04 January 2020

Can Iran risk a war against the U.S.?

In this short note, I will focus on two important questions on the fluid situation in West Asia following the killing of Qosem Soleimani, arguably the second most powerful person in Iran and the head of its Quds Force, a special branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

The global media is screaming from the roof-top about an impending World War III. Well, I have a contrarian viewpoint. Here it is.

Can Iran risk a full-fledged war?


Iran cannot risk a full-scale war against the United States.

Its economy is tottering, especially in light of the economic sanctions imposed by the U.S.; here's a short note.

(a) Iran's GDP is likely to contract by 9.5 per cent, i.e., produce a tenth less than the previous year. 

(b) Sanctions, imposed by the U.S. for Iran’s pursuit of nuke weapons, have
dragged the budget revenue down, which has squeezed the money available for welfare schemes;

(c) oil production has fallen by nearly 90 per cent;

(d) exchange value of the currency (Rial) has dropped significantly (one American dollar gets you 1,40,000 rials at the current exchange value); and

(d) the country is rationing petrol at 60 litres per person at 15,000 rials per litre (anything above is sold at 30,000 rials).

It is true that Iran has developed a large arsenal of missiles and other weapons despite being under the burden of debilitating sanctions. Its missiles can reach Israel, an arch-foe. However, Iran may not enjoy a first-strike capability as Israel has the highly effective Iron Dome anti-missile interceptor.

Even if Iran does strike Israel with a missile first, it would have to bear the brunt of a sustained barrage of missile strikes from Israel.

Iran knows that it does not have the military capability to engage in direct confrontation with the U.S.; its conventional decades-old military machine is no match for the world’s most advanced weapons system of the U.S..

Also, almost all of the oil and gas plants of Iran are on its coast in the Gulf. In the event of a full-scale war, it is likely that the U.S. will seek to destroy these strategic assets, which are at the heart of the Iranian economy.

Once destroyed, there is precious little the Iranians can do fuel their war effort; no money will flow from the destroyed energy assets.

What is the most likely way for Iran to respond?

As Iran cannot risk a full-scale direct military confrontation against the U.S. and Israel, it will most likely resort to ‘asymmetric warfare’, an idea pioneered and built by Qosem Soleimani.

In the last two decades or so, Soleimani raised, nurtured, armed, funded and guided several Shia militia groups across Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. The most popular of these militias is the Lebanon-based Hezbollah.

It is most likely that Iran will attack the U.S. and Israel using these militias as proxies to advance its interests. Considering that most of the militias are disparate groups, it may become greatly difficult for the Americans and the Israelis to defeat them.

In the fast-developing scenario enveloping West Asia, Iran might scream itself hoarse, but it knows that its best bet to hurt its biggest enemies is by using asymmetric warfare through its proxies.


Jaya Chandra said...

Looks like US wants a war with Iran badly. It is Trump's strategy to garner nationalistic feeling similar to what Modi did in the form of surgical strikes just before elections.

Invincible said...

Nice Article! To the point.....