When Might War Between the U.S. and Iran Occur?
Posted by Michael S. Rozeff on January 27, 2012
Which state, the U.S. or Iran, more likely wants a war with the other? It's the side that thinks it benefits from such a war. That side is the U.S. If this war begins, it will be entirely because the U.S. wants it and has decided that the time is right to instigate it or elicit actions from Iran that provide excuses for instigating it. Any U.S.-Iran war will be entirely the doing of the U.S.
Here's how we know this. Iran has nothing to gain because it will lose such a war, its power being so much less than the U.S. This is why Iran has tolerated, so far and to a remarkable degree, the intrusions of U.S. subversions and covert activities in Iran, the assassinations of scientists, the computer disruptions, the embargos, the sanctions, the U.S. warships, the U.S. threats, and the U.S. troops being placed nearby. By contrast, the U.S., in the view of the neoconservatives who are running foreign policy, stands to gain quite a lot, namely, undisputed hegemony over the Middle East, control of a country perched on central Asia, control of oil, support for Israel, and a rise in global dominance more generally. Therefore, when and if such a war starts, no matter by what incidents it is triggered, we can be 100% certain that the U.S. has caused and precipitated this war because it, not Iran, is the state that foresees the benefits of such a war.
There are costs, however, and these are restraining the U.S. from instigating this war at this time. These include war costs of several kinds, since Iran is not a pushover. Iran, if pushed into a war by the U.S., can respond in nearby regions, such as Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Saudia Arabia, and the Persian Gulf. It can conceivably draw Russia into the war, or perhaps Pakistan. The U.S. will win a war with Iran, but it does not expect an easy win. If it did, it would already have started the war. The war on Libya was a recent warm-up exercise that shows what air power can do in this day and age, but Iran's forces are more formidable.
We can expect that military advisors to the U.S. will tend to be against war with Iran because of these costs, but that under enough pressure they will yield. Another cost is that oil will rise in price steeply, and this will derail economic activity in Europe, the U.S., and elsewhere. Economic advisors to the U.S. will tend to be against war with Iran for this reason, but they too will yield under enough pressure because, like the military leaders, their positions are secure and others will bear the responsibility of starting such a war.
The U.S. will attempt to restrain Israel from causing a war on its own until the U.S. leadership thinks that these costs have become bearable and/or that the U.S. is in a position to beat Iran rather quickly and not have to endure a long war.
Since Iran does not want war with the U.S. and since its forces are what are deterring the U.S., Iran has a powerful incentive to build up its military forces in ways that deter the U.S. and make an easy victory unlikely. This is why Iran issues threats of its own, so that the U.S. will think twice and continue to hold off from attacking Iran, which Washington is ready to do as soon as it thinks the costs of doing so are bearable. This is why Iran continues to develop its missile capabilities. This is also why it makes sense for Iran to take the necessary preparatory steps toward developing a nuclear warhead that can be carried on a missile. No doubt it understands how to manufacture a nuclear bomb and has come a long way in understanding how to ignite explosives simultaneously so as to create the nuclear explosion within. The U.S., in a very real way, is causing Iran to pursue this nuclear development course if only to prevent a U.S. attack and to preserve its own power as a state. And certainly the sanctions imposed by the West for many years now and the concurrent threat of U.S. attack are causing Iran to bolster its military forces so as to deter the U.S.
And so when might war break out between the U.S. and Iran? It depends on this balance of costs that the U.S. bears and that depends on actions by Iran. But this is all assuming rationality in the war-making process. It is possible at any time that a leader in Washington or in Israel will cast aside rational calculation and decide that now is the time or the time has come, or make a decision based on some trivial detail or happenstance or incident whose significance he or she mis-estimates. Similarly, it is possible that Iran's leadership will miscalculate or perceive themselves as being backed into a corner where war is the only way out.
The U.S. keeps raising the ante, and that dashes hopes for an eventual peaceful resolution. There is no way that Iran can appease the U.S. If it gives in on one thing, the U.S. will simply demand more and then more and more. The U.S. behavior toward Gaddafi shows what happens when a weak state attempts to cooperate with the U.S. Iran will not do likewise. Its leaders are on record as recognizing U.S. behavior going back for decades. They will not back down. The only hope for a continued standoff is, ironically, that Iran make itself strong enough to deter the U.S. and Israel.