By Stephen Tuttle | Jan. 11, 2020
Another military entanglement in the Middle East without an obvious plan, purpose or exit strategy. We've been watching a similar movie that never ends.
Neither Iran nor their terrorist proxies are likely to be subdued by our missiles and bombs .
It's has one and half times the land area and, with nearly 83 million people, twice the population of its neighbors Iraq and Afghanistan combined. It is the 19th largest and 18th most populous country in the world.
They do have a military, now about 400,000 strong. Their air force of 350 planes is a combination of updated American jets from the 1970s and more modern aircraft purchased from Russia and China. They have both mobile and stationary anti-aircraft missile defense systems. Their navy is designed to mostly stay close to home with smaller frigates and armed go-fast boats. We now know they have ballistic missiles that can travel hundreds of miles.
But there isn't much doubt we could cripple their command and control centers with missile strikes from afar, similarly emasculate their air force, and stay well out of range of their navy. We could also use the opportunity to involuntarily denuclearize them and set their missile program back to the Stone Age, which might actually be the point.
But then what?
Unlike Iraq, which had a corrupt secular government run by an increasingly unhinged and unpopular dictator, Iran is an Islamic theocracy; 90 percent of the country is Shiite Muslim. While there is friction between some younger Iranians and their government due to restrictive laws, particularly those that apply to women, there is no overt hatred of their government or a groundswell of support for revolution.
There is a parliament, though the country is ruled by a group of senior clerics led by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenai. And the clerics encourage and financially support the country's terrorists of choice, Hezbollah, for which there are supportive posters all over the capital city of Tehran. They can't win a conventional war — a few missiles won't much deter us — but they can bedevil us with more terrorism.
We should note we were best buddies with the government of Iran when we were propping up the Shah. He was reliably anti-communist when that mattered, and we ignored his often barbaric and oppressive governance. When, in 1979, he was finally ousted for good — we had orchestrated his return to power the first time he was overthrown — 52 Americans were held hostage for 444 days, and our allegiance shifted; our friends were quickly enemies.
There was brief detente during the Obama Administration when they agreed to stop enriching uranium. In exchange, we gave them back the money they had paid us for arms before the Shah was deposed but which we didn't deliver after their revolution. But the Trump Administration rescinded the Obama Administration’s agreement with Iran, and the rhetorical hostilities resumed.
Iran's rulers don't like us because of our prior support of the Shah, current support of Israel, and our alliance with the Sunni Muslim family running Saudi Arabia .
They are even less fond of us since we killed one of their top generals with a drone attack in Iraq. They felt compelled to respond by lobbing missiles on Iraqi bases housing American military personnel. Now, of course, we'll have to respond to the response, if we haven't already by the time you read this. And so it begins, a tit-for-tat of stupidity.
It's not as if that region isn't use to this. There are historical records of invasions, attacks, and various of other forms of bloodshed since 1,000 before Jesus was born and, with three dynastic exceptions, has not gone a decade in the ensuing 3,000 years without more of the same. No invader has stayed long or enjoyed themselves much.
Qasem Soleimani, the general we killed, has already been replaced. Hezbollah, with tentacles already reaching throughout the Middle East, can't be eliminated. Air strikes that will inevitably include civilian collateral damage will generate more support for the theocrats in charge, not less. The government's connections to Russia and China will necessarily grow stronger. It will draw that portion of the populace eager for reform closer to their government and further away from us. It will virtually destroy any chance of rational diplomacy forestalling military involvement.
We can beat up Iran militarily, wreak plenty of havoc, and rain down destruction just like President Trump promised. But we aren't likely to eliminate the militias or terrorist groups they support.
We're about to spend more American treasure and likely spill American blood for another military engagement for which we have no clear goals and no clear exit strategy in a region where our success rate is, so far, zero.
More war will make no one safer.