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Way back in the Bush II years, there was an open debate about whether to invade Iran after conquering Iraq. This was right around when the war against Iraq started, and some people noted that the neocons had ambitions beyond Iraq. For their part, the neocons were quite open about going from Baghdad to Tehran. After all, Iran was part of the “axis of evil” that included Iraq and North Korea. The Bush team made no bones about wanting to regime change all of them.
Of course, the plan to take out Iran was predicated on the plan to take down Saddam and “liberate” Iraq. Dick Cheney famously said that the Iraqi people would greet the American military as liberators. Bill Kristol in the run up to the war said, “This is going to be a two-month war, not an eight-year war.” In other words, the war plan with Iraq assumed the people would revolt against Saddam and the then the Iraqi army would either collapse, surrender or join the revolt against Saddam.
This was a critical part of the Iran concept. Once Iraq was defeated then secured as an America possession, it would be the launching pad for the Iran phase. That half million man American army in Iraq would secure bases for American air power and begin the process of rebuilding the Iraqi army. The new Iraqi army using modern Western weapons supplied by their new benefactors would then be part of the new coalition of the willing which would launch a war on Iran.
Obviously, the Iraq war was not what the neocons imagined. The people certainly had their complaints about Saddam, but they were not sitting around waiting for Uncle Sam to liberate them either. A significant portion dreamed of an Islamic state after the fall of Saddam, not a liberal democracy. The war became a guerilla war that dragged on until Team Obama finally put an end to it in his first term. The dreamed of war against Iran had to be tabled by the neocons.
The reason to care about any of this is there is a lot of loose talk about starting a war with Iran over the war between Hamas and Israel. Without any evidence at all, the neocons have laid the blame at the feet of Iran. In this new narrative, Iran controls Hamas, so Iran must have known about the attack in advance. The plan is to bait Israel into attacking Gaza, so Hezbollah can then attack from Lebanon. This could then lead to Hitler returning to lead the Arabs against Israel.
In response to these fantastical claims, the Biden administration has sent two carrier groups to the eastern Mediterranean. There are reports of two other carrier groups headed to the Persian Gulf. These reports are based on rumors as the empire does not announce this stuff in advance. Word gets out among the crew of the ships and eventually makes its way to the internet. The only thing for certain is one carrier group is in the eastern Mediterranean right now as a show of force.
The deployment of two carrier groups would be an overreaction to the situation in Gaza, but four would be a clear signal of something. The reason this could be important is that part of those old war plans for Iran was the deployment of four carrier groups to the region, two in the Mediterranean and two in the Persian Gulf. They would be used in the first phase of a planned attack on Iran. Maybe it is a coincidence, but the regime likes to work in symbols, so probably not a coincidence.
There is a belief among some people that the neocons in the regime are looking at this Gaza situation as a chance to dust off the Iran war scheme. Rather than a warning to Iran, this is an effort to bait Iran into greenlighting Hezbollah, which would be the excuse to unleash an air assault on Iranian facilities. This would then warrant a full-on war with Iran with the demand for regime change. The one thing we know about neocons is they never abandon a project, so this makes some sense.
There are a few problems straight away. One is the old war plan back in the Bush II years said that it would require 1.6 million ground troops. Iran is a big place with lots of challenging geography and it has a big army. Despite decades of sanctions, it has highly sophisticated air defenses and a range of missiles. It is hard to know how its army would perform in a real war, but analysts think it would perform better than the Iraqi army due to better discipline and morale.
That was twenty years ago. Since then, Iran has become expert at the use of cheap but effective drone technology. They gave the Russians this technology last year, which has altered the battlespace in Ukraine. Hundreds of “flying Doritos” overwhelmed Ukrainian air defenses, exhausting their supply of surface-to-air missiles. There is a very good chance that Russia returned the favor by supplying Iran with improved air defense systems and maybe even advanced missile technology.
Then there is the fact that Iraq would not be an ally in this war. In fact, Iraq could side with Iran and attack American assets in northern Iraq and Syria. At the minimum, Iraq would stay out of the fight. There is no reason to think the Turks would agree to host American ground forces. There would be pressure on the Saudis and Kuwaitis to be the launching pad, but the Saudis hate the Biden people. In other words, a war with Iran would be a bloody complicated mess – at best.
Surely the Pentagon understands this, and they have communicated this to the neocons running regime policy. The only thing the military could do in a wider war in the region is attack Iranian facilities from air and sea. They cannot launch a ground invasion and they could not hope to topple the Iranian regime. There is a good chance that the Navy would lose some expensive assets. Iran has only grown stronger since this wargame resulted in a lost aircraft carrier.
This raises the question as to what the regime is doing in the Middle East. They lack the resources for the long dreamed off war with Iran. There has been no effort by the regime to build international support for a war. The usual suspects are on American television screaming for blood, but they do that every day. Lindsay Graham exists solely to go on television and call for war somewhere. In other words, it looks like this is a big show that is not intended to lead anywhere.
If the plan was to put on a big drama and draw all of the mass media attention to it, then it has been a great success. The Gaza story has not only blotted out other news, but it has also triggered convenient domestic stories, like the pro-Palestinian protests. The usual suspects are wasting everyone’s time with claims that those marches are the prelude to the return of everyone’s favorite villain. All of a sudden, there is no room for stories about Ukraine or the economy or anything else.
Alternatively, this could be another example of a regime that is both out of gas and low on intellectual capital being dragged along by events. Their Ukraine plan is a great example of how poorly they understand the world. They were sure Russia was just a gas station pretending to be a country. All it would take is some sanctions and some American weapons and regime change was guaranteed. They could be making the same errors with Iran as they made with Russia.
Alternatively, they could be thinking that the threat of war is just what is needed to get invited back into the game. The empire has been losing ground in the region for decades and is now down to a few barely allies. The Saudis are clearly thinking beyond the American empire. Israel is the last ally in the region and the one thing everyone else agrees upon in the region is that Israel is a bad neighbor. Maybe the threat of war is a reason to invite the Americans back into the discussion.
In the end, this will probably be looked upon as another event in the closing chapters of the Global American Empire. The Middle East is ready to move on from America and America is running out of resources to remain in the region. If this crisis ends in war, it will be another serious blow to the American war machine. If it results in peace it will come through the work of regional players with the help of Russia and China, thus further sidelining America in the region.
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