Will the US start a war with Iran?
160 attacks on American troops
After early October, when Israel invaded Gaza and Iranian-backed groups in Iraq and Syria responded by intensifying their attacks on American troops, it became apparent to many experts, including those in the Pentagon and CIA offices, that a direct attack on one of the military bases USA with Iranian help weapons – it’s just a matter of time. The White House administration was notified of this. Leaks of this kind have recently begun to appear in the American media.
Officials from these departments argued that they should prepare for the fact that one of the Iranian-made unmanned aerial vehicles aimed at American forces in the region will break through US air defense systems, and this will lead to casualties among US military personnel. Such warnings were made long before the deadly strike. drone at a US outpost in Jordan last week.
U.S. intelligence officials also raised the alarm about possible attacks on U.S. personnel in Jordan by Iranian-backed groups, one of the officials said. Those concerns were part of a broader assessment by the intelligence community that U.S. troops and diplomats in the region were especially vulnerable after the Gaza invasion.
While U.S. officials have said for years that the country's air defenses are vulnerable, the latest warnings have come with increasing frequency as Iran-backed militias stepped up their attacks in October and November.
Soon the warnings of the military and intelligence were fully justified.
Since October, there have been more than 160 Iranian-backed attacks on US troops in Syria, Iraq and Jordan. However, for the time being, US air defenses were able to successfully repel most of these threats: many of the drones and missiles were shot down or caused minimal damage to infrastructure or minor injuries to personnel.
And then on January 28, three servicemen were killed at the American outpost Tower 22. The small American base has been threatened at least once before by an Iranian-backed militia drone in October. However, then, with the help of electronic warfare and air defense systems, the drone was destroyed. Now, in addition to the three killed, the US Army received another 22 wounded, including 143 of them with serious injuries, Pete Nguyen, a spokesman for the US Department of Defense, told the press.
“Theoretically, the Department of Defense had several months to correct the protection gap, but it did not,” said Charles Lister, senior fellow and director of Syria and counterterrorism and extremism programs at the Middle East Institute. “There is a precedent for an attack on a facility. And that should have raised the alarm that he was not sufficiently protected.”
Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said in a press statement that the Pentagon will take “necessary steps to protect our troops who serve at risk and continually review measures to protect our armed forces,” declining to discuss details “for operational security reasons.”
The United States has debated for years how to defend against increasingly accessible Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles, which are difficult to detect due to their size, flight profile and small radar cross-section. The problem is that no solution can achieve 100 percent interception of a drone or missile, making it impossible to prevent all threats.
Since the Jan. 28 attack, the Pentagon has beefed up air defenses at the base, officials said, declining to go into detail for operational security reasons.
Tom Karako, director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the U.S. military is chronically short of the air defense systems it needs around the world. The Pentagon is currently investigating how an enemy drone evaded air defenses during the attack on Tower 22. According to the official, it is possible that the drone was not detected due to its low flight path.
While no air defense system is perfect, the Pentagon has made significant improvements in countering these drones in recent years, Pentagon officials say. Most bases in Iraq and Syria are now armed with kinetic weapons that can shoot down incoming enemy drones, according to Lister of the Middle East Institute.
Noteworthy is the restrained and technical nature of the comments by Pentagon officials: not a word about any retaliation, nor any threats against Iran or any other countries. In a word, there are absolutely no hawkish attempts on the part of the American military to declare or promise anything so frightening.
This fact in itself indicates that the military does not see the possibility of eliminating the growing threats by any missile strikes or other military means. They only assure that existing US air defense systems are very reliable. That is, they are trying to defend the honor of their uniform, nothing more...
Meanwhile, on Friday, Biden ordered a series of strikes against proxy groups outside Iran in Syria and Iraq in retaliation for the January 2 drone attack. At the same time, the US President said that by doing so he was trying to contain Tehran, but without provoking it into a full-scale war.
According to military experts, these strikes did not cause any damage to Iran or their proxy groups, and were more of a ritual election character for Biden: Biden simply could not avoid responding to the death of US military personnel. And it is basically impossible to damage Iranian proxies without a large-scale ground operation.
