Trump imagines a quick US war with no Plan B, but overlooks Iran’s possible Plan B

By Elijah J. Magnier: @ejmalrai

In another of his characteristic messages via Twitter, US President Donald Trump declared his army’s capacity to use “obliteration” fire power against Iran if necessary and in case of war between the two countries. Further, Trump’s claimed that such a war won’t last “very long”. Both statements suggest that the US administration recognises its incapacity to defeat or face Iran with conventional fire power; hence Trump seems to advert to the possibility of using tactical nuclear bombs (or enhanced radiation warhead ) against Iran as the US did in AfghanistanIraq, Syria and Lebanon 2006 (Uranium based weapons). He also told the press that no exit plan, no Plan B is necessary. Trump is telling the world that the US believes Iran will surrender in a short time after the beginning of a possible war, showing that history is meaningless to US officials who made the same assumptions in previous wars, particularly in Afghanistan and its attempted regime-change in Syria. But how will Iran respond and what options are left to Iran today? 

There is little doubt that Trump’s administration is fixated on US military power, rather than exploring all possible scenarios and the prospects for Iranian retaliation. If Trump goes to war, the Middle East will face dire circumstances that Trump seems not to be taking into account.

When President George W. Bush launched “Operation Enduring Freedom” in 2001 he believed his war in Afghanistan would be a walk in the park; still today, President Trump is negotiating with Taliban a way to end this ongoing war. Moreover, President Barack Obama and UN officials believed the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s fall would be a “matter of time”. Trump is saying that he would bomb Iran rather than send troops to occupy any part of Iran, whether on the coast or inland, thus limiting his intervention to destroying a previously agreed-on bank of objectives.

Trump’s administration seems to believe that a quick and decisive bombing would be enough to convince Iran to swallow its pride, no matter how painful that would be, and drag its feet to the negotiation table. But it may be that Iran could absorb the first wave of bombing, no matter how painful, and launch cruise missiles against US targets, and the airports and oil facilities of the country from where the bombing was launched. 

A US attack would no doubt destroy Iran’s oil facilities, missile launching bases, part of its military industry and would cause many Iranian human casualties. But US servicemen will also lose their lives and the price of oil will skyrocket, spoiling Trump’s electoral chances. The US is not taking into account Iranian missile capabilities, and the possibility Iran might have tactical nuclear missiles with enriched uranium, similar to those Israel used against Lebanon in the 2006 war. Moreover, if Iran is hit badly, how can the US stop Iran’s allies from bombing Israel, attacking US embassies and bases in Lebanon and Iraq, and targeting US troops in Syria?  Significant retaliation is certain when all the gloves come off.

Iran has been supporting its allies in the Middle East for a decade now and it would be illogical not to expect their support to be forthcoming in the extreme case of a direct attack on Iran. There will be no concern about world reaction to the revelation of Iran’s hidden capabilities when the death toll starts rising and the destruction becomes devastating. That could very well be Iran’s Plan B, an option that Trump seems oblivious to. 

The US may use unconventional weapons against Iran, which will elicit global indignation. The internet today makes possible instant access to information around the world. Using unconventional weapons will rekindle the world’s memory of the atomic bombs dropped by the US over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. During World War II, the US faced no accountability because the world was at war. Today the situation is very different and Trump is facing an internal political split, an electoral campaign, and the signatories to the JCPOA deal who oppose Trump’s revocation of the deal under the guidance of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  

Iran is not alone even if its officials decide on the 7thof July to raise tensions and partially withdraw from the JCPOA. China has rejected the US sanctions on Iran. Russia is strongly opposing Trump’s decision by importing Iranian oil, and Europe may be moving to implement and activate its monetary system INSTEX before Iran makes a partial withdrawal.

So far, there is a debate in Iran whether to give Europe an additional short delay to see if INSTEX will be applied and will support the Iranian economy, or whether Europe, as the Iranian Leader warned his officials, “should not be trusted”.

Iran is stockpiling a large quantity of heavy water and centrifuges (even modernising these from IR-1 to IR-6 and heading towards IR-8). Trump is preventing Iran from exporting the excess so that Iran can be accused of violating the JCPOA. However, what Trump doesn’t seem to realise that he is giving Iran yet another card to play. Europe, eager to prevent Iran from attaining military grade nuclear capability, will offer to ease the export restrictions on the excess heavy water and centrifuges. But Iran will not accept this cherry-picking of what can be exported and what it can’t. This again will put the spotlight on Trump’s decision to shred the nuclear deal, unless sanctions are lifted on Iran or other partners emerge who will do business with Iran.

When Trump launched his threat of “obliteration”, he forced Iranian pragmatists and radicals alike to think twice about the Leader’s Fatwa that Iran should not possess nuclear bombs. Israel, Pakistan and India, countries proximate to Iran, all have nuclear bombs. On the other hand, the prevailing argument in Iran today is that a small group, like Hezbollah, stopped Israel, a nuclear country with dozens of bombs, from attaining its objectives in 2006. Technology, air superiority, a larger army and dozens of bases surrounding Iran do not guarantee a quick US victory, or even victory after a longer conflict. Afghanistan and Iraq are the best examples. The question is: for how long can Iran restrain itself and keep from acquiring nuclear bombs if its enemy – Donald Trump – continues to wave the threat of obliteration against it?

Proofread by:  C.G.B.

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