Beyond the Cusp

May 17, 2019

Iran Pushing the Envelope

 

Iranian forces, including their fast-ships, have been striking and sabotaging oil tankers as they pass through the Strait of Hormuz. Thus far, they have yet to damage a ship such that it leaked oil, was disabled or sank. These attacks have technically broken past the level that President Trump stated could merit a response from the American forces in the region. That leads one to wonder if, when and what it will take to rise to the level where President Trump cannot any longer ignore these provocations. This leads to an entire series of further questions as to whether Iran will settle for renegotiating with the United States or push until they force a confrontation. The question which is most important remains whether or not inevitably there will be any actual meeting of the two forces, Iran and the United States. Guess we could say that is the billion-dollar question.

 

We can assume that President Trump would prefer to force negotiations which does not mean that he will ignore almost any level of provocation. That leads to what exactly are the intentions of the Iranian leadership, which boils down to is the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei set upon pressing matters beyond the breaking point. That is where this entire scenario becomes a nightmare. Ali Khamenei appears to be set on pushing this into a military conflagration between Iran and the United States and top that off by having Hezballah and likely Islamic Jihad and Hamas attacking Israel with a heavy missile and rocket bombardments just as their Supreme Leader, the heads of the IRGC and a number of other officials have promised will be part of any conflict in the Middle East. You may ask, why would Iran engage both the United States and Israel as doing so would only endanger Iran even more. What the Iranians believe is that by promising to target Israel, this would make it more difficult for the United States to actually engage Iran. This is unfortunate as threatening Israel will have little if any influence upon any decisions which President Trump will be forced to make should Iran continue escalating their strikes on shipping. Iran might even go farther and attack ground targets in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia or any of the other Gulf States. That would force a confrontation as such a threat to oil shipments and production would cause havoc with oil prices which would be another means for forcing the confrontation with the United States. The bad news is that things do appear as if the Iranians, specifically the IRGC, will not end their escalations until they force an American response. That could then lead to an ever-widening Middle East war.

 

Dr. Mordechai Kedar, one of the foremost Middle East experts, predicts with his article, “The Third Gulf War has already begun,” that the only item still undecided is the date when the unavoidable war will begin and how fast and far will it expand to the rest of the Middle East. We here in Israel have been trying to ignore the slowly heating of the Persian Gulf and instead watching the Eurovision being held currently in Tel Aviv. There is nothing like an entertaining distraction right when one is so badly needed. We, unfortunately, have little interest in the singing contest and far more interest in what our immediate future holds. One thing which cannot be said is that life is boring here in Israel. We just had ten-thousand screaming mad fire-, stone- and explosive-throwing rioters protesting Nakba Day along the Gaza border this past week. This was taken for what it actually is, just the next installment of the Arab attempts to make our lives unbearable. The vast majority of Israelis are made out of sterner stuff than folding before such threats. This is even more valid an argument when things could always be so much worse and the threats so much more frightening. Even then, the Israeli response is to simply respond as the situations require. Any attacks which are tractable to Iran, then Israel has promised that Iran would feel some part of the response. The truth is we would really prefer to live in peace allowing us to pursue making discoveries, treatments, inventions and other advancements which would advance and improve the lives of people around the world in the process.

 

Should Dr. Kedar prove correct, once the conflagration between Iran and the United States initiates, then we would hope that the Iranian threat to involve Israel was bluster and not an actual threat which they will follow through upon. If Hezballah were to initiate aggressions against Israel, Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu has promised a response which will bring the ability of Hezballah and Lebanon to conduct any further aggressions to a halt as rapidly as Israel is able. Fortunately, Prime Minister Netanyahu did not promise “shock and awe” type of attack as was the threat which was made by President George W. Bush against Iraq and Saddam Hussein. The initial attack proved to appear less shock and awe because the attacks were specific and struck only those targets desired thus limiting the collateral damage, additional suffering, and a less impressive display than what many expected. Simply put, it was a far cry that the bombings conducted during World War II in which cities were laid to waste. The most well known of such attacks was the firebombing of Dresden (see image below). That was the original shock and awe. Hopefully the world will never again know destruction such as Dresden as well as Tokyo and, of course, Hiroshima and Nagasaki of World War II. These are exactly the threats which Iran has threatened to unleash. We should all hope that, to use an old western America phrase, Iran is all hat and no cattle. The unfortunate reality is the Iranians may be dead set on causing a stampede unleashing as much cattle as they can lay their hands upon. May any actual exchange be short and cause the minimal number of casualties and end almost before it starts.

 

Image of Dresden Firestorm Consuming the City

Image of Dresden Firestorm Consuming the City

 

The best would be no conflict and a peaceful resolution. But we have two blustering leaders who both are very unlikely to be bluffed or pressured into backing down. On the Iranian side, their leadership from the Supreme Leader, President, IRGC commanders and others are all threatening maximum levels of force even to threatening to destroy the American fleet with a single missile. This has been interpreted as likely a threat to use an EMP device though a nuclear tipped missile would also fit the bill and should not be put beyond the Iranian intent. They have promised similar total devastating attack upon Israel which would instigate a similar response against all attacking forces as well as likely an attack on Iran. So, if the question is are the Iranian leaders suicidal? They have responded to this question already stating that they would consider the complete and total destruction of Iran a reasonable price to pay if that is what was necessary for the destruction of Israel and the United States. All we can assume is that this is probably the most dangerous threat the world has faced in years. The near future promises, as things currently stand, to be filled with threats which could lead to a war spreading beyond the initial borders, even beyond Israel. The Iranians are counting on Russia coming to their aid. Russian President Putin probably is not feeling as attached and ready to aid Iran as the Iranians believe which could prevent any conflict from spreading outside the Middle East, as if that is not horrible enough. Things could not stand to be much worse than they now sit, may the threats pass without incident.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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