraging the international community to restrain America’s actions.”

In other words, Tehran can’t match Washington’s firepower. But it can spread chaos in the Middle East and around the world, hoping that a war-weary US public, an intervention-skeptical president, and an angered international community cause America to stand down.

That may seem like a huge task — and it is — but experts believe the Islamic Republic has the capability, knowhow, and will to pull off such an ambitious campaign. “The Iranians can escalate the situation in a lot of different ways and in a lot of different places,” Hanna told me. “They have the capacity to do a lot of damage.”

Take what it could do in the Middle East. Iran’s vast network of proxies and elite units — like Soleimani’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — could be activated to kill American troops, diplomats, and citizens throughout the region. US troops in Syria are poorly defended and have little support, making them easy targets, experts say. America also has thousands of civilians, troops, and contractors in Iraq, many of whom work in areas near where Iranian militias operate within the country.

US allies would also be prime targets. Hezbollah, an Iran-backed terrorist group in Lebanon, might attack Israel with rockets and start its own brutal fight. We’ve heard this story before: In 2006, they battled in a month-long war where the militant group fired more than 4,000 rockets into Israel, and Israeli forces fired around 7,000 bombs and missiles into Lebanon.

About 160 Israelis troops and civilians died, according to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and about 1,100 Lebanese — most of them civilians — perished, per Human Rights Watch, a US-headquartered advocacy organization. It also reports about 4,400 Lebanese were injured, and around 1 million people were displaced.

But that’s not all. Iran could encourage terrorist organizations or other proxies to strike inside Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and other Gulf nations. Last year, it planned and executed drone strikes on two major Saudi oil facilities deep inside the kingdom, convulsing world markets. Its support for Houthis rebels in Yemen would mostly certainly increase, offering them more weapons and funds to attack Saudi Arabia’s airports, military bases, and energy plants.

The US government on April 8, 2019 said it had designated the IRGC as a terrorist organization, marking the first time a US government has made such a designation on a foreign government’s organization.
The US government on April 8, 2019, said it had designated the IRGC as a terrorist organization, marking the first time a US government has made such a designation on a foreign government’s organization.
 Rouzbeh Fouladi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Experts note that the Islamic Republic likely has sleeper cells in Europe and Latin America, and they could resurface in dramatic and violent ways. In 1994, for example, Iranian-linked terrorists bombed the hub of the Jewish community in Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires, killing 85 people and injuring roughly 300 more.

That remains the largest terrorist attack in Latin America’s history, and the possibility for an even bigger one exists. In 2018, Argentina arrested two men suspected of having ties with Hezbollah.

But Chris Musselman, formerly the National Security Council’s counterterrorism director under Trump, told me the US and its allies may have the most trouble containing the proxy swarm in Western Africa.

“We could see a conflict that spread quickly to places the US may not be able to protect people, and it’s a fight that we are grossly unprepared for,” he said, adding that there’s a strong Hezbollah presence in the region and American embassy security there isn’t great. Making matters worse, he continued, the US isn’t particularly good at collecting intelligence there, meaning some militants could operate relatively under the radar.

“This isn’t really a law enforcement function that US can take on a global scale,” he said. It would require that countries unwittingly hosting proxies to lead on defeating the Iranian-linked fighters, with US support when needed.

The chaos would also extend into the cyber realm. Iran is a major threat to the US in cyberspace. Starting in 2011, Iran attacked more than 40 American banks, including JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America. The attack made it so the banks had trouble serving its customers and customers had trouble using the bank’s services.

In 2012, Iran released malware into the networks of Saudi Aramco, a major oil company, which erased documents, emails, and other files on around 75 percent of the company’s computers — replacing them with an image of a burning American flag.

In the middle of a war, one could imagine Tehran’s hackers wreaking even more havoc.

“I would expect them to have begun selected targeting through socially-engineered phishing activities focused on the oil and gas sector, the financial sector and the electric power grid in that order,” Stewart wrote. “There may be instances now where they already have some persistent access. If they do, I expect they would use it, or risk losing the access and employ that capability early in the escalation of the crisis.”

