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The Dangerous Reality of an Iran War

BEIRUT—After weeks of saber-rattling over Iran as the “number one terrorist state” in the world, the Trump administration appears to have quietly dialed down the rhetoric a notch.

[1]Here in the Middle East, however, where every peep and creak out of Washington is scrutinized to death, interested parties haven’t stopped speculating about a U.S. confrontation with Iran. Fifty days into his term, Trump’s foreign-policy course remains an enigma. He swears “all options” remain on the table with Iran—but do they?

There are already some early actions that hint at Trump’s policy directions—and limitations—in the Middle East. In three key military theaters where U.S. forces are currently engaged, some important corners have been turned:

In a few short weeks, Trump has taken an axe to Obama-style dawdling in Mideast hotspots—whether by taking direct action or by no longer impeding the actions of others.

What’s notable is that all of these developments, at face value, serve Iran’s interests in the region and undermine those of U.S. allies Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

But don’t be fooled. This is merely Trump’s opening salvo. He has larger, unknown ambitions, and these recent moves do not necessarily remove Iran from his sights.

The Islamic Republic, its allies, and its detractors will remain part of Trump’s larger geopolitical game. He can use them to engage or punish more vital targets like Russia and China, two major powers that have carved out strategic relationships with Tehran. Iran will also be a useful tool to provoke or cajole traditional U.S. allies like Israel, Turkey, and various Arab monarchies into taking positions favored by Trump.

Already, several threatening U.S. stances have been employed—their ultimate aims unknown—with Iran at their center. There are whispers of a Saudi-led “Arab NATO [5]” that could partner with Israel to target Iran. And calls for Damascus and Moscow to eject [6] Iran from Syria are being heard from various western and western-allied Mideast capitals.

The Waterways: An “Accidental” Confrontation

Despite the Iran-as-bogeyman narrative, it is unlikely that Trump will launch any direct military attacks against Iran. This is a president who has voiced contempt for the $6 trillion wasted on Mideast wars and interventions. More confrontation in the region will be costly, and is likely to draw him into clashes with major powers with which he’d prefer to do business.

Although he insists “all options” remain on the table with Iran, Trump’s choices are actually fairly limited. Sanctions never worked and the Iran nuclear deal has ensured that other global players needn’t participate in future ones. Under pressure from allies, he has backtracked on his threats to scuttle the nuclear agreement, which he now seems to understand would needlessly isolate the U.S., not Iran. Subversive activities—such as color revolution plots, propaganda, or cyberwarfare—have proven futile given Iran’s historic vigilance on and within its borders. Conventional war would require a substantial Iranian provocation and isn’t likely to be sanctioned by the UN Security Council.

But there is one theater in which a U.S.-Iran confrontation could easily spark [7]: the various waterways around the Islamic Republic and its neighborhood.

Both countries have plenty of naval and shipping vessels in close daily proximity to each other. Tensions [8] are high, rhetoric remains inflamed, and Iran’s foes in the Persian Gulf and Washington are in a great position to trigger an event, then fan its flames.

Defense Secretary James Mattis, a committed Iran hawk, almost did so several weeks ago when he considered letting U.S. forces board an Iranian ship in Arabian Sea international waters, according to a passing mention of the incident [9] in the New York Times. But the Intercept understood the import of the close encounter and led with the headline [10]: “Trump’s ‘moderate’ defense secretary has already brought us to the brink of war.”

War is indeed a distinct possibility if the U.S. makes an aggressive move. Iran is no banana republic. It has endured an eight-year war with Iraq, which was encouraged, financed, and armed by great powers and regional states alike. The Islamic Republic performed a remarkable claw-back from the assault and went on to amass [11] conventional and asymmetrical capabilities to deter future attacks.

So when Trump saw fit to slap sanctions on Iran after a January 29 ballistic missile test, Iranians made sure to fire off more [12], just a day after sanctions were announced. And the Iranian responses keep coming, a reminder that any military confrontation with Iran will be highly unpredictable. The Islamic Republic makes sure to remind us of its overt [13] and hidden [14] capabilities through regular public missile [15] tests, advanced [16] air defense demonstrations [17] and war game exercises [18], such as the just-concluded Velayat 95 [19] drills in the Strait of Hormuz, Sea of Oman, and Indian Ocean.

