by Ghassan Kadi for The Saker Blog
As the American military build-up continues around the Strait of Hormuz, and as a potential American-Iranian war looms, many analysts are convinced that war is imminent. I beg to differ.
Ever since the “War on Syria” started, I kept reiterating that America would never launch a full-on attack on Syria, and for very good reasons, and not long ago, I finally felt compelled to write a series of articles explaining that in as much as America would love to be able to pillage Syria, it is unable to do so.
Here is the link for one of the articles for those who might be interested.
Those predictions, which stood the test of time, were made long before the Russian involvement in Syria, and now, after Syria’s triumph, the chances of a decisive victory that America is able to score by way of a military gamble anywhere in the Middle East have been shrinking and reduced to the level of zero chance. If anything, the “War on Syria” was the surrogate war that America could not launch directly either on Syria or on Iran, and even by turning its war into a war by proxy, America was still unable to win.
To recap briefly, some obstacles that stood against an all-out American NATO-led assault on Syria back in 2013, I argued that America would never risk a retaliatory attack against Israel by both Syria and Hezbollah.
An American attack on Iran will not eliminate the risk of a Hezbollah retaliatory attack on Israel, and if anything, it will bring in a new risk; the risk of a retaliatory Iranian attack on Saudi soil.
Whether or not an American-Iranian show down will directly involve Saudi troops, given that Saudi Arabia is still unable to win in its war against Yemen, even though it has the third largest military budget after the USA and China, a direct Saudi role will have little in effecting any significant input. However, with or without a direct Saudi intervention, an American attack on Iran will immediately put American interests in Saudi Arabia under the Iranian target list.
In the event of such an attack, the first thing that Iran will do is close marine traffic in the Strait of Hormuz. As a result, the whole world will be affected and the price of a barrel of oil may jump to $200 and beyond, but the relevant issue here is the impact on the feasibility of American military success.
An American attack on Iran cannot be seen as an event that is independent from the wars on Syria and Yemen. It will be seen as an upscaling that directly involves Iran. Any such turning point will sooner or later involve Saudi Arabia directly. And given that Iran will more than likely close the Strait of Hormuz and thereby putting all Saudi oil exports to halt, whether or not Iran intended to intimidate America alone, the Saudis will see it as an act of war; and they will be “forced” to retaliate.
But the moment the Iranians see that Saudi forces are involved in military action against them, they will have a huge array of critical soft Saudi targets to hit; all the way from oil wells, ports, and more importantly perhaps, water desalination plants that are all scattered on the east coast of Saudi Arabia; ie across the gulf from Iran.
Those sites are undoubtedly protected by ground to air defence shields, but in the face of thousands, tens of thousands of cheap rockets fired from Iran, much more expensive and harder-to-come-by Patriot missiles will not be able to totally stop waves and waves of Iranian rockets.
The Saudi desalination plants feed all cities in the east; including the capital Riyadh. Without them, Saudi citizens will have no water. And without oil exports, they will also lose their income.
Power stations are also in the east, if they get hit, eastern Saudi Arabia will plunge into darkness, and as summer approaches, without air-conditioning, today’s Saudis who are not any longer attuned to the harsh climate of the desert, will suffer greatly from heat exhaustion; especially without water and fuel.
America may not give a damn about Saudis, but it cannot afford to lose Saudi revenue.
But this is only on the eastern front.
On the southern front, a weaker Saudi Arabia will have to relent in its attack on Yemen. Where will this leave the battle front?
On the western front however, an all-out American attack on Iran will be seen as a bigger existential threat to Hezbollah than the “War on Syria”. Hezbollah will retaliate by hitting back at Israel; not only using its rocket power in a retaliatory manner, but also for leverage and the ability to trade-off a cease fire against Israel by an American one against Iran. A scenario like this can become a game of playing chicken and seeing who blinks first; and more than likely, faced by potential civilian casualties, Israel will be the party to relent.
An onslaught of Hezbollah rockets on Israel has been something that the USA has thus far managed to avoid; despite its deep role in the “War on Syria”. But if the carnage eventuates, America will be “forced” to supply Israel with a massive number of Patriot missiles. But these cost more than a million dollars each at least. Such figures are easy to estimate even according to sources such as Wikipedia. But the question is, who is going to fork out the cost? Furthermore, Hezbollah is estimated to have over 150 thousand rockets poised at Israel. Does America have enough Patriots to intercept them? And if THAAD missiles are to be used here and there, the economy becomes more daunting with batteries costing over a billion dollars each, according to Wikipedia again.
This of course brings in the bigger question of economy; ie the economic front. If the invasion of Iraq has cost the American treasury something between 2 and 4 trillion dollars, how much will a war with Iran cost? With the American economy on the brink, can America financially afford a new war with an enemy that it hasn’t tested the fighting prowess of?
Trump was quoted saying that a war with Iran will be the official end of Iran. https://sputniknews.com/us/201905201075143491-trump-iran-threat-fight/. But the United States of America has thus far lost all of its post WWII wars, even though they were all launched against foes of seemingly much less military readiness than Iran. As a matter of fact, if one looks at the regional strategic risks, the military risks, plus the economic risks, an American war against Iran could well become the straw that breaks America’s back.
The above analysis does not even take into account the economic impact of such war on the EU and/or the possibility of Russian, Chinese and Indian roles.
As an energy exporter, Russia may gain from inflated petrol and gas prices, but strategically, it is not going to sit idle as America wreaks havoc and imposes superiority in an area that is of high interest to Russia. But China and India, and the EU, are highly dependent on fuel that has no way out of its origin to their ports other than via the Strait of Hormuz. Some EU nations may give America some grace if convinced by big brother that the attack will only last a matter of days, but what if it takes weeks, months, or years? What if the norm becomes a $200 oil barrel? Which world economy can survive such a calamity?
The only logical scenario here is that not unless America is able to incinerate Iran in a single knockout blow, any attack on Iran will result in a series of independent repercussions that have the potential of turning the attack into a nightmare for America.
The days of bottomless pockets that allowed America to launch wars on Korea and Vietnam under the guise of fighting Communism are no more.
The days of the so-called “New World Order” of the post-USSR period and which gave America a carte-blanche to attack Iraq, Afghanistan, Iraq again and Libya was put on hold in Syria, and Russia has marked her redlines for any such future offensives.
Without international impunity, without a successful military track record, without the risk of retaliation against Israel, with the prospect of losing EU support, with the prospect of turning the Saudi war on Yemen in favour of the Houthis, destroying the Saudi economy and leaving Saudis without power and water, and above all, without enough funds to fight a war that can last a very, very long time, and finally, without being able to hit Iran with a single knockout blow that can avoid all of the above, how can America enter this venture?
Hawks like Bolton may think that any military action is a walk in the park, but the top brass in the American military know better. Love him or hate him, Trump is a pragmatic man, financially pragmatic perhaps, but this is alone enough reason for him not to take stupid financial decisions; and any war against Iran will be judged by Trump on its financial merits.
On paper, Trump will see that this war is impossible to win, and just like his White House predecessors who have eyed Syria in the hope of being able to attack it, he will be the chicken who will blink first and find a face-saving exit. At the end of the day, if on the scale of one to ten, America’s decision to not attack Syria scored eight, the decision not to attack Iran will score ten.