Recent reports indicate that Iranian cyberwarriors have stepped up their online operations, with a particular emphasis on preparing to attack US firms. Among other moves, they’re aiming to trick employees at major businesses to hand over passwords and other vital information, giving them greater access to a firm’s networks.

“When you combine this increase with past destructive attacks launched by Iranian-linked actors, we’re concerned enough about the potential for new destructive attacks to continue sounding the alarm,” Christopher Krebs, a top cybersecurity official at the Department of Homeland Security, told Foreign Policy last July.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attends a graduation ceremony of the Iranian Navy cadets in the city of Noshahr on September 30, 2015.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attends a graduation ceremony of the Iranian Navy cadets in the city of Noshahr on September 30, 2015.
 Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

All of this — proxies striking around the world, cyberattacks on enterprise — would happen while Iran continued to resist conventional American forces.

In the Strait of Hormuz, for instance, Iranian sailors could use speedboats to place bombs on oil tankers or place mines in the water to destroy US warships. The Islamic Republic’s submarines would also play a huge part in trying to sink an American vessel. And the nation’s anti-ship missiles and drones could prove constant and deadly nuisances.

Should US troops try to enter Iranian territory on land, Iranian ground forces would also push back on them fiercely using insurgent-like tactics while the US painfully marches toward Tehran.

Put together, Brewer notes succinctly, a US-Iran war would be “a nasty, brutal fight.”

Aftermath: “The worst-case scenarios here are quite serious”

Imagine, as we already have, that the earlier stages of strife escalate to a major war. That’s already bad enough. But assume for a moment not only that the fighting takes place, but that the US does the unlikely and near impossible: It invades and overthrows the Iranian regime (which Trump’s former National Security Adviser John Bolton, at least, has openly called for in the past).

If that happens, it’s worth keeping two things in mind.

First, experts say upward of a million people — troops from both sides as well as Iranian men, women, and children, and American diplomats and contractors — likely will have died by that point. Cities will burn and smolder. Those who survived the conflict will mainly live in a state of economic devastation for years and some, perhaps, will pick up arms and form insurgent groups to fight the invading US force.

Second, power abhors a vacuum. With no entrenched regime in place, multiple authority figures from Iran’s clerical and military circles, among others, will jockey for control. Those sides could split into violent factions, initiating a civil war that would bring more carnage to the country. Millions more refugees might flock out of the country, overwhelming already taxed nations nearby, and ungoverned pockets will give terrorist groups new safe havens from which to operate.

Iran would be on the verge of being a failed state, if it wasn’t already by that point, and the US would be the main reason why. To turn the tide, America may feel compelled to help rebuild the country at the cost of billions of dollars, years of effort, and likely more dead. It could also choose to withdraw, leaving behind a gaping wound in the center of the Middle East.

In some ways, then, what comes after the war could be worse than the war itself. It should therefore not be lost on anyone: A US-Iran war would be a bloody hell during and after the fighting. It’s a good thing neither Trump nor Iran’s leadership currently wants a conflict. But if they change their minds, only carnage follows.

“The worst-case scenarios here are quite serious,” Hanna told me.

Refugees on April 5, 2019, camp out in Greece as they flee violence in the Middle East.
Refugees on April 5, 2019, camp out in Greece as they flee violence in the Middle East.
 Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Foolishness of Provoking Iran

by Captain Paul Watson

Great Britain is now all indignantly self-righteous and acting shocked and surprised about Iran seizing a British oil tanker.

What did they expect?

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif characterized the seizure of an Iranian super tanker July 4 as “piracy.”
Former Revolutionary Guard commander, Maj. Gen. Mohsen Rezai, wrote that Iran was not seeking conflict, “but we are not going to come up short in reciprocating.”

The Iranian tanker Grace1 was seized by Britain while transiting the Strait of Gibraltar. The British tanker was seized by Iran while transiting the Straits of Hormuz.

So the question must be asked. Why is Great Britain acting so surprised and indignant?

Who is the provocateur here?

And all of this because President Trump did not like the deal Obama made with Iran on the nuclear deal. It was a deal that was working and Iran did not violate that deal. The USA did.

The population of Iran is 81 million people. The population of Great Britain is 66 million. The population of France is 67 million. The population o of Israel is 8.7 million. These three countries have nuclear weapons as does North Korea with a population of 25.5 million.

