The new attack on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman and the missile strikes on the Saudi civilian airport in Abha come after a couple of weeks when pundits suggested that both Tehran and Washington were trying to calm tensions, following a dangerous escalation last month, including a similar pattern of attacks against commercial ships in the Arabian Gulf, which most experts attributed to Iran.
Around the same time, US intelligence was raising the alert about Iran placing missiles on small boats in Gulf waters; Rouhani was announcing the partial withdrawal from the nuclear deal; and Qassim Soleimani was instructing proxies in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon to prepare for war and ready themselves to target Western interests along with a number of other notable provocations.
These hostile Iranian moves at first sight make very little sense; because anyone with any understanding of the global balance of power knows that the regime would be utterly destroyed if it provoked the US and its allies into all-out-war. However, some observers suggest that Ayatollah Khamenei has realized that Iran cannot withstand two years of intensified US sanctions, so he feels that the only option is to go on the offensive.
He may be comforted by the clear signals that Trump himself obviously doesn’t want a confrontation (even if some of his senior officials perhaps think differently). Thus, Khamenei may be gambling on the prospect that in the face of intense Iranian aggression, Trump will back down and offer concessions.
The idea of Trump being willing to lose face to Iran seems very unlikely. Thus, after a false start last month, there is a real danger that we are seeing the beginning of an escalatory process towards an actual regional war, which wouldn’t just drag in Israel and America’s Western allies, but could engulf the entire region.
Tehran’s Ayatollah’s are essentially cowards. They do not want war to come to their doorstep. Therefore, their strategy will be based on seeing the entire Middle East region going up in flames via their proxies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen – and perhaps even Bahrain. It is these non-Iranian allies who are likely to be on the frontlines, as well as escalating this pattern of attacks against civilian shipping, with the aim of making oil prices go sky high and threatening the West with economic meltdown.
Iran’s last proper war against Iraq lasted for nearly eight years. It is unlikely that a new conflict would go on for so long, but Iran wants to ensure a scorched earth policy across the whole region. If the Ayatollahs regime is to go down in flames, they will try to drag us all down to hell with them. Although we would all like to see an end to the Islamic Republic, none of us want to get dragged into a regional war. Thus measures should be taken to neutralize Iran’s paramilitary assets across the Gulf and the wider region and protect Gulf waters from agents of this evil empire. GCC nations will need to be proactive in insulating themselves from Iranian efforts to bring war to the Arabian Peninsula.