US hawks back off after Tehran signals capability of hitting back hard in the Gulf

Iran appears to have called the bluff on US President Donald Trump’s threat of war. A war simulation convinced the US Deep State that collateral damages of any misadventure would be substantial

US hawks back off after Tehran signals capability of hitting back hard in the Gulf

Saurabh Kumar Shahi

You can keep your doomsday umbrella back in the closet. The war in Iran is not happening and Iran has assured that much to the chagrin of the hawks in DC.

When John Bolton and Mike Pompeo came at the helm of affairs in DC, very many reasonable people believed that a conflict with Iran was a matter of when, not if. And sure enough, the man with the walrus moustache immediately started working towards that goal. With more than a little help of his biggest Jewish donor, Sheldon Adelson, whose roots and tentacles are in DC and Tel Aviv, Trump tore the Iran Nuclear Deal (JCPOA) that was achieved with much deliberations and sweat. Then, Bolton-Pompeo-Jared Kushner troika roped in the more than willing Persian Gulf Sunni kingdoms to create an environment for war.

Like the many white-men-with-hubris who came before them, the troika didn’t know who they were dealing with this time. As Bolton raised the war cry, Iranians responded in kind. Only their bark had the bite too.

Two incidents that happened in a matter of 24 hours sent signals not only to the regional capitals but also Washington DC. In a very low-key sabotage attack, as many as seven oil vessels off the UAE port of Fujairah were hit by underwater mines. The devices were crude. It was intended to be such. The idea was not to sink these vessels but to let Washington get a glimpse of what was in store if push came to shove.

If that was not enough, the Houthis in Yemen, long considered an ally of Tehran, mounted a dare-devil attack that rattled Riyadh to its core. In a deep-in-the-enemy-territory drone strike, Houthis successfully hit at Afif and al Duadami one of the primary oil pipelines running between the oil-rich East and the strategic port in the Red Sea region. It was a clear signal to the Saudis that not only their interests are not safe in the Persian Gulf, but their interests also are not safe in the Red Sea as well. The message was received in Riyadh. But it was better understood in DC.

Initially, Americans took to bluster. A figure of 1,20,000 troops was paraded. Bolton raved to the point where everyone feared that he might give himself a heart attack. By then the message from Tehran started to precipitate. Trump made it very clear to both Bolton as well as Pompeo that he doesn’t want a war. Sources in the DC maintain that a similar message came from Pentagon as well. However, none of it was kneejerk; neither the war rhetoric nor the climb-down.

The ball started rolling a couple of years ago when the bonhomie between Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and Saudi Crown-Prince Muhammad Bin Sultan threatened not only the conventional wisdom of diplomacy but common sense itself. Somewhere between their fun-and frolic filled bonhomie, they concluded that Iranians could be tamed if Israelis and the Sunni Gulf Monarchies bed together. No one dared to tell them that if such a scenario appears on the horizon, Iranians won’t sit sipping Khaak-e-Sheer.

Meanwhile, Trump in his true deal-making self, started telling the monarchies that they need to pay up if they want the United States to protect them. And pay they did. That too from their noses. After the payment was made, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi waited for the delivery to come. Except it didn’t. It started with some positive development for the monarchies in that the Nuclear Deal was torn and Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) was designated a terror group. However, the final deliverance never came.

As Bolton was planning to create a Casus Belli for the war, Iranians set the ball rolling for deterrence. Almost in overnight action, reigning IRGC head General Mohammad Ali Jafari was asked to make way for a successor—General Hossein Salami—who was not only more ideologically committed, but was a no-nonsense task-master as well.

The decision came directly from Ali Khamenei. Sources in Tehran maintain that this was more of an appointment of Hossein Salami than the dismissal of Jafari. Jafari, for the record, had already retired in 2017 and was given an extension of 3 years. It was also revealed that Jafari will be asked to informally oversee the economic wing of IRGC, in an advisory capacity, so that he can help out with his expertise, which is integrating resistance economy with the resistance axis.

