With the currently projected US President elect Joe Biden likely to take power in January 2021, current US President Donald Trump looks to be poised to commit a possible act of war against Iran. If Donald Trump is to commit to such an action, what are his options, who are his allies and why are people suspecting such a move?
The Trump administration has been perhaps one of the least predictable US administrations in history, such a statement needing only the example of the surprise assassination of General Hajj Qassem Soleimani of the IRGC’S Quds Forces, and Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis of the PMU, back in January. The assassinations drove the Middle East to the brink of war, especially following Trump’s public threats to strike over 50 civilian and military targets in Iran, if there was to be Iranian retaliation.
Now with Donald Trump in an embarrassing position of having to perhaps hand over the Presidency to the Democratic Party’s Joe Biden, a war with Iran has been suggested to be more possible than ever. Trump’s “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign against Iran, following his withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal – negotiated by his predecessor Barack Obama – otherwise known as the JCPOA, have worked to cripple the living conditions for Iran’s general population. However, despite the economic grief caused by the US’s sanctions, the objective of bringing the Iranian government down has failed, even after several attempts to fund internal rebellion which was swiftly put down by Iran’s IRGC.
The US sanctions, if anything, have in fact only pushed Iran towards a more aggressive approach to foreign policy, having developed and even used, highly advanced, ballistic missiles against US bases in Iraq. This strategy of sanctions, is however one that Trump intends to double down on in the coming months, with the possibility of a “flood” of sanctions being applied until the end of his Presidency.
Another indicator of a possible aggression to come was when Trump began a further purge of high ranking figures in his administration. The most alarming move being the firing of Defence Secretary Mark Esper, which then began to spark debate amongst Israeli officials and analysts as to whether the loyalists he is employing in his administration is an indication of a coming strike on Iran. What further stirred concern were the statements made by the Secretary General of Lebanese Hezbollah, Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah, during his recent ‘Martyrs Day’ speech, in which he said that the firing of Esper was possibly one or a mixture of the following reasons; a possible war on Iran and its allies, the deployment of Military on the streets of the US, or personal revenge.
To add to these concerns, the King of Saudi Arabia, Salman Bin Abdul Aziz, put out a plea this Thursday for nations around the world to take a “decisive stance” against Iran. On top of this, recent normalisation deals signed by the UAE, Bahrain & Sudan with Israel have included within them a strategic alliance against Iran and its allies.
At this point, many may be thinking, what benefit would Trump gain from this move. Well with his ongoing claims of voter fraud seemingly shaping up to be an attempt to maintain power, he is certainly going above and beyond to cement his name in the good books of the Israelis going forward and certainly pleasing the agendas of the hardline neoconservatives in Washington. A war on Iran, would likely expand into an all out war on every front throughout the Middle East, which may just have the potential of keeping Trump in as President for a little longer. But when it comes to reading Trump’s motivation behind his foreign policy agenda, it can sometimes become an arduous task of sifting through the many factors that could be driving his initiatives. Ultimately it will take time to tell what drove him to commit to many of his decisions.
If Trump Starts A War Against Iran, Who Are His Allies And What Are His Strategies?
The US draws from a loyal pool of support in the Middle East, which includes Israel, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and other lesser players. The primary allies being Israel, the UAE and to a slightly lesser extent Saudi Arabia (not because of its loyalty, but due to its usefulness).
The US also has around 50 military bases within range of Iran. Most of these bases would not be extremely useful in the event of an all out war, yet they always have to be factored into the equation.
In order to understand a coherent military strategy with which to fight Iran, you first have to look at the opposition as well. To surmise the most important factors when confronting Iran, it is equipped with extremely precise long and short range missiles, capable of targeting every US base in the region. Iran also has the ability to not only close the Strait of Hormuz, effectively stopping the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf and causing a global crisis, but the ability to target and destroy the resources at their source. On top of this, Iran has allies and power in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, Pakistan and beyond, all loyal and ready to attack US coalition targets at any time.
For the US to launch an all out, straight forward war, it could risk devastating defeat if it attempted to take over Iran in the occupation style approach it did with Iraq. Iran has capable air defenses, elite offensive weapons, 3 million people already ready to fight and all its allies ready to do the same. If the US wanted to try and use ground troops for an invasion it would be suicide. Not only this, but even the massive shift in resource attention may prompt China to commit to aggressive moves in the South China Sea and to take over Taiwan. China is an allied country to Iran as is Russia, which itself may likely become aggressive in Eastern Europe.
Ultimately, the US would have to utilise many different players than usual in order to mount a successful military campaign against Iran.
The most likely scenario on the table, would be a limited battle between the United States and Iran. Trump could possibly launch a series of successful strikes against Iranian targets and Iran would respond with its own series of strikes. It should be considered that Iran may respond heavily, forcing the US into a position where they will not likely back off.
Israel could also get involved in strikes on Iranian targets, Israel also has the added bonus of using Azerbaijani air-bases as a landing pad. Which brings us to perhaps the most important tool at the US’s disposal.
The relationship between Azerbaijan, which shares a border with Iran to its North West, and Israel has been especially highlighted during the recent battle over Nagorno-Karabakh by Armenia and Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan displayed the usefulness of Israeli military hardware in its battles with Armenia and also received advocacy from Israel. The close but largely under the table relationship between Israel and Azerbaijan was effectively sealed in February of 2012 with a 1.6 billion dollar arms sale secured by the Baku based government. The arms deal primarily consisted of the purchase of Israeli drone and air defense missile technology.
