Are you in the mood for another war? I would imagine not. So it’s been puzzling, trying to figure out why we found ourselves ready to launch a massive military strike on Iran last week, only to have Donald Trump of all people change his mind and call it off. Thank you Donald. But when Trump appears to be the voice of reason in this administration, we’re all in trouble, because it’s tethered to an attention span 240 diddles long. We may not be so lucky next time the jingoes get horny.
Other than for show, there is no reason to attack Iran. It is not the most dangerous regime in the Middle East. Not by any calculation. That title goes to Saudi Arabia, the country that’s been pounding Yemen back to the stone age, with American weaponry, threatening its neighbors, including Bahrain and Qatar, and financing the Taliban and ISIS—not directly of course, but the laundromats of Saudi sheikh’s finances are as oily as their bank accounts.
Remember that Clinton memo from 2009, when she was Secretary of State? “More needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaida, the Taliban, LeT and other terrorist groups,” she wrote that December. Ten years later, Saudi Arabia’s hands are no less bloody.
Saudi Arabia, not Iran, sends out goons to other countries to assassinate and dismember journalists, or kidnap dissidents who manage to flee the country, beat them, drug them and and imprison them. Saudi Arabia, not Iran, remains the title holder in originating terrorism and destabilizing the Middle East. But Saudi Arabia is supposedly an American ally. It has a lot of oil, so much of it needed to ensure that we keep cooking the planet, and it’s been deceiving American presidents since FDR. Now it’s pushing this country toward war with Iran, and too many people in Trump’s administration are eager to be Saudi Arabia’s lackeys. Trump and his son in law are too, but those two want to make money. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton just want to do what John McCain once stupidly laughed off: Bomb.
Even assuming that the attacks on oil tankers last week were the work of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, those attacks were nothing more than the sort of skirmishes American soldiers live with on the front lines in Afghanistan, Syria or Iraq to this day. (One columnist compared it to having one’s car vandalized: “You’re right to be angry. You’re right, even, to seek compensation for the crime and expense of making repairs. But would you seek the death penalty for the perpetrators? No. Of course you wouldn’t. Not if you have any sense of moral proportion.”)
That’s assuming the attacks were the work of Iranians, a big assumption when our own military masks its lies in claims of uncertainty on whether its drones are violating Iranian space or not (as if GPS was some rare, rogue gimmick). Iran sees those violations as acts of war. It has a right to. Imagine if an Iranian drone were to fly in proximity of Flagler Beach. No doubt in some America-firsters’ books the American coast is owed more respect than Iran’s Persian Gulf coast. But not in Irans’, and not in any books of international law. If Saudi Arabia knows how to use goons in foreign embassies, it certainly knows how to use false-flag saboteurs in its backyards. Because that’s what’s in play here: a Middle East battle to the death, more at Saudi Arabia’s instigation than Iran’s, between Islam’s two most fanatical, nihilistic poles: Saudi Arabian Wahhabism and Iranian Khomeinism, one a perversion of Sunni Islam, the other a perversion of Shiite Islam. Everything else is proxy nonsense. It’s got everything to do with theocratic supremacy over the Middle East, nothing to do with American or Western interests. That’s the war Trump wants to fight?
This week Trump talked of obliterating Iran and imagined out loud that if there were to be a war, it would be very short. He’s sounding exactly like the jingoes in George W. Bush’s administration in 2002, Bush among them, who claimed attacking Iraq would be easy and over with in a matter of weeks, would cost just $60 billion, and would be paid for by Iraqi oil. A decade later, Iran is mostly in charge of Iraq, and war costs are over $2 trillion.
There are hundreds of reasons why attacking Iran makes no sense. Here are a couple. Iran is not Iraq. It’s not a poor country. It’s not a weak country. It’s one-sixth the size of the United States, with one quarter its population. It can be bombed from the air, but all that will achieve is turn a young Iranian population that’s been rebelling against its regime back to supporting it fanatically yet again–as it did after the United States turned down Iranian help in the Afghan war of 2001, as it did after the United States illegally invaded Iraq in 2003, as it is doping, to some extent, after Trump shredded what had been an imperfect but fairly good nuclear deal with Iran.
Iran itself can’t be much damaged from the air, and not even hawks in their wildest toy-soldier fantasies would imagine a ground attack: it would be no Marathon, with every Persian a Xerxes. But it can trigger the sort of backlash we’ve been dealing with in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan for almost two decades: it can add yet another front in a war of attrition where the only thing drained is lives and dollars and whatever’s left of American credibility (the moral high ground having sunk in the muck of the Euphrates and the continuing atrocity of Guantanamo years ago).
And it could unleash Hezbollah’s guerillas against Israel. Their indifference to human life among their own resembling that of North Vietnam during that immoral war, Hezbollah managed to fight Israel to a stalemate in two wars, when they were much weaker and less well armed. They’d manage again. Stalemate in the Middle East means victory for whoever is battling the mighty United States. Time, terrain, even locals: it’s all on their side. Ask the Taliban. As for Israel’s fear of Iranian nukes: come back and argue it when the Middle East nuclear-warhead ratio isn’t 100-to-zero in Israel’s favor, not counting the American nuclear umbrella.
This country was ruined by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan it lost long ago. Let’s not tempt a third loss against a country whose history outlasts ours by about 6,000 years, all because Saudi Arabia is trying to pimp the United States into fighting its religious war. Let’s pass on this one.