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Why is the US hell-bent on starting a war against Iran?

Published : May 19, 2019, 4:48 am IST
Updated : May 19, 2019, 4:48 am IST

The Iranian armed forces showed they were no pushovers when Saddam Hussein attacked their country back in 1980.

John Bolton, National Security Advisor of the United States (Photo: AP)
 John Bolton, National Security Advisor of the United States (Photo: AP)

The sanctions, the threats, the arms build-up, the shrill accusations and the allegations against Iran are all from a B-movie we have seen before. They are all part of the march to war that preceded the invasion of Iraq 16 years ago. Thousands of lives and six trillion dollars later, the region and the world are in a far worse place.

But empires never learn from their mistakes. Before Iraq, there was the Vietnam quagmire that cost nearly 60,000 American and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese lives.

In fact, in its 239 years as an independent country, the US has seen only 17 years of peace. The rest of the time has been spent fighting major and minor wars around the world. From its string of wars against a defenceless indigenous population to heroic actions like the invasion of Panama, the US has used its overwhelming military muscle to impose its will on those too weak to defend themselves. But every now and then, it has encountered foes that had the tenacity and the courage to give it a bloody nose. The North Vietnamese taught the Americans that there were limits to their power, a lesson reinforced by Iraqi militias. And now, the hopelessly outgunned Afghan Taliban are forcing the Americans to eat humble pie in the grinding war of attrition that has been going on for 18 years in Afghanistan.

Given this track record, why do people like John Bolton, the national security adviser to Trump, and Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, think they’ll do better against Iran? Granted that they are ideological hawks, and are itching to attack Iran at Israel’s and Saudi Arabia’s behest, but an armed conflict will be no walk in the park.

The Iranian armed forces showed they were no pushovers when Saddam Hussein attacked their country back in 1980. After eight years of bloody fighting against a foe that had the support of the West, including help in acquiring chemical weapons technology, the war ended in a stalemate.

Since then, the Iranians have developed a sophisticated arms industry, and a formidable standing army. Their naval assets include hundreds of small, fast boats that carry anti-ship missiles, and can also be used in suicide attacks. They have thousands of missiles that can be launched from caves that honeycomb the coast.

So while an American first strike will do considerable damage, the Iranian response will be ferocious. And American bases in the region will be hostage to Iranian attacks.

Should Israel join the US in its attack, expect Hezbollah to launch a major offensive from its bases in Lebanon. If there is one force in the Middle East the Israelis would prefer not to fight, it is Hezbollah. Battle-hardened, well-armed, highly motivated and trained, it is capable of doing major damage to Israeli targets.

Given all these factors, why do the Americans seem hell-bent on starting a war against Iran? Obviously, Israel, with its massive clout in Trump’s White House, has been urging the Americans, using the Iranian nuclear programme as a pretext. Never mind that uranium enrichment has been put on hold since the signing of the deal in 2015.

Despite their string of military setbacks in the recent past, why are so many Americans still so gung-ho about yet another war? What is in the American DNA that has put the country on such a violent path?

By arrangement with Dawn

Tags: afghan taliban, john bolton