Why do Western nations with less populations get to possess nuclear weapons yet Iran is expected to remain nuclear free.

Personally I wish all nations were nuclear free but as North Korea has demonstrated the possession of nuclear weapons is a guarantee of security. Iran wants security and the only way to secure that security is by being a nuclear power.

I spent time in Iran in 1969 and again in 1972 while working as a merchant seaman on Norwegian and Swedish ships. I was there when the Shah was the ruler and it was an oppressive regime supported by the United States. In fact I was arrested in 1972 in Abadan on suspicion of being a British spy. I was taking photos in a place I was not supposed to be taking photos of military installations on the Arab Al Shat river. Because my Canadian passport said I was a British subject and Britain was not in favor in Iran at the time. I was questioned briefly, jailed and released.

While there I learned quite a bit about the history of Iran. And it all started as do most issues in the Middle East with oil. Mohammad Mossaddegh as Prime Minister nationalized the Iranian oil industry in 1953, an industry that had been built by the British on Persian lands in 1913 by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company that later became known as British Petroleum (BP)

As a result his government was overthrown in 1953 in a coup d’etat orchestrated by the CIA and MI6

Prime Minister Mosaddegh was the leading champion of secular democracy and resistance to foreign domination. Following a coup by the CIA/MI6-backed General Fazlollah Zahedi, Mosaddegh resigned four days later on 19 August 1953, with Zahedi succeeding him as prime minister.

Mosaddegh was imprisoned for three years, then put under house arrest until his death and was buried in his own home so as to prevent a political furor. In 2013, the U.S. government formally acknowledged the U.S. role in the coup, as a part of its foreign policy initiatives.

The foreign oil companies returned in 1953 and Iran became a dutiful puppet for Western powers under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, a harsh autocrat. All democratic opposition was eliminated and driven into exile.

In 1972 I was a witness to the severity of the Shah’s secret police called SAVAK. While being interrogated I saw dissidents being brutalized by SAVAK agents. Thousands were rounded up and made political prisoners. The Muslim clergy were driven into foreign exile.

By 1978, Iran was a powder keg ready to blow after years of corruption by a government backed by the USA and the UK and finally on January 17th, 1979 the revolution led by Ruhollah Khomeini drove the Shah from power and regained control of the oil resources and declared Iran to be the Islamic Republic.

The revolution was quickly followed up by a U.S. and U.K. back Iraqi offensive against Iran that resulted in the Iran/Iraqi war that began in 1980 and lasted until 1988 with over a million casualties.

What was in 1953 a democratic nation was subverted by Great Britain and the USA into an autocratic dictatorship which led directly to that revolution and to the state that presently exists in Iran today. That plus the USA and the UK goading and financing Iraq under Saddam Hussein to invade Iran has led to a complete lack of trust by Iran towards the United States and Great Britain

And now the sabers are rattling again. Iran today however is not Iraq or Afghanistan, Libya or Syria. It is a powerful nation with a strong and well trained military and a war with Iran will be long, vicious, costly and brutal. It will be a conflict that will take the lives of thousands of soldiers on both sides and tens of thousands of civilians. It will be a war that will spill over into the Persian Gulf States, will erupt into new conflicts in Iraq and Syria, will see attacks on Israel and will disrupt commerce in the Middle East to dangerous levels not yet ever experienced.

To continue to provoke Iran makes no sense, politically, militarily or economically. Iran today is what the USA and the UK has made it to be through foolish meddling and interventions.

If this situation continues to escalate, Russia and China will begin to take sides and it is quite possible that Iran has already been provided with or has secured nuclear weapons.

I find it amazing that the British can seize a tanker in international waters and then not expect retaliation in a similar manner.

However I should not be surprised. The history of the involvement of Western powers in the Middle East for the last century has demonstrated over and over again the incredible foolishness of Western involvement in trying to control the people who control the reserves of oil.

What is the solution? The USA needs to honour the Iranian nuclear deal authored by the Obama Presidency. The sanctions need to be lifted and Iran needs to be free to participate on an equal level with other nations.

No photo description available.

