In Sun Times today and here: http://lfpress.com/opinion/columnists/dyer-trumps-irrational-action-with-iran-may-hasten-war
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If Donald Trump's re-imposition of American sanctions on Iran does not cause President Hassan Rouhani's government to buckle at once (which is almost unimaginable), there is nothing else he can do short of going to war with the country. And he couldn't even win that war.
The extraordinary thing is that there is no Plan B. If Donald Trump’s re-imposition of American sanctions on Iran does not cause President Hassan Rouhani’s government to buckle at once (which is almost unimaginable), there is nothing else he can do short of going to war with the country. And he couldn’t even win that war.
Iran is entirely right to condemn Trump’s action. All the other signatories to the deal that hobbled Iran’s nuclear program – Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China – agree that Tehran is in full compliance with its terms, as do the United Nations, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and U.S. Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis.
But it’s a mistake to apply rational analysis to Trump’s action, because this was an emotional decision, not a rational one. It is part of his obsession with expunging every single achievement of the Obama administration.
We can, however, apply rational analysis to every other player’s reaction to Trump’s tantrum, starting with President Rouhani. He will try very hard to keep the deal alive because his own political fate depends on it.
Rouhani only has a few weeks to get public commitments to continue trading with Iran from the other parties to the deal, and that will require them to defy the United States. Trump’s declaration on Monday only bans American companies from trading with Iran, but the U.S. may also apply “secondary sanctions” against foreign companies that trade with Iran.
Russia and China will push back if the U.S. blackballs their companies for trading with Iran, but will the British, French and German governments also do so? Even if it risks splitting the Western alliance? Probably not, so the deal dies.
In that case, the Revolutionary Guard and other hardline nationalists will gain the upper hand in Iran. Rouhani would remain in office for the remainder of his term, but the deal really would be dead. Even so, Iran would probably not start working on nuclear weapons right away.
The immediate impact is more likely to be seen in a tougher approach in Syria, where Iranian troops (sent to aid the government side in the civil war) are bombed by the Israelis practically every week. So far Iran has not responded to these attacks in any way, but it could start by shooting a couple of those Israeli planes down, and then the fat would hit the fire.
For several years now, the main foreign policy goal of America’s two main allies in the Middle East, Israel and Syria, has been to draw the United States into a war with Iran. Therefore they have to provide the hawks in the Trump administration (Pompeo, Bolton, et al.) with a plausible pretext for starting the war, and a couple of downed Israeli planes would do nicely.
If it were just an attack on Iran by the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia, it would not be of earth-shattering importance. They would probably lose a lot of planes, since Iran now has good air defences, but none of them could or would do a ground invasion.
Iran is a country the size of Alaska, two-thirds of it is mountain or desert, and it has 80 million people. Invading it would make the Vietnam war look like a tea party. So any ground fighting between Iran and its enemies would be more likely to happen in the countries between them: Syria and Iraq. And the most worrisome thing is that there are both Russian and American troops on the ground in these countries.
Gwynne Dyer is an independent journalist based in London, England.
Agree completely with Dyer’s assessment. Brace ourselves for a Trump-induced conflict. But he is also a man of many Bluffs and could change his mind and tone after a nice dinner at one of his resorts!
I am in the same space - but do not know how you can label Syria as a US ally.