Iran mounted its own psy-ops to counter America’s

Salami, on the other hand, is a military mind. He is a very sharp officer and in the light of US’ sanctions on IRGC and its designation as a terror group, IRGC had no option left but to go on the offensive and up the ante. Salami is better suited for that with his experience and offensive posturing.

Jafari, on the other hand, was a great economic mind. With IRGC designated as a terror group, Jafari will now quietly work to disengage the economic wing so that it does not expose other departments of Iran to the sanctions because of their links to IRGC. Salami, on the other hand, was tasked with thwarting American posturing in the region without having to worry about other departments. A few weeks later, Fujairah and al Duadami incident happened.

Meanwhile, Iranians mounted their own psy-ops to counter America’s. As the talk regarding sending 1,20,000 troops to the Persian Gulf raged, a somewhat grainy video of an attack at Abu Dhabi airport was released by the Houthis. The video showed that Houthis had successfully targeted some infrastructure a few months ago.

While the planes were deliberately not hit, the signal was sent to UAE and they will face the full wrath if they offer their territory to the Americans to attack Iran. Quickly, the government in Baghdad also made it clear to the Americans in as many words that their territory would not be allowed to be used against Iran.

Eventually, the bluster of 1,20,000 troops was called. Americans agreed to finally send around 1,500 troops in a rather symbolic gesture. The climbdown was achieved on the insistence of the Pentagon, which simulated all the possible war scenarios with Iran and found that they were coming short of the desired goals. Consequently, they came on the side of Trump against the troika.

So, what did the simulations reveal? Well, quite a lot. American intelligence believes that Iran has over 1600 missile launching points on its territories. Other sources put it at around 2200. Over half of them are inside mountainous regions that are almost impregnable. Collectively, they can launch over half a million missiles of different effectiveness. In the simulated scenarios, when the US and all its allies were shown to attack Iran with their full force and with no mistakes or logistical bottleneck, they were unable to destroy more than 200 sites per day in the best case scenario. Assuming that the US and its allies know the location of each and every missile launch point, it would still give Iran 11 days at the minimum to keep firing those missiles before they are rendered silent. That’s 11 days of missiles raining on not only US bases and vessels in the region but also on Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, Manama and Tel Aviv. And this scenario does not even bring it Iranian allies like Hezbollah, Houthis and Hashad al Shabi militias in Iraq.

In the simulation, by the 11th day, Riyadh and Dubai looked like Battle of the Pelennor Fields after the Rohirrim had done their business. Trump, looking forward to a second term in the Oval Office, was clearly not enthused.

And that is not the only problem Trump is facing now. Both Riyadh and Abu Dhabi have started to ask some pointed questions. The most pertinent of them all is why we are paying millions to the US as downright protection money if the US cannot protect our oil infrastructure from sabotage? Trump will have to come up with a valid answer soon.

On the other end of the spectrum, Trump’s “Deal of the Century” vis-àvis Palestine is also faltering.

Sources close to Mahmoud Abbas maintain that the old man would not end his life branded as a traitor. Abbas has privately admitted that he would not accept anything that Yasser Arafat has not accepted. Trump has planned to punish Palestinians by squeezing their finances. However, he is forgetting the resilience of people. To start with, his withdrawal of fund has already deprived him of the leverage.

Second, if the US punishes other parties from funding the Palestinian Administration, the PA will shut its shop and hand over the governance of entire Occupied Palestine to the Israelis. It is not for nothing then that everyone from Pompeo to Trump himself is now offering dialogue as a solution to the Iranian issue. It is just that when the parties come to the table for negotiation, Iran will most likely tell the United States how can they trust a country that does not keep its part of the bargain? How can you trust that any deal struck now is not broken by the incoming administration if Trump loses in 2020?

It is evident now that in a cleverly choreographed manoeuvre Iran has created a scenario where Donald Trump and his hawks will neither have the war nor the deal.

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