On the public radio program 1A this morning Vali Nasr, Dean of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, discussed what the shooting down of a US surveillance drone by Iran might lead to and it is well worth listening to. He made the point that Iran might just be fed up with the US essentially trying to strangle that nation’s economy with its sanctions policy. He argues that the deal that was signed between Iran on one hand and the US, Russia, China, France, UK, and Germany on the other required that the earlier sanctions should be eased in return for commitments made by Iran regarding its nuclear program. He said that while Iran has kept its end of the bargain, the other nations have not and the promised sanctions relief has not come about.
The last straw for Iran may have been the US walking away from the deal and then even increasing sanctions in an effort to reduce Iran’s oil exports to zero. He thinks that Iran has decided that the US is seeking regime change and to crush them and that their own restraint has only made the US more aggressive. They have simply had enough and are now pushing back, and with this action that country is saying that they can and will fight back.
Iranian officials have said that the shooting down was a deliberate act and a success of the country’s security forces, but claimed that the aircraft was over Iranian territory.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) news website said the drone “was shot down when it entered Iran’s airspace near the Kouhmobarak district in the south”, referring to the area of Iranian coast facing the strait of Hormuz.
“The downing of the American drone was a clear message to America … our borders are Iran’s red line and we will react strongly against any aggression … Iran is not seeking war with any country, but we are fully prepared to defend Iran,” the IRGC commander, Hossein Salami, said, according to Iranian media. Iran has announced its intention to take the matter to the UN security council.
This is a very dangerous time. Two foreign policy establishment analysts David Aaron Miller and Richard Sokolsky write that starting a war with Iran would be a very bad move strategically.
Ever since World War II, wars have not been kind to American presidents. The United States didn’t achieve victory in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan, and the costs of these wars in human lives and dollars were staggering.
Should war occur, President Trump will wish he had stayed out. Given that he defines the world in terms of his political rather than the national interest, he would be wise to consider the following.
If the regime did collapse, it would likely be followed either by a period of instability or a government that is even more militantly anti-American.
In response to more limited U.S. military attacks, Iran has many options available to raise the cost for the U.S. and its friends in the region — including in Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan.
There is no reason to believe that Iran’s supreme leader is prepared to suffer the humiliation of returning to negotiations and caving to U.S. demands, especially since it was the Trump administration that walked away from an agreement with which the Iranians were complying.
At best, should the U.S. go to war against Iran, it will be able to muster the diplomatic and perhaps military support of four countries: the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Israel. Otherwise, the rest of the world has been completely put off by the Trump administration’s unilateralism, belligerent nationalism, its decision to leave the nuclear agreement without a compelling cause and actions that are clearly aimed at provoking a military confrontation with Iran.
But the main restraint on Trump starting a war may be that he campaigned and won on the promise that he would get America out of its endless wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. He has failed completely to do so and starting yet another war would be to compound his failure. On the other hand, he and his advisors have made very bellicose statements that are hard to walk back from. Attacking Iran has long been the dream of Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton and other neoconservatives. But today Trump seemed to be looking for a way out, suggesting that maybe a “loose and stupid” lower-level Iranian military officer might have made the decision to shoot the drone without clearing it with the top leadership.
Nasr thinks that Donald Trump needs to quickly find an ‘exit off-ramp’ to avoid war and that other countries will have to intervene and act as intermediaries to reduce the tensions. He thinks that the European countries have little credibility with Iran and that Japan may be a better bet.