Article published in The Daily Telegraph, 18 June 2019. © Richard Kemp
Neither the US nor Iran wants war. President Trump was elected partly on a platform that sought to end long-running US involvement in conflict in the Middle East and South Asia. Even if he wanted it he knows better than to engage in a major war with Iran in the run-in towards the 2020 presidential election. Following the traumas of Iraq and Afghanistan he also knows he would be hard-pressed to find allies to fight alongside the US.
As for Iran, the ayatollahs know the immense damage that would be inflicted on their country by war with the US. That alone does not deter them — they would be willing to exchange the lives of thousands of their citizens for the chance to give the ‘Great Satan’ a bloody nose.
But they also know the regime would not survive and to them that is supremely important.
If they don’t want war why are they provoking the US by attacking shipping in the Gulf? Re-imposition of US sanctions following President Trump’s withdrawal from Obama’s nuclear deal has hurt them badly. Even to the extent that they now fear for the survival of the regime.
Their aggression is intended to show Trump that his actions come at a cost for the US and the world, with 30 per cent of global oil supplies passing through these waters. It is also designed to deter him from pushing for wider imposition of sanctions including by European countries.
An important side benefit is the expectation that US retaliation against Iran, short of war, would help rally the people to the regime and ease growing internal dissatisfaction. (more…)