Mehr News Agency – According to the report published in the National Interest, Iran’s objective isn’t to bait the United States into a war. Rather, it is to play a careful game of chess. Almost immediately after attack on a major Saudi Aramco oil production facility in Abqaiq, the first fingers were pointed at Iran. While Houthi in Yemen claimed responsibility, US officials told the media Iran had launched cruise missiles and drones from its territory.
As Saudi oil production halved and US gasoline prices spiked, President Donald Trump raised the stakes. He warned that the United States was “locked and loaded” following identification of the perpetrator. This led numerous outlets to claim that a US-Iran war is likely or even inevitable. According to the report published in the National Interest, there are five reasons why it’s not.
The US doesn’t want war with Islamic Republic
Collecting weekly public opinion survey data in June and July 2019 to gauge the willingness of Americans to support military action against Iran revealed that strong majorities of Democrats (86 percent), Independents (81 percent), and Republicans (81 percent) would all support a presidential decision to take no escalatory action. There was also common support for imposing additional sanctions (52, 61, and 89 percent, respectively), but support for military options was substantially lower.
The timing of these surveys was critical. In a period where US officials repeatedly accused Iran of belligerent actions, attitudes remained stable across the political spectrum. Even Republicans did not express increased support for airstrikes or a ground invasion in the days following attacks om Saudi oil plants.
Trump has shown his hand. He prefers negotiation to conflict with Tehran
For all his bluster, President Trump has repeatedly expressed a preference for pursuing negotiations instead of military actions. Trump has also established a reputation for threatening to use force and then quickly dialing back his tough talk. Just two months ago, he made public that he had called off a strike against Iran and expressed hope that Iranian leaders would join him at the bargaining table. This reversal mirrors Trump’s actions in 2017, when he repeatedly threatened to destroy North Korea. Ultimately, he decided against the military option and eventually became the first sitting US president to cross the Demilitarized Zone into North Korea.
The “devil incarnate” has left the building
Until last week, John Bolton—who former Secretary of Defense James Mattis joked was the “devil incarnate”—was Trump’s National Security Advisor. Bolton’s dismissal has significantly weakened the influence of the so-called “B-Team” consisting of Bolton, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, and Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed.
Indeed, Bolton emerged as one of the chief antagonists of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran Nuclear Deal. However, Bolton’s ouster has been directly linked to a disagreement about Iran policy, and his departure suggests that Iran doves now dominate White House thinking.
The US military is opposed to fighting Iran
In July of this year, US Army Gen. Mark Milley expressed skepticism to the Senate about the likelihood of a major war with Iran. Milley, a four-star general, made these remarks during his confirmation hearings to become the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where he explained that the military is focused on a strategy of great-power competition, and conflict with a recalcitrant state like Iran would be disruptive to these plans. Reporters for the Wall Street Journal have since confirmed that these views remain the dominant narrative at the Pentagon. Unsurprisingly, military officials have been urging caution and restraint in the aftermath of Saturday’s attack.
Iran doesn’t really want a war with the United States
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has publicly stated that Iran does not seek war with the United States. Iran’s objective isn’t to bait the United States into a war. Rather, it is to play a careful game of chess that allows the it to improve its bargaining position by demonstrating the ability to impose costs on the United States and its allies.
While scholars and policymakers frequently express concern about the risk of accidental war, avoiding inadvertent escalation seems quite feasible in this case. Miscalculation is unlikely when open conflict would come with high costs for both countries, costs that neither their leaders nor their publics are willing to accept.