This Is How Terrible a War with Iran Could Get

David Axe

Key point: A war with Iran would be costly to both sides.

Oil tankers have burned on the Persian Gulf, allegedly victims of Iranian attack. An American drone was shot down over Yemen by rebel forces who reportedly have enjoyed some measure of Iranian support. And now Iran is threatening to exceed hard limits placed on its nuclear program. 

In the summer of 2019 Iran and the United States are “staggering toward war,” Jim Krane, a fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, wrote for Forbes.

And to great degree it’s the fault of U.S. president Donald Trump, who in 2017 withdrew the United States from a 2015 agreement limiting Iran’s nuclear-weapons program.

Four years ago Tehran suspended uranium enrichment in exchange for relief from economic sanctions. Trump reimposed many of those sanctions.

Since then at least six oil tankers have come under attack while sailing near Iran, several of them in recent weeks. The Trump administration blames Tehran for the attacks. But the tanker raids, if Iran indeed is responsible, make sense from an Iranian point of view, Krane wrote.

“It’s looking like Iran had something to do with the reckless attacks on civilian shipping, probably in response to what Tehran unsurprisingly views as U.S. economic warfare.”

By risking war, is Trump’s brinkmanship somehow dissuading Iran from seeking nuclear weapons?

Wishful thinking. U.S. hostility has a better chance of doing the exact opposite.

There is no question that Iran abided by the commitments it made in 2015. It opened its nuclear sites to inspection, dismantled most of its centrifuges, handed its uranium stocks to Russia, and even poured concrete into the reactor core that might have given it weapons-grade plutonium.

Trump’s re-imposition of sanctions – despite Iran’s compliance – was a major strategic blunder. It reinvigorated Iranian hardliners, who now have evidence that Washington can only be counted on for one thing: betrayal.

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