The usefulness of Azerbaijan to Israel goes much beyond the potential billion dollar arms deals. A Wikileaks released cable sent by Donald Lu, the Deputy Chief for the mission to the US embassy in Baku, to the US state department revealed the nature of the Azerbaijan-Israel relationship. In the 2009 classified memo it is revealed that the US impression of the relationship between Azerbaijan and Israel, is one which benefits Israel greatly and that there is a mutually shared anti-Iran agenda between them. It is also noted that Azerbaijan has a close relationship with AIPAC, stating: “The relationship also affects U.S. policy insofar as Azerbaijan tries, often successfully, to convince the U.S. pro-Israel lobby to advocate on its behalf.”
On top of this, the ability of Israel to move Azerbaijan in the direction it chooses would be simple for Israel, in the memo it is said, “With some humor, the Israeli DCM told us that Israeli businessmen expressed to her that they prefer corruption in Kazakhstan to that of Azerbaijan because in Kazakhstan one can expect to pay exorbitant fees to do business but those are generally collected at once, up front, whereas in Azerbaijan the demands for bribes never cease.”
In an article, written in 2012 for ‘Foreign Policy Magazine’, the author Mark Perry claims that he was informed by a US Senior administration official that Israel had purchased an airfield in Azerbaijan. Although Azerbaijan has publicly made it clear that they have ruled out the use of its territory by Israel to launch a strike on Iran, they never stated Israel could not land in Azerbaijan following any potential strikes.
Although airstrikes on Iran are a threat, it is unlikely Israel would use this as its first line of offense. Instead the biggest threat Iran faces today is the prospect of an Azeri uprising in the country. The Azeri minority population of Iran numbers at around approximately 20 million, doubling the population of Azeri’s inside of Azerbaijan itself.
During the recent round of tensions, between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Azeri protests in Iran erupted and in some cases turned violent with the burning of Iranian trucks reportedly heading towards the border with Armenia. In the Northern Tabriz region of Iran, protesters were heard at demonstrations calling out for the re-emergence of Southern Azerbaijan and speakers at rallies had even reportedly mentioned re-uniting “Southern Azerbaijan” with Azerbaijan. This however, does not indicate that the entire Azeri population is calling for such, as it seems by the most authoritative studies on the issue that most Azeri’s inside of Iran are loyal Iranians.
But despite the majority of the Azeri-Iranian population being loyal to their country, this does not prevent a huge militant uprising from occurring. If just 1% of the Azeri population took up arms, Iran is looking at putting down an uprising of over 100,000 people.
The utilization of minority communities in Iran has however become a huge instrument for attempted regime change in the past. In fact US backing of Kurdish and Sunni groups in the past has caused riots and the attempted takeover of land from within the Islamic Republic. Most notably the US uses the likes of the MKO/MEK/Mojahedin e-Khalq and other terrorist organizations to attack Iranian military sites and to create civil unrest.
On top of this, if Azerbaijan is utilised by Israel to back an Azeri uprising in Iran, this would present a huge problem, as you are then looking at a much bigger portion of Azeri’s siding with the rebellion. If Iran is to engage in a war with armed Azeri militants and on top of this Azerbaijan, there is a big possibility that Turkey’s Takfiri Syrian militant proxies – now located on the border with Iran – could also be utilised. It has been stated recently also by the chief commander of Iran’s IRGC that they will not tolerate any attacks from the North and will show a strong response, meaning that Iran is taking the threat of a potential attack from the North seriously.
It is well known that the US strategy in the Middle East of late, has not been direct confrontation, it has been to use proxy forces in order to serve its interests of regime change. Luckily this did not pull through in Syria, but what it did do in Syria is make the country significantly poorer, exact a huge cost on the civilian population, and has since made Syria completely dependent upon foreign powers.
If Trump is weighing up strikes on Iran and intends to get bogged down in another US war of aggression, it is likely that proxies are the way in which he will attempt to achieve this. But regardless of what ends up happening, the threat that the Israeli-US-Azerbaijan relationship poses to Iran is very real and cannot be overlooked.
Iran is an extremely substantial military power, this is not something that should be underestimated. Despite this, it doesn’t matter how good your air defenses are, any country worth its salt can break through the best of air defenses, and it does not matter how powerfully you can defend against an incoming army, the civilian death toll is unavoidable.
Ultimately this US-Israeli-Saudi-UAE alliance against Iran, may end up dragging the entire region into all out war and causing the deaths of millions of innocent people. Meaning that in order to avert this genocidal disaster in the Middle East, the US has to change its aggressive stance against Iran.
Trump administration seeking to flood Iran with further sanctions:
Trump fires all opposition figures in his administration:
Trump claims of voter fraud and lust for further power:
Israeli Officials and Analysts attempting to decipher Trump’s next move towards Iran:
Wikileaks Cable on Israel-Azerbaijan:
Azeri population of Iran protesting and separatist forces:
Israel Arms Sale To Azerbaijan:
Possible Israeli usage of Azerbaijan’s airbases:
Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Chief Commander On Border Attacks:
Saudi King calling for unified effort against Iran:
Trump 2024 likely front-runner:
English transcript of ‘Martyrs Day’ Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah (Secretary General Of Hezbollah) speech: