Listen to this article
The tensions between Trump and the Iranian regime in the last month may explode an armed conflict between countries. What would be the consequences?
On June 20, Trump regretted launching missiles against Iran, after an American surveillance drone was destroyed by the Iranian militia. The missiles and planes were ready just before he canceled the operation, said The New York Times. It was very close to being a reality. It was probably not by the decision of the President's administration –Bolton, the national security adviser, Pompeo, the secretary of state, and Gina Haspel, director of the CIA, were in favor of the attack– but by other Pentagon officials. Also, the Democrats in the Congress affirmed that the tension must diminish, as well as insist that first, it is necessary to request an authorization of the Congress to act militarily.
Iran's response was clear: the drone was not in international waters, but in Iranian territory, even though they were aware of that before it was destroyed, according to a letter from the Iranian ambassador to the UN, Majid Takht-Ravanchi. He also declared that, even if their country "does not seek war, they are determined to vigorously defend their land, sea and air."
For his part, Hossein Salami, commander-in-chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, said during a military ceremony in Sanandaj that "we are not going to go to war with any country, but we are prepared for war."
To this is added the economic sanctions that the United States has imposed on Iran since the first left the Nuclear Agreement between some world powers (such as China or Russia). Since the drone attack, Trump promised to increase sanctions, to which Iran has responded with threats to break some of the agreements such as the allowed enriched uranium limit.
If the tension between both countries continues to increase, a direct attack could become a reality and an armed conflict could break out. What would be the political consequences?
You may be interested: Sudan: a coup d'etat with an uncertain future
A historic retreat
The history of enmity between the American government and the Iranian government dates from 1953 when Mohammad Mosaddeq was democratically elected, who began to nationalize the oil companies from which the British had profited for 50 years. Consequence: the United Kingdom and the USA launched Operation Ajax to put Rezi Shah, ex-monarch of the country, back in power.
The Shah ruled until the end of 1979, the year in which the Iranian revolution took place and Ayatollah Homeini declared the creation of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the center of the Shia Muslims of the world, in opposition to the progressive policies promoted by the Western influence in the Government. A few months later, a group of students took the American embassy in Tehran and kept 42 Americans hostage for 444 days, which left the relations between the two countries broken.
Thereafter, the USA has tried to maintain control in the region by supporting the Arab countries that oppose the Iranian regime like Iraq and Saudi Arabia. It also imposed economic sanctions that undermined the Iranian economy for many years.
All this had improved after the signing of the Nuclear Agreement in 2015 since Iran had committed to diminishing its nuclear production and had accepted the rigorous inspection of it. All this happened in exchange for the cancellation of the economic sanctions that had isolated Iran from the oil trading lines, a catastrophic effect for the country since its economy depends on this product.
With the exit of the Nuclear Agreement, Trump left the door open for Iran to return to its anti-conciliation policies, but with an armed attack, the permanence of the Agreement is still in question. For the time being, Iran has followed the established points, as other large nations remain active in the deal. This could change in case of a direct attack since the Iranian government would feel threatened and betrayed by the international community, which would cause its exit from the Agreement.
The main consequence of this is the increase of the nuclear tension in the region because Iran would increase its production of enriched uranium without any control, which is one of the greatest USA's fears. Likewise, the same hardness of the economic sanctions before the treaty can return, so the Iranian people would suffer again to be cut off from the world.
This, in the end, would mean a setback to the commercial and political relations that both countries had managed since 1979. That is to say, many of the steps taken in diplomatic relations between Iran and the world would again worsen.
Exiting the Agreement would also further destabilize the Cold War dynamic that the Saudis and Iranians have maintained since the Iranian revolution. In order to maintain control over the region, these two countries have been commissioned to politically support and finance the civil wars that have erupted in the region such as Libya, Syria and Iran. This is known as subsidized wars, which consist of an undeclared war between two states through their support in civil conflicts in the region, as was the case between the US and the Soviet Union.
In this context, Saudi Arabia has represented the permanence of the status quo. As Kenneth Pollack, a former Persian Gulf military analyst for the CIA, said in a Vox report, opposition demonstrations like the Arab Spring are "terrifying for the Saudis who are the ultimate status quo power, they want the region stable and they don't want anybody rising up and overthrowing a sclerotic, autocratic government, for fear that it might inspire their own people to do the same". On the opposite side, "the Iranians are the ultimate anti-status quo power, they have tried for decades to overturn the regional order".
If the armed conflict erupts with the US, Iran would radicalize its actions more to exercise control over the region, since it would have to look for other ways to maintain its economy. As the other powers are likely to back the Americans, Iran will try to get allies in the region with which to establish trade agreements. The only way to do that would be to destabilize the governments that currently maintain alliances with Saudi Arabia. In other words, they would increase attacks by military groups outside the law such as Hezbollah or ISIS, which would increase violence in the region.
Finally, the sure thing is that, even if a war is not declared, it will be very difficult to return to stability in the diplomatic relations that made it possible to sign the Nuclear Agreement in the first place. Another blow to the stability of the region, and also to the possibility of engaging in dialogue in all international conflicts.
LatinAmerican Post | Juan Gabriel Bocanegra
Translated from "El conflicto armado entre EE.UU e Irán sería una condena para Medio Oriente"