As tensions between the U.S. and Iran have increased, so have the number of gulfs, straits, seas and oceans in which the two nations’ navies and commercial vessels now operate. The Pentagon insists its naval presence in so many far-flung west Asian waterways is vital to thwart terrorism and piracy. But this is Iran’s backyard, and the Islamic Republic needs little justification to police regional waterways against these very same kinds of threats—and to protect its own territorial and maritime borders.

During a November visit to Tehran, I asked Dr. Sadollah Zarei, director of the think tank the Andisheh Sazan Noor Institute and a MENA expert close to the IRGC, about this. “U.S. actions give us a behavior precedent in our naval reach,” he said. The U.S. naval presence in Iran’s neighboring waters “gives us even more right to be active in the Persian Gulf, in the Gulf of Aden, and other waters.” As a result, Zarei explained, “we are now in the Gulf of Bengal and the Indian Ocean.”

Is Zarei worried about an adversary state brandishing its vast military firepower within spitting distance? He cracks a smile and explains calmly: “When the U.S. is there, Iran’s focus and discipline is better. They’re useful that way. It brings us together, creates support for our security forces, our army, our borders.”

On the other side of the fence, Washington continues to feed this Iranian discipline and cohesion by elevating recent “incidents” in the waterways—mostly unrelated to Iran—into national media hysterics about Iran.

Investigative reporter Gareth Porter has worked to untangle fact from fiction over U.S. accusations that Iran is shipping arms to Yemen’s Houthi [20] rebels through some of these waterways. In short, Porter has [21] shown [22] that [23] most of the Pentagon’s claims appear to be demonstrably false. And because of Wikileaks’ [24] 2010 State Department cables cache, we now know that—in private at least—U.S. officials are also skeptical of their own public charges.

The Unpredictability of a Waterways War

In January 2016, two U.S. navy command boats [25] entered Iranian territorial waters—it’s unclear if knowingly or unwittingly—and were apprehended by Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Americans watched as Iranian television broadcasted the capture of 10 U.S. navy sailors on bended knees, hands behind their heads. The Islamic Republic followed maritime regulations and international law in their actions, and released the officers shortly thereafter. But the incident brought home, in technicolor, the unpredictability of waterways operations against this wily U.S. adversary.

For decades, the Pentagon has run war games against Iran to test its assumptions and hone its responses. But an acquaintance who has participated in such CENTCOM exercises told me last year that “the U.S. military rarely beats Iran in asymmetrical war games unless it cheats or rigs it.”

Shocked, I was prompted to dig deeper and discovered the “Millennium Challenge,” a 2002 U.S. armed forces war game in the Persian Gulf between the U.S. (blue team) and an unnamed Mideast adversary (red team), believed to be Iran.

According to retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper, who led the Red’s asymmetrical response—and resigned because rules were changed mid-play to constrict his team’s maneuvers—Reds bypassed Blue’s sophisticated electronic surveillance system using motorcycle messengers sent to the frontline and World War II-style signaling methods, and then destroyed 16 U.S. warships and a significant chunk of its naval fleet—all on the second day of the three-week exercise.

In an article entitled “War Games Rigged?” published on the Navy, Marine and Army Times websites (which appears to have been removed and is reposted here [26]), Van Riper slammed the $250 million war game: “It was in actuality an exercise that was almost entirely scripted to ensure a Blue ‘win.’”

Van Riper explains [27]: “We were directed… to move air defenses so that the army and marine units could successfully land. We were simply directed to turn [air defense systems] off or move them… So it was scripted to be whatever the control group wanted it to be.”

Rather than learning from the exercise, the U.S. military seemed more interested in confirming existing doctrine and maintaining the facade of invincibility. These are dangerous attitudes that, in real-life combat scenarios, can lead commanders to misjudge capabilities and make foolhardy advances. And Iran knows this well.

The Cost of Primacy

Why are U.S. armed forces in the Persian Gulf anyway? Princeton University’s Roger Stern calculates [28] that between 1976 and 2010, Washington has spent an eye-popping $8 trillion protecting the oil flow in the Persian Gulf. As of 2010, the U.S. only received 10 percent of those oil shipments. The largest recipients [29] were Japan (20 percent), followed by China, India, and South Korea.