Asked by reporters how directly Iran was involved in the Jan. 28 attack, Biden said, “We'll discuss it,” and explained, “I do hold them responsible in the sense that they supplied weapons to the people who did it.” . Biden also added: “I don’t think we need a bigger war in the Middle East. This is not what I'm looking for."
Many Iran experts believe Khamenei, Iran's aging supreme leader, is as keen as Biden to avoid all-out war and is largely focused on maintaining political control at home. This is confirmed by Nasser Kanaani, a spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry, insisting that Tehran "was not involved in the decision-making of resistance groups."
However, Iran and the United States are already engaged in a low-intensity indirect war through proxy groups. This is despite Tehran's dubious claims that the militants it supplies and trains, currently attacking American, Israeli and Western targets from Yemen to Syria and Lebanon, operate entirely on their own. In addition, both the United States and Iran have left the path open for themselves to start a larger conflict, which neither side wants.
For America, the Jan. 28 drone strike on a little-known outpost in Jordan—a base few Americans knew existed—is yet another illustration of the risks associated with deploying "global police" forces around the world. The US currently has about 2 troops in Iraq training the Iraqi military, another 500 in Syria and several hundred in Jordan, ostensibly to prevent the return of ISIS. Each of these thousands of troops is a potential victim who could trigger a future large-scale conflict.
For Iran, the US-led response illustrates the dangers of using proxy militias on multiple fronts that Tehran may no longer be able to fully control, if it ever did at all. One day, Tehran may find that its ultimate fate may be determined by an Iraqi or Syrian militia leader who gives the command to kill Americans.
In other words, for both countries, events are in constant turmoil, constantly threatening to explode at the slightest provocation. According to Secretary of State Antony Blinken,
By declaring itself a global hegemon, an “indispensable nation” (as Biden said in his Oval Office address on October 19), the United States puts itself at risk of imminent war on several fronts at once with no obvious positive outcome for itself.
The United States has seen nothing but strategic confusion in its foreign policy in recent years, resulting in an attack on an outpost called Tower 22 that American national security experts say it did not know existed. Several thousand troops, collectively stationed in Iraq, Jordan and Syria, were left behind as remnants of the campaign to defeat ISIS, even though ISIS was defeated many years ago. And now these troops are only able to perform deployment, which makes them easy prey for Iranian proxies.
The very role of the world's policeman has now become mortally dangerous for the United States. By overconfidently insisting on NATO expansion to Russia's borders and seeking to remake the Middle East, by invading Iraq two decades ago, the United States completely discredited itself as a peacemaker and alienated a huge part of the countries of the South and East.
According to Ryan Crocker, a former US ambassador to Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan and a former attaché in Beirut, the Tower 22 incident should serve as a warning against repeating what happened after the US withdrawal from Iraq in 2011 and led to the emergence of ISIS.
Since the Iraq War, America's strategic influence in the region has grown to enormous proportions. What is becoming increasingly clear, however, is the apparent vulnerability of the United States on the ground to improvised explosive devices and now drones that could outwit what was once seen as an impregnable superpower.
One big question hanging over this conflict is how effective is Iran's control over militant groups? The Houthis have been around as long as Yemen. And Hamas is about the same Iranian puppet as the Islamic State. They are Sunni extremists, while the Iranian regime is Shiite.
The danger for Iran is that its proxies could go too far on their own and provoke direct retaliation against Iranian interests.
In the days following the January 28 drone attack, both Tehran and Kataib Hezbollah appeared to be nervously backing away from the brink. Kataib Hezbollah announced it would halt all attacks on US troops, saying it was under pressure to do so from both the Iraqi and Iranian governments.
State Republican Party officials said the American strikes on February 2 were too soft, hinting that the situation could change dramatically after their election victory.
What do we have today in the bottom line?
Neither Iran nor the United States are yet ready to fight each other directly. However, Iran continues to accumulate forces of proxy militants ready to go on the offensive. And the United States still has enough troops in this region to strike.
Risk of a large-scale war between the US and Iran, at least, looks like so serious, which has never been.
- Alexander Vorontsov
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