On Iran: US considering range of options including military

Source: Before tanker attack, Iran fired at U.S. drone

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Source: Before tanker attack, Iran fired at U.S. drone 02:39

Washington (CNN)Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday that the United States is “considering a full range of options” regarding rising tensions with Iran, including military options, but emphasized that President Donald Trump has said that he does not want to go to war.

“The United States is considering a full range of options. We have briefed the President a couple of times, we’ll continue to keep him updated. We are confident that we can take a set of actions that can restore deterrence which is our mission set,” Pompeo said in an interview on CBS “Face the Nation.”
When asked if a military response was included in that set of actions, Pompeo responded, “Of course.”
“The President will consider everything we need to do to make sure, right? But what’s the President said? We don’t want Iran to get a nuclear weapon,” Pompeo added. “President Trump has said very clearly, he doesn’t want to go to war.”
Pompeo’s comments come as tensions are rising in the waterways of the Middle East, where two tankers — one carrying oil and the other transporting chemicals — were attacked near the strategically important Strait of Hormuz, a vital shipping route that has been the focal point of regional tensions for decades. Roughly 30% of the world’s sea-borne crude oil passes through the strategic choke point, making it a flashpoint for political and economic friction.
Iran has categorically denied the attacks.
The United States has blamed Iran for the attack on the tankers in the Gulf of Oman, releasing video footage that it claims shows an Iranian patrol boat removing an unexploded mine from one of the vessels’ hulls.
The explosions, which sparked a fire on at least one of the two ships, are still under investigation. Pompeo blamed Iran for the incident, citing intelligence assessments, the weapons used, the level of expertise required and the similarity to other recent attacks. On Fox News Sunday, Pompeo reiterated that is is “unmistakable” that Iran carried out the attacks with a “clear intent to deny transit through the straight.”
Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said Sunday — before Pompeo’s interviews aired — that the United States may have carried out “acts of sabotage” against two oil tankers in the Sea of Oman to blame them on Iran and pressure Tehran.
Larijani mocked remarks by Pompeo, who urged Iran to “meet diplomacy with diplomacy.”
“Is it diplomacy to start a face-off with a revolutionary nation with acts of economic terrorism, [economic sanctions] which they themselves call the toughest ever?” Larijani said. “Is it diplomacy, Mr. Pompeo, to renege on one’s promises in the nuclear agreement?”
British Defense Minister Tobias Ellwood said Sunday that “tensions” in Iran “are a concern for us all,” in an interview with Sky News’ Sophy Ridge.
Ellwood said that while he understands Iran’s frustrations over the nuclear deal, “that does not give license to start attacking ships.” In a statement Friday, Britain’s Foreign Office said it was “almost certain” that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) were behind the attacks.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has also blamed Iran for the attacks on the ships, calling on the international community to take a “firm stand towards an exponential regime that supports terrorism and spreads killing and destruction.”
When pressed Sunday on legal authorization to strike Iran, Pompeo said that the administration “always” has the authorization to “defend American interests.”
In the US Constitution, Article I grants Congress the power to declare war, while the President derives the power to direct the military from Article II, which names the President commander-in-chief of the armed forces. In the lead up to the Iraq War, the effort to pass an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) in Congress became a point of contention, and once again became an issue during the US military campaign against ISIS.
Ultimately, Congress never took a full vote on an ISIS war authorization.
“It was them that did it,” Trump said on Fox and Friends on Friday, referring to Iran.
“We will see what happens. We are being very tough on sanctions … We’re going to see how to stop (it),” Trump said, before claiming that because of his policies “they are pulling back from everywhere.”
Pompeo also said Sunday on Fox that “President Trump has done everything he can to avoid war — we don’t want a war,” adding, “We’ve done what we can to deter this. The Iranians should understand very clearly that we will continue to take actions that deter Iran from engaging in this kind of behavior.”
Iran will release “significant” information on Monday regarding the scaling back of its commitments to the nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), according to Iran’s semi-official news agency, Tasnim on Sunday.

https://www.cnn.com/2019/06/16/politics/mike-pompeo-iran-military-options/index.html

Iran will get the blame, but the Gulf of Oman truth is likely a lot murkier

(CNN)As the plumes rise from a brazen attack in the Gulf of Oman, oil brokers and diplomats are panicking about another lurch toward confrontation In the Middle East.