Trump should take note: if access to oil was the real goal of U.S. presence in the Gulf, Washington could have achieved it at a fraction of the cost by building pipelines to bypass that waterway.

Instead, mission creep has overtaken U.S. policy in the Persian Gulf, establishing a policy trajectory few American presidents have dared to challenge. Of the eight littoral states of the Persian Gulf, Iran has the longest coast on the waterway, almost double the length of its other seven neighbors combined.

As Washington hawks continue to insist that Iran cannot be allowed to challenge U.S. hegemony in the Persian Gulf, they should first ponder the potential consequences of another avoidable war—before a catastrophe humbles them into silence.

Sharmine Narwani is a commentator and analyst of Mideast geopolitics, based in Beirut.

31 Comments (Open | Close)

31 Comments To "The Dangerous Reality of an Iran War"

#1 Comment By Frederick On March 15, 2017 @ 3:35 am

Never mind too that such a war could very well trigger off World War III.

#2 Comment By steve On March 15, 2017 @ 5:42 am

One thing which I do not get is that our these extremists like isis and al qadeh are directly or indirectly connected to our allies in the region such as saudi arabia,qatar and turkey but Iranian are fighting against these extremists so why we put Iranian on the notice? It was saudis and other sunni extremists who did 9/11 or all these extremists around the middle east are sunni extremists which are so similar to saudi arabia and again why we blame Iran? I just don’t get it folks

#3 Comment By Mark Thomason On March 15, 2017 @ 7:15 am

The primary danger to US forces is that they’ve been so run down by the 15 long years of wars.

A new rather large war now while the old ones *still* go on is just too much.

#4 Comment By Chris Chuba On March 15, 2017 @ 8:59 am

The absurd thing about a conflict with Iran in the Persian Gulf waters is how unnecessary it would be. Iran has a vested interest in safe maritime commercial traffic in that region. They know that any hostile action taken by them would shut down their oil trade.

I read Fars and they talk with pride about Iran taking a leading role in ensuring the safety of those waters. While many may dismiss this as propaganda, I bet there is some truth in this. Iran believes they are a legitimate regional power and takes umbrage that they should be a pariah in the region just because we say so.

The recent ‘close call’ with their speed boats was likely an attempt to disrupt our ability of our spy ship to monitor the capability of their anti-ship missile which is a rational motive. Where else are they going to test their defense systems but in their territorial waters? It is us who are half way around the world blustering about other country’s aggression.

#5 Comment By Brad F On March 15, 2017 @ 9:02 am

Some time ago I started wondering why America can politically sustain high military expenditures in contrast to its NATO allies who struggle to meet the 2% of gdp target, and who instead prefer to spend money on social programs. Then the answer hit me; US military spending is a social program (and an industrial development program). Thus, the US didn’t spend $8 trillion to defend the Persian Gulf. Instead, the US defended the Persian Gulf in order to spend $8 trillion (ditto Western Europe, Asia, etc).

In the face of a genuine threat such as the Soviet Union the approach has its virtues. But the sudden removal of the Soviet Union left the US system scrambling to find a new enemy. The US is (unreasonably) hostile to Iran because it needs to be.

#6 Comment By SDS On March 15, 2017 @ 10:06 am

HEY, STEVE!

SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS!

You have just stated the BIG issue…

But the Emperor has no clothes; and we can’t just admit that; can we?

Remember; S.A. and Israel are our “friends”…
so what they say, goes…
-even if it goes again all rational thought or evidence…

#7 Comment By Howard On March 15, 2017 @ 10:36 am

“… undermine those of U.S. allies Turkey and Saudi Arabia.” Oh, that just breaks my heart.

Frederick is right, though. At the very least, further American distraction in the Middle East might well convince Kim Jong-un that this would be his last, best opportunity to attack.

#8 Comment By Uri On March 15, 2017 @ 12:40 pm

War is a mistake. America has not won many wars since 1945. In case you hadn’t noticed, most recent string of “overseas contingency operations” in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya are not exactly award-winning models of success. Yet Iran with a population of 80 millions and unknown military powerhouse.

