Iran and drought, Trump and war

| 20th June 2019
Donald Trump
War would be the end for Trump, very bad for the American ruling class and ordinary Americans, and catastrophic for ordinary Iranians.


The threat of war between Iran and the US is real, but much of the mainstream narrative is mistaken.

First, Trump does not want that war, he wants to appear tough on Twitter. He was elected on a promise to get troops out of Afghanistan and Syria. Military people and their families are an important part of his base, and they absolutely do not want another war. They have had enough.

War with Iran would guarantee defeat for Trump in the next election, and he knows it. 

Tightening sanctions

But he wants to appear tough. That means tightening economic sanctions on Iran. Those are biting very hard.

The Iranian regime promised their people the nuclear deal would bring economic revival, and it did not. There is also a long drought induced by climate change.

Now the new sanctions are causing real economic pain, and this time, crucially, the Chinese are enforcing the American sanctions. Without enough oil income, the Iranian regime will face economic crisis.

There is already mass resentment of the regime for this economic suffering, and they run an increasing risk of mass revolt. In this situation the Iranian regime has been communicating to the Americans through every back channel they can that they will have to do something.

One option is cutting off the flow of oil through the Straits of Hormuz. If the Iranians try that, though, Trump may feel under intense pressure to go to war.

Antiwar movement

Bolton, Pompeo, Netanyahu and the Saudi government understand all this, and are trying to manipulate Trump into a situation where the Iranians have to strike first, and Trump will then have to reply with megadeath.

Trump has begun to understand this, and is telling everyone that he will soon get rid of Bolton. But the situation may escalate anyway.

The Pentagon, the State Department and the career military are all quite clear what war with Iran would mean. The US would lose. Iran has four times the population of Iraq, and a more modern and developed economy.

The country is a semi-democracy, and the regime has more support than Saddam did. Crucially, though, most Iranians would rally around the regime in the face of American invasion. Any such invasion would require at least two million troops on the ground, which would mean mobilising all the reserves and all the national guard.

Even without that, there will be a mass antiwar movement in the US, immediately. This is after Iraq and Afghanistan. Bombing that kills tens or hundreds of thousands of Iranians could easily happen. But to bomb a country and not occupy is a recipe for humiliation.

Preventing war

Iran has enough influence and allies to kill very large numbers of American soldiers, diplomats and civilians in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan within days. Within weeks all American troops would have left all three countries.

I would expect considerable killing of Americans in some other countries, not necessarily by Iranians. Americans will be outraged, but are also likely to blame Trump. 

There would also be massive demonstrations against the US and Trump in many countries, and in the US. A run on the dollar is likely, a spike in oil prices certain, an American recession likely, and a global recession possible. 

In short, any such war would be the end for Trump, very bad for the American ruling class and ordinary Americans, and catastrophic for ordinary Iranians.

The fact that American generals know this will probably prevent the war. But only probably. If a war does start, it will be of no importance who fires first.

 This Author 

Jonathan Neale is a writer and was secretary of the Campaign Against Climate Change for several years. He is the editor of One Million Climate Jobs, and blogs with Nancy Lindisfarne at Anne Bonny Pirate.

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