What happened is fairly clear — two tankers were struck as they sailed through this busy and strategic shipping lane — but why it happened and who did it is a lot less easy to explain, not least because it doesn’t appear to benefit any of the protagonists in the region.
The Japanese owned Kokuka Corageous tanker briefly caught fire when it was twice attacked with “some kind of shell,” its owner said. One of its 21-strong Filipino crew was injured.
The crew of the Bermuda-based Front Altair all escaped unharmed when it too was hit by a blast. The Fifth Fleet’s USS Bainbridge was nearby and responded to a distress call received at 6.12 am local time and then another 48 minutes later. It picked up 21 sailors from the Kokuka and is getting a wider view of the scene from a P8 Navy surveillance aircraft.
A tanker ablaze in the Gulf of Oman, in an unverified image supplied by an Iranian news agency.

With the rescue operation over, questions have turned to why anyone would do this. That’s not as not as straightforward to answer as it looks.
Inevitably, similarities have been drawn between Thursday’s attacks and events a month ago, when four ships were targeted near the Emirati port of Furajah. For that, officials in Washington and beyond pointed the finger at Iran.
But Thursday’s incident is significantly more blatant. Yet the same officials will doubtless blame Tehran again. If and when that happens, we should remember US National Security Advisor John Bolton promised to present evidence to the UN Security Council backing up those previous claims, but has yet to do so.

Who stands to gain?

The Russians like to ask: “Who did it benefit?” when the unexpected strikes, and this question is useful now.
Iran doesn’t appear to have a lot to gain. Say what you like about Tehran’s malicious intent, these incidents heighten the global drumbeat for greater isolation and boosts those who seek to apply military pressure on Iran. Its economy is in a bad condition. Before President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the JCPOA (colloquially known as the Iran nuclear deal), Tehran was at its peak of regional influence. With diminished economic resources, its potency is likely to wane.
The incidents also came in the middle of a visit to Tehran by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, apparently trying to mediate over the nuclear deal (although Tokyo says he’s not an envoy for Washington). The apparent attacks eclipsed the Abe visit, an unexpected bit of outreach to Iran by someone Trump calls a friend.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani shake hands after a joint press conference in Tehran.

You could make a case for Iranian hardliners staging such an attack to derail peace efforts. But Iran’s hardliners — particularly the Revolutionary Guard — are normally a little smarter than to bomb international shipping lanes during a crucial diplomatic meeting. Iran’s chief moderate, Foreign Minister Javid Zarif, was right to point out that “suspicious doesn’t begin to describe what likely transpired this morning.” When one party is so easily blamed, it is likely blameless, or unfathomably stupid.
What else? Reuters has reported that Tehran has been scaling up its remaining petrochemical exports ahead of tightening sanctions. Could it be looking to boost the price of oil? Maybe. But at the same time, the shipping of that same oil is going to be disrupted, so they would likely lose out all the same. It is hard to imagine an Iranian hardliner smart enough to pull this sort of apparent attack off, without also realizing they would get immediately collared.
So what about the conspiracy theory, that Saudi Arabia also seeks confrontation and higher oil prices, and would therefore permit such an attack to further its own agenda? An equally obvious explanation, it’s tough sell, too. And were such a plot uncovered, the damage to Saudi Arabia’s already beleaguered reputation in the Beltway could be terminal.
Some 20% of the world’s oil goes through the Strait of Hormuz, and that includes a lot of Saudi exports. You might argue that at $62 a barrel (the price of Brent crude after Thursday’s incidents caused a 3% spike), oil is quite cheap and can take more of a knocking. But in the long term it’s unlikely the Saudis would want the Gulf’s shipping lanes to be regarded as unsafe.
If this gets worse and the US military finds itself dragged into protecting shipping in Hormuz, Riyadh’s relationship the Trump administration — which sought to get out of foreign entanglements rather than get into them — would be tested.
There are few easy facts here, as there are few easy culprits. But the sense of uncertainty stokes rather than dampens the fears of mismanagement and conflict.

More than 70 retired military leaders urge Trump not to go to war with Iran

Any conflict would come at “immense financial, human and geopolitical cost.”

