Ukraine’s Christmas holidays were interrupted by the sad reports on the crash of the Ukrainian airliner in Iran, the country that is now in the spotlight of the world community. Ukrainian passenger jet carried the passengers of seven countries, so this is an international disaster.
The investigation would establish the details of the tragedy, but its political consequences could be interpreted differently in terms of lack of objective information. And this is the greatest danger here since Iranian leaders are already irritated and wrapped in some shady schemes.
January 8, the Iranian top political leadership, headed by supreme leader Ali Khamenei, has committed a decisive act. Despite the recommendations of the Iranian military, Teheranian radical politicians have seemingly opted to escalate relations with the United States and launched rocket attacks on two US military bases in Iraq. The exact losses from the United States are still being established.
Instead of the “cold revenge,” few days voiced by Esmail Qa'ani, Iranian Brigadier General in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and commander of its Quds Force, which would mean exacerbating the proxy-war in the region, the Iranian leader took a radical step of a quick retaliation. Iran committed an open act of war against the United States.
Khamenei has left US President Donald Trump with the most difficult dilemma of his presidency. It could be reduced to one question: could we equate the attack on US bases with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and declare open war on Iran? Or is it just one episode of a long confrontation with the Iranians, whose actions the US openly classifies as a terrorist?
Since Iran’s attack on US bases is not 100% treacherous, it’s certainly not the full equivalent of Pearl Harbor. But what is it?
This is another series of missile war that Tehran has long been waging through its proxy allies throughout the Middle East. Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists, who have close ties with Tehran, are conducting rocket attacks on Israeli territory.
Iranian-sponsored Ansar Allah terrorists attack Saudi Arabia from Yemen and threaten to destroy Mecca and Medina. So, now it is the turn of the United States, and Iran directly declared to be against the US.
How have the US allies reacted to the rocket attacks on their territories?
Israel responded in the form of counter-terrorism operations, such as Operation Accountability (1992) and Grapes of Wrath (1996) against Hezbollah, or Cast Lead (2008), Pillar of Defense (2012), or Protective Edge operations (2014). The purpose of these operations was to destroy the military infrastructure with which the enemy could harm Israel. So, Israel’s response was certainly radical in eliminating the missile capabilities of terrorists.
In the case of the shelling of Saudi Arabia by the Hussites, Riyadh carried out large-scale aerial bombardments of their territories in response. But this did not stop the militants, and in the end, in 2019, they fired ballistic missiles at the capital of the kingdom. After that, the parties entered into negotiations and agreed that Saudi Arabia would stop airstrikes, and pro-Iranian militants would fire rockets.
We see here the escalation scenario, which after a sufficiently long period of time ended with the signing of a ceasefire. Can these examples be scaled to the level of confrontation between the US and Iran at the moment? Partially, as there is no longer an asymmetric war between a state and a terrorist organization, but between two states with asymmetric potentials.
An increase in the rate from Iran can now lead to a new level of confrontation - a regional war in the Middle East, and given Tehran’s missile capabilities, the situation could literally go beyond Iran.
If Washington takes a strike at Iran’s missile potential, there is hope that an uprising against the Khamenei regime and the overthrow of the Islamic republic could begin in the country. It is still difficult to say how realistic it is, although the number of those dissatisfied is growing in the country. Blows on Iran’s oil and energy infrastructure are also possible.
Khamenei has advanced age and suffers from serious health problems. For several years now, the country has been in a state of a hidden power struggle between the highest spiritual hierarchs. It seems that the 81-year-old spiritual leader has decided to testify that everything is under control and still has some fuel in his tank.
The murder of Suleimani without retaliation would refute this thesis. But the option of retaliation, chosen by Tehran, is inspired by the thirst for the crowd, which cannot be rational in its manifestations. Irrationality (not to be confused with non-standard approaches) in politics carries catastrophic consequences. In such circumstances, the words of US President Herbert Hoover could be recalled: “The old people declare war, but they have to fight and die young.”
If Donald Trump refrains from the temptation of Iran’s swift revenge, he will demonstrate the difference in strategic thinking with the Iranian leader Khamenei. He will become his opposite because the worst decisions are made in a state of anger. Perhaps, the worst decisions in world history.