#9 Comment By Isa On March 15, 2017 @ 12:50 pm

This article fails to mention the real reason why the US has maintained its aggressive posture towards Iran since the Islamic Revolution: Israel.

Once Iran decided to resist against the plan to have Israel dominate the Arab world and to remake it in its image, the writing has been on the wall. The truth is that the US was conceived to be a crusader from the very beginning and that plan has always been to procure the holy lands for the Zionists. The plan had been going very smoothly until Ayatollah Khomeini galvanized the movement that led to the Islamic Revolution in Iran. What is surprising to me is that Iran has stepped up and has remained steadfast in its support for the rights of mostly Sunni Muslims. All this while the Sunni Arab leadership has consistently sold out their people to Zionist interests. I am no Persian but I can’t help but marble at the level of piety and faith that the Iranians have displayed in their confrontation against the Zionists. If they were to follow realpolitik and made decisions based on worldly interests, they have joined the US, Israel and Europe a long time ago. Instead they hold on to Shia Islamic beliefs and to Islamic values of Justice, righteousness and resistance against oppressors. I wish my country the US will realize that Iran is trying to beat us in the court of public opinion and is trying to be seen as carrying the flag of justice. A flag that we once carried..

#10 Comment By Charles Cosimano On March 15, 2017 @ 3:17 pm

Any cost to us would be miniscule compared to the total destruction of Iran. It would not be a limited war.

#11 Comment By Richard Steven Hack On March 15, 2017 @ 4:42 pm

“It would not be a limited war.”

This is precisely what Israel wants: to start the Iran war and then have the US prosecute it. Israel wants the US to bear the cost.

And the cost would be enormous. Iran is not Iraq. It is three times larger in territory and population. It’s military is larger and more competent. It has a militia which ranges in size from a million to 11 million depending on whose estimate you read.

The Persian Gulf is an “Iran lake”, much as the Black Sea is a “Russian lake.” US ships inside the Gulf are sitting ducks for Iran’s anti-ship missiles and mines. A “mine-ckearing” exercise the US conducted a few years ago failed to find and clear at least half of the test mines released.

To secure the Persian Gulf against Iran would require placing at least 30,000 Marines on the shores of Iran in the south and probably another 30,000 troops in the north. Regardless of the amount of destruction rained down on Iran by the US Air Force, these troops would be subject to a 24-7 guerrilla war by the Iranian military and militia. The resulting US casualties would be at least four times higher than the Iraq war, if not orders of magnitude higher.

The financial cost of a war with Iran would be at least four times higher than Iraq and Afghanistan combined. We’re talking half a trillion dollars per year.

And this would go one for at least a decade because Iran would never surrender. Unlike Iraq, Iran has much less sectarian conflict and would support its government rather than abandoning it as Iraq did Saddam Hussein.

And that is WHY the US military-industrial complex wants war with Iran – the war profits would be staggering. Israel wants Iran gone due to its support for the Palestinians and the “Axis of Resistance” against Israel (Iraq, Syria, Lebanon.) But the US military-industrial complex wants the MONEY.

Do you want fifty thousand US casualties and half a trillion tax dollars a year for the next decade? Then vote for war with Iran.

#12 Comment By Patrick Dumars (@PatrickDumars) On March 15, 2017 @ 5:15 pm

Past presidents who sought sanctions against Iran (Bush, Clinton) understood Iran all too well and Obama failed to understand the mullahs in trying a pathway of appeasement. Iran is firmly rooted in preserving and expanding the Islamic revolution and its Shiite faith. This includes the long-term efforts to build its own version of a Shiite Warsaw Pact with Syria, Iraq and Yemen and putting its rivals (Sunnis and the West) on their heels with proxy wars and insurgents funded and supplied by the IRGC. Nothing has changed from that basic playbook for the past 30 years. The fact that we have not sanctioned the IRGC as an institution is the only real card left to play since Iran has only used diplomacy to buy time and gain economic relief and sanctions have only been half measures when black market sales of oil have kept them supplied. The jury is still out on what Trump will do, but he and his cabinet clearly understand that the path taken by Obama was pretty much a failure. He understands Iran better than other presidents because he’s had the luxury of seeing the past three administrations grapple with the mullahs with varying results. We can only hope he learns from their mistakes and speaks in the same language the mullahs understand which is only direct action.