RED SEA - MAY 10: In this handout photo provided by the U.S. Navy, an F/A-18E Super Hornet from the "Sidewinders" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 86 launches from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) May 10, 2019 in the Red Sea. The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group has been deployed to U.S. Central Command area of responsibility as tensions with Iran have recently escalated. With Abraham Lincoln as the flagship, deployed strike group assets include staffs, ships and aircraft of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 12, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 2, the guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55) and Carrier Air Wing Seven (CVW 7). (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Michael Singley/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
RED SEA – MAY 10: IN THIS HANDOUT PHOTO PROVIDED BY THE U.S. NAVY, AN F/A-18E SUPER HORNET FROM THE “SIDEWINDERS” OF STRIKE FIGHTER SQUADRON (VFA) 86 LAUNCHES FROM THE FLIGHT DECK OF THE NIMITZ-CLASS AIRCRAFT CARRIER USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN (CVN 72) MAY 10, 2019 IN THE RED SEA. THE ABRAHAM LINCOLN CARRIER STRIKE GROUP HAS BEEN DEPLOYED TO U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY AS TENSIONS WITH IRAN HAVE RECENTLY ESCALATED. WITH ABRAHAM LINCOLN AS THE FLAGSHIP, DEPLOYED STRIKE GROUP ASSETS INCLUDE STAFFS, SHIPS AND AIRCRAFT OF CARRIER STRIKE GROUP (CSG) 12, DESTROYER SQUADRON (DESRON) 2, THE GUIDED-MISSILE CRUISER USS LEYTE GULF (CG 55) AND CARRIER AIR WING SEVEN (CVW 7). (PHOTO BY MASS COMMUNICATION SPECIALIST SEAMAN MICHAEL SINGLEY/U.S. NAVY VIA GETTY IMAGES)

More than seventy former senior national security officials, including retired admirals, generals and ambassadors, have written an open letter to President Donald Trump urging restraint towards Iran as tensions ratchet up again in the Middle East.

The letter, which was first published on the website War on the Rocks and was coordinated by the American College of National Security Leaders, said that the accelerated deployment of troops and weapons to the region raised the potential of a deadly confrontation, either done on purpose or by accident.

“A war with Iran, either by choice or miscalculation, would produce dramatic repercussions in an already destabilized Middle East,” the letter read. “[It would] drag the United States into another armed conflict at immense financial, human, and geopolitical cost.”

“Crisis de-escalation measures should be established with the Iranian leadership at the senior levels of government,” the letter continued. “The protection of U.S. national interests in the Middle East and the safety of our friends and allies requires thoughtful statesmanship and aggressive diplomacy rather than unnecessary armed conflict.”

This week the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier was ordered to the Gulf, and on Friday the White House announced that they would be sending an extra 1,500 troops to the region to guard against perceived Iranian aggression. Over Congressional objections, the Trump administration has also moved forward with plans to sell $8 billion worth of weapons to Iranian adversaries Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates — despite the fact that US-sold weapons have been used by Saudi Arabia in its prolonged military campaign in Yemen where thousands of civilians have died.

The administration itself has also decided to ratchet up its own rhetoric in regards to Iran. Last Sunday Trump tweeted that “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran.”  Earlier in the month National Security Advisor John Bolton — who has frequently advocated a hardline approach with Iran — said that the US military buildup in the region was in response to “a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings.” GOP Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) also recently boasted that it would only take “two strikes” for the U.S. to defeat Iran.

The bellicose rhetoric from the White House, however, contrasts with intelligence from U.S. allies. Earlier in May, Major General Christopher Ghika, the top British general in the coalition against ISIS, explicitly said that there was no increased threat from Iran in either Syria or Iraq. His assessment however was quickly disavowed by US Central Command, who said they “run counter to the identified Credible threats available to intelligence from U.S. and allies regarding Iranian-backed forces in the region.”

World’s intelligent hunters in a race for survival in Iran

TEHRAN – Foxes, the intelligent hunters who avoid humans, having a limited range in Iran, are endangered due to human encroachment on their habitats and the lack of safety, said Jalil Imani, a biodiversity and ecosystems management expert.

