After the US’ pre-emptive strike and elimination of Soleimani, Iran has vowed revenge. There are indeed opportunities for Iran; however, it will have to consider whether risking a war with the United States that would amount to annihilating the regime, is worth it.
In the aftermath of the strike, Iran immediately convened its National Security Council, in which Iranian President Rouhani, some of its Ministers and the Generals of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, all participated. On the agenda: discussing possible countermeasures.
In an interview with CNN on Sunday, Hossein Dehgan, Military Advisor to Iran’s Supreme Leader, confirmed that Iran would retaliate militarily by hitting US military targets. Dehgan moreover stated that Iran was not seeking a full-on war, but that a response was necessary. If, however, the US would indeed target cultural sights as President Trump threatened yesterday, all gloves would come off for Iran.
Iran’s first official action taken was also received on Sunday. The regime has now announced that it will suspend all commitments to the 2015 nuclear deal effective immediately.
It remains to be seen how serious Iran is about retaliating. What is certain, however, is that if Iran decided to attack the United States directly, all options would be on the table, including boots on the ground – reelection in November or not.
Whether this scenario can deter the regime is the question Washington and its allies ask themselves at this stage.
A viable option for Iran could undoubtedly be an Attack on US allies Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates. These could either be carried out by drones – as at the end of 2019 or via terrorist attacks that aim at civilians.
The implications would be severe, particularly on the global economy, if Iran decided to attack oil fields or facilities. The risk of new attacks on oil tankers or production facilities in Saudi Arabia is increasing, which increased the oil price on Friday.
Another possibility would be to block the Strait of Hormuz, whether through warships or by mining the strait. The consequences for the global economy could be dramatic, as a fifth of the daily crude oil has to pass through the bottleneck of Hormuz. Also, there is the liquefied Qatari natural gas for the large economies of East Asia. While global oil reserves could keep supplies going for several weeks, the energy supply security would still be in jeopardy in the long run.
The third avenge for Iran to retaliate is by instructing its Hezbollah and Hamas deputies in Lebanon and Gaza to fire at Israel and start a war or mobilize its militias in Iraq or Syria. Hezbollah alone currently has at least 115,000 combat-ready missiles that it could fire at Israel at any time. According to reports, Israel’s military is on high alert. However, Israel remains the United States’ main ally in the Middle East. A US reaction would be inevitable, even though Israel has the military capacities to annihilate the attackers and retaliate in turn towards Iran.
In light of these scenarios, Washington has deployed more than three thousand soldiers to the Middle East in an attempt to protect American interests. The fact that Iranian missiles, the Revolutionary Guards of which have spent significant money to improve their range and precision, and which they are now producing themselves, are also in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen can make an attack imminent at any point. Hence, the risk of attacks on Americans in Iraq has also increased. As a result, the US embassy in Baghdad urged all Americans to leave the country immediately.
However, from this point forward, any retaliation by Iran will finally show its real face to the general public. A face of terror and repugnance. It will not be able to deny its role in the destabilization of the Middle East any longer, nor its role in orchestrating death and misery via its militias.
Unlike the previous administration, Donald Trump and Mike Pompeo have ceased the appeasement policy towards Iran and instead conduct a policy of maximum pressure. The latter includes the end of the nuclear deal, declaring Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization and making it almost impossible for Iran to sell its oil. Iran is thus running out of options.
Can it risk war in its current economic conditions and with most neighboring countries denouncing support for Tehran? While Iran certainly has the ability to retaliate, none of the scenarios can be considered rational or conceivable. One must not forget that the majority of regimes share one common goal: maintaining their power. Hence, a war with the US appears to be not only counterproductive but suicidal.