Is US vs. Iran conflict Iraq 2.0?


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President Donald Trump (left) and National Security Advisor John Bolton are navigating increased tensions with Iran.

By Abuzer Zaidi, News Editor

George W Bush, the 43nd president of the United States, said “[Iran, Iraq, North Korea], and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.” The resulting foreign policy of the United States followed.

The Bush administration actively, swiftly, and determinedly sought to address Iraq as the one-third of the “axis of evil.” The Iraq War ended in the toppling of Saddam Hussein and the throwing of Iraq into turmoil, fertile soil for terrorists and anti-state actors. Arguably, the invasion of Iraq was the greatest failure of the Bush Administration.

With President Donald Trump now in office, and John Bolton as National Security Advisor, the new tensions with Iran looks like the ramp-up to Iraq.

So the questions to ask are: How did we get here? Where are we going? Can we stop a disaster on the scale of Iraq occuring in Iran?

The buildup

The first signs of tensions started when Trump pulled out of the JCPOA — , otherwise known as the Iran Deal — in early May 2018. While all the other signatories — such as France, Germany, UK, and EU — agreed that Iran was abiding by the deal, the Trump Administration argued that the deal itself was fundamentally flawed.

As a result, the US began re-establishing the sanctions that were abolished under the Iran Deal. Nearly 900 entities, according to some counts, have been sanctioned. As a result, Iran’s economy nearly froze, with currency and GDP falling significantly, oil and gas exports dwindling to a trickle, and the automotive industry — formerly one of Iran’s strongest — stagnating, the Iranian government had to take action.

Soon after the designation of the IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp) as a terrorist group in early April this year, the President Hassan Rouhani declared that Iran would be retaining enriched uranium and heavy water. Under the JCPOA, these materials would have been sold to foreign countries, removing it from the Iranian nuclear program. This move by Rouhani is technically in accordance with the JCPOA as the deal includes a clause that allows Iran to partially or fully suspend its end of the deal should the US (or the other signatories) fail to uphold their end, and resume economic sanctions. Rouhani gave the US a 60 day deadline from early May 2019 to remove economic sanctions.

In line with the IRGC terrorist designation, Bolton claimed there was “a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” from Iran. So, the US moved a carrier strike group and land-based bombers to the Persian Gulf — a movement of aggression. A few weeks later, four US-Allied oil tankers were said to be sabatoged — according to the United Arab Emirates. US CENTCOM as well as the Emarati governement are still investigating the case, but Bolton’s, and by extension the Trump administration’s, suspicions lie with Iran.

What all this buildup culminated in is the Trump administration asking the Defense Department to draw up plans for an invasion of Iran, according to the New York Times. Analysts say that the plan drawn up, requiring 120,000 US soldiers, was outlandish enough to be an indication: war with Iran would be a bad idea.

Trump disputed the claim from the Times.

The upcoming conflict

Given Iran’s track record, it seems likely that they will go through with their plan to ramp up their nuclear program by early July, as Rouhani has threatened. Furthermore, given that the Trump administration pulled out of the JCPOA initially, the likelihood of them re-entering it is unlikely. So, despite both administrations claiming that they do not want to be in conflict with each other, Iran and the US seem to be treading the warpath, and analysts are warning that a war with Iran would be a lot uglier than the debacle that was the invasion of Iraq.

A US-Iran conflict in the future could take two shapes: a more covert operation led by the CIA, or a direct invasion by the US military.

The danger of a CIA-style conflict is evidenced by the example of the Mujahideen in Afghanistan during the Cold War. Osama Bin Laden, now deceased leader of Al-Qaeda, was part of a US-funded guerilla group in Afghanistan during the Cold War as an effort towards Soviet containment.

In discussing a direct military invasion, History teacher Julie Korchowsky said war seems like a very unlikely scenario.

“I think maybe we learned from Iraq,” Korchowsky said. “I am hoping we would not invade Iran.”
The failure of the invasion of Iraq was that it led to a collapse of a country, leading to regional instability. This was the fertile soil where groups like ISIS bred and were able to rise to some power.

“Having a stable government with a democratic framework is definitely a stabilizing force [in the Middle East],” Korchowsky said, in reference to Iran.

An outright war with Iran would deconstruct this stabilizing force and lead to further regional chaos.

Stopping the conflict

Simply put, our relations with Iran are not so broken that it is irreversibly damaged. Korchowsky said that step one to begin repairing our relations with Iran would be to re-enter the JCPOA. This would effectively end the ramping up of the Iranian nuclear program, according to Rouhani. If the US removes the new sanctions by early June 2019, then the exports of hard water and enriched uranium will continue as normal.

Korchowsky dismissed the effects of antagonism from the Saudis and Israelis, saying that the reestablishment of US-Iranian relations would not negatively impacting our Saudi and Israeli relations. She pointed out specifically that “Our relations with Israel is stable to an extent.”

In other words, there is hope for peace, the question is whether or not the Trump administration will pursue it.