There are more than 20 species of foxes who eat almost anything, including small mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, worms and fruit. The common fox is considered by some as pest species, being an opportunistic hunter of game birds, ground-nesting birds and small mammals, often killing animals’ surplus to its needs.

Foxes in Iran are often seen in farmlands in search of rodents. They are also likely to feed on melons, scavenge in refuse dumps, or track hares and other small mammals, especially when there is snow on the ground. Foxes in Iran are trapped, shot, and hunted almost everywhere they occur, and yet they still manage to thrive.

Foxes feed on small animals like rats, but farmers turning pastures into agricultural land over the past few years are using pesticides to protect their product, which kill foxes’ prey, and in some case the foxes themselves by the poisonous baits.

Four fox species inhabiting in Iran, including Blanford’s, Corsac, Rüppell’s and common foxes, Imani said, lamenting, according to the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), all four aforesaid species of foxes in the world are defined as least concern, however in Iran, their condition is different.

“Blanford’s fox is assigned endangered by the Department of Environment, any hunting or trade of which is considered illegal,” he noted, adding, while Corsac fox has been listed as extinct before sighting some in northeastern part of the country, which switched to critically endangered.

Rüppell’s fox is also placed in the IUCN’s least concern category, while being vulnerable in Iran which requires protection, he said.

“Fortunately, common fox is in better condition and is not listed as endangered yet,” he added.

So far, no measures have been taken to estimate fox population in the country, he said, adding, so there are no accurate statistics on the number of foxes in the country.

“The results of genetic tests showed that genetic variation of the foxes is desirable. There are two major genetic groups in the country that are in some ways compatible with the global groups.”

Imani went on to say that the Rüppell’s fox found mainly in Yazd, Kerman, somewhat Sistan-Baluchestan and Isfahan provinces, have proper genetic diversity, so there is still hope for the preservation of the sub species.

Blanford’s and Corsac foxes while offering insufficient information for a proper assessment, can be conserved to some extent, he said, noting, for precise determination scientific analysis and researches must be conducted in this regard.

One of the most important threats to fox species are habitat fragmentation, as well as the use of pesticides eradicating their prey, road construction, rabies and stray dogs, although the conflict with humans is the leading cause for their heading toward extinction.

“Foxes feed on small animals like rats, but farmers turning pastures into agricultural land over the past few years are using pesticides to protect their product, which kill foxes’ prey, and in some case the foxes themselves by the poisonous baits.

“On the other hand, road accidents took lives of many of the smart species, for example, there is a road in northern island of Qeshm, in which one to two foxes are killed per day due to road crashes.

“Unfortunately, another threat posed to the foxes is hunting for the fur trade, or some people keep their pelt for prosperity beliefs and superstitions.

“Foxes are primarily nocturnal hunters who prefer to search for food at a time when there is little chance of being spotted by humans, therefore, they are no threat to humans and there is no need to persecute the precious species,” Imani regretted.

Corsac fox’s habitat no longer safe

An official with the Golestan DOE, Mahmood Shakiba, said in October 2018 that living conditions for rare corsac fox in the country is so improper that spotting a few nests of the species is a pleasure.

In the Iranian calendar year 1395 (March 2016-March 2017), some 14 Corsac nests have been found in Turkmen Sahara in Golestan province, of which only four nests have been active and last year the nests have no longer been active, he added.

All Corsac habitats have been destructed turning into agricultural land, animal husbandry, manufacturing workshops or factories, so that the animal has no place to live, he regretted.

What happens when species go extinct?

As the species is at the top of the food chain, it plays an important role in conservation of the country’s ecosystem as well as protecting other species.

When an ecosystem loses key species such as common fox, it triggers what ecologists call a trophic cascade—a butterfly effect that spirals down the food chain. A well-documented case study for this phenomenon is the gray wolf, once among the world’s most widely distributed mammals. Prior to their extirpation, North American gray wolves were a key predator of deer, elk, moose, bison and caribou, as well as numerous smaller mammals. Following the wolves’ disappearance, the abundance of deer skyrocketed, with some populations climbing to six times their historical size.

Disappearance of foxes also have potential of disrupting the balance. For example, common fox’s function as an apex predator control the abundance of their prey and thus help to maintain a balance of nature.