Military strike on Iran would escalate to broader regional war
Regardless of whether the U.S. or Israel initiates a strike against Iran, Iran is likely to strike back against Israel as well as escalating its overseas operations against U.S. and western interests which will only escalate the conflict to a broader regional war.
A U.S. strike would likely produce significant spillover risks as well, including: much higher oil prices at a precarious time for the global economy; the possibility of Iranian and proxy retaliation against Israel leading to a wider war in Gaza, Lebanon, or Syria; and the prospect of American allies in the Gulf entering the fray. A unilateral attack against another Muslim country would also further destabilize a region already caught up in the turmoil of the Arab Spring. And, by allowing Iran to play the victim and demonstrate its “resistance” credentials through retaliation against the United States and Israel, a strike could help resuscitate Iranian “soft power” across the Middle East at the very moment when Tehran is facing historic isolation and its only state ally in Syria is wobbling.
Ultimately, if the United States and Iran go to war, there is no doubt that the United States would win in the narrow operational sense. Indeed, with the impressive array of U.S. naval and air forces already deployed in the Gulf, the United States could probably knock Iran's military capabilities back 20 years in a matter of weeks. But a U.S.-Iranian conflict would not be the clinical, tightly controlled, limited encounter some predict, and the prospects for further destabilizing the region would be high.
If U.S. forces strike Iranian nuclear facilities, Iranian officials say Tehran will respond by triggering all-out regional war.“Ballistic missiles would be fired in masses against targets in Arab gulf states and Israel,” one Foreign Ministry official said. “The objective would be to overwhelm U.S. missile defense systems with dozens and maybe hundreds of missiles fired simultaneously at specific targets.”Tehran’s primary targets would be U.S. military installations and strategic targets in U.S.-allied Arabian Gulf states, including oil depots, refineries, power plants and desalination facilities. U.S. warships would also face waves of surface-to-surface cruise missiles sent to overwhelm their countermeasures, said several senior Iranian officials whose comments reflect the official line but who could not obtain permission to speak on the record at short notice.“The name of the game is simply to saturate strategic targets with missile firepower in order to render the Patriots and other defenses useless,” said Hassan Fahs, a journalist and political analyst based here.One Iranian official with knowledge of the leadership’s national-security discussions said his country’s leaders anticipate that U.S. forces will strike with no warning against the military’s command-and-control network, and have ordered ballistic- and cruise-missile battery crews to launch the retaliation plan within an hour after a U.S. attack begins.“The U.S. will be as surprised with Iranian military capabilities as the Israelis were with Hizbollah in last summer’s war in Lebanon,” he said. “Most of our people are confident we would give the Americans hell and likely emerge victorious.”
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In March 2012, The New York Time reported that a simulation of an Israeli military strike against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure had predicted that an attack would lead to a wider regional war that could draw the Unites States in and leave hundreds of American soldiers dead.185 Earlier that same month, Meier Dagan, former head of the Mossad, warned that an Israel attack on Iran would “ignite a regional war,” which he predicted would end in the death of Israeli citizens.186 Dagan called the idea of attacking Iran the “stupidest thing ever.” Similar predictions have come from the Persian Gulf states. In his 2007 study “The Implications on Gulf States of Any American Military Operation against Iran,” Colonel Salem al Jaber warned that Iran would respond to military strikes attacking “all U.S. allies in the region, especially the Gulf states.”187 Jaber also cautioned that Iran would also likely launch missile strikes on American bases in the Gulf, which include locations in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and The United Arab Emirates.
The author challenges the assumptions of recent calls for military strikes against Iran, arguing the advocates of military action dramatically underestimate how Iran would respond and how quickly the conflict could escalate.
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The U.N. nuclear watchdog chief warned in comments aired Saturday that any military strike on Iran could turn the Mideast to a "ball of fire" and lead Iran to a more-aggressive stance on its controversial nuclear program. [ More ]