Prediction: Iran will win its deadly game with America

Written 21 June 2019

Many analysts and even members of the administration in the US seem to be severely underestimating Iranian capabilities. This not only includes its military capabilities but also its strategic thinking. This has led to panic about a future war between the US and Iran. However, I think this is unlikely and I predict that Iran will get what it wants. 

Let’s first address what Iran wants. In order to revive its economy, Iran needs sanctions taken against them lifted. This is impossible to do right now, as certain elements the US administration does not seem to be acquiescent to this. For Iran to have a chance, it needs these elements gone. As such, this is core to their strategy: drive a wedge within the US administration. Trump seems reticent to go to war, but his SecState and NSA, Pompeo and Bolton, are urging war. If they can get major disagreement between Trump and his staff, they can cause a crisis that can only lead to Trump winning the internal battle. 

Let’s then address responsibility for these alleged attacks. While it is certainly plausible that these attacks are “false flags”, I think the evidence points toward Iranian responsibility. There is plenty of circumstantial, video, and forensic evidence to lead us to this conclusion. I am therefore assuming Iranian responsibility for the purpose of this piece, although I am open to other suggestions. 

As such, there are multiple reason why Iran will win its game with America. The main one is the issue of the Strait of Hormuz. It is safe to say that even a limited engagement in that area will lead to a calamitous rise in oil prices. But it’s not only there that Iran has an edge. Iran has managed to infiltrate the cyber networks of multiple oil and gas facilities in the Persian Gulf in the event of a war. This will not only lead to cyber disruption, but may very well lead to physical costs, perhaps causing explosions and thus deaths in these facilities.  

Furthermore, the Persian Gulf is a choke-hold for vessels passing through it. Wargames carries out by the US have shown that in the event of a war, Iran is able to sink multiple US Navy ships and cause tremendous damage to US sea power. Furthermore, Iranian military capabilities lie not only in the conventional sphere, but also in the unconventional. Iranian proxy networks will cause tremendous damage throughout Saudi, Israel, and Western interests. These are capabilities that they have built over four decades. 

While these are by themselves not enough for Iran to achieve complete military victory, this does not really matter. The costs of such a war would have tremendous consequences globally and it does not behoove an American President to push it. This is even true if a limited engagement were considered, as the risk for full-scale escalation considering Iranian aggressiveness is too high. I therefore predict that Trump will seek negotiations with Tehran and possibly fire Bolton and Pompeo (or perhaps they will resign). Iran will offer him a face saving measure and a new deal will he reached. Trump does not want war and he indeed campaigned with this promise. Iran knows this and is playing a delicate game of brinkmanship to take advantage of the disagreements in the White House. 

Indeed, the recent news that Trump abruptly called off US air strikes on Iran to the dismay of his advisers confirms my thesis.