#13 Comment By tms On March 15, 2017 @ 10:20 pm

@Charles: Iran might win the war. who knows!

#14 Comment By EliteCommInc. On March 15, 2017 @ 10:36 pm

” . . . that is surprising to me is that Iran has stepped up and has remained steadfast in its support for the rights of mostly Sunni Muslims.”

I guess this explains the tit for tat executions of Sunni clerics in response to Saudis Arabia.

Seems a good idea to void needless conflicts. And while I don’t see need to mount an offensive against Iran, despite the fact that we eliminated a buffer foolish, by toppling Iraq, I don’t have many doubts of the formidable force the US can bring to any conflict.

That doesn’t mean the consequence would be worthwhile and that we would not suffer, but even our worst day, would be more so for an opponent.

I am ever mindful of the attempt to pivot away from support for Saudi Arabia since 9/11

#15 Comment By marc j On March 16, 2017 @ 5:48 am

If America could defeat Iran in an instant, or Iran never existed, what would it matter? None of the underlying problems facing the US would be solved even if Iran, Russia and China posed no military threat whatsoever. Defeating any or all of these nations will not fix the crumbling infrastructure, the widening wealth gap or the declining education system. External threats are a diversion.The US ruling class wants to rail about Iran or Russia because they have no idea how to solve the domestic problems they face even assuming they wanted to. As it stands now they are quite content with enriching themselves.
The US cannot defeat Iran or Russia because to do so takes far more sacrifice than the American people are willing to make. Ordinary Americans are not convinced that Iran or Russia pose enough of a threat to volunteer themselves, or send their own children, to be killed or maimed in a pointless exercise.

#16 Comment By rob On March 16, 2017 @ 6:42 am

dead wrong. when journalists begin to comprehend the petro dollar, they will begin to comprehend the reasons for chaos and wars.

#17 Comment By BE On March 16, 2017 @ 10:52 am

There is no greater gift to an unpopular ruler than a war. It has made hated governments into heroes and has allowed the otherwise critical citizens, overcome their inhibitions and rally behind their government and feel patriotic again. The current US president needs this gift and his reaction to any perceived provocation is predictable. Israel is all too happy to give him this gift with a false flag operation. I would be suspicious of any news of an “Iranian provocation” coming out of Persian Gulf.

#18 Comment By Howard On March 16, 2017 @ 11:21 am

@rob — It’s more likely the defense budget dollar than the petro dollar in this case.

#19 Comment By Davebob On March 16, 2017 @ 11:25 am

Consider US foreign policy as organized crime. The US sells protection to the Middle East neighborhood. Those nations which do not pay, are kneecapped, sent to live in the middle ages with little hope of advancement.The policy can be seen to be successful in this light. Cheney proposed in 04 to begin the process on Iran, but the generals said not yet. Now we begin the dismantling of US social systems to pay for the military requirements for Iran. The laws and militarized police, and private police are preparing for the huge protests to the war and required million man draft which would be needed to occupy Iran. But first, there’s the sticky problem of surging both Iraq, and Afghanistan.

#20 Comment By Samuel On March 16, 2017 @ 5:54 pm

According to many polls, people of Iran are the most pro-western and pro-American people of the whole region, maybe because of almost four decades of anti-western, anti-American rhetoric of the Islamic Republic. One poll showed that Iranian people favor Americans even more than French. Therefore, a war with Iran is the last thing US needs. Just by supporting democracy and more transparent elections in Iran, west can find its best alley in the region.

#21 Comment By Count Iblis On March 16, 2017 @ 6:36 pm

The US would face problems engaging in a war with Iran at all levels. Even a well prepared massive shock and awe attack like used against Saddam twice would not work well. The Iranians have a large number of short range missiles that can be used to take out the oil and gas installations in the Gulf. They can be fired automatically using a tripwire system.

Old SAM systems and other third rate weapon systems that the US can easily take out will be placed in positions where they do become a threat if they are not taken out. So, the USAF will fire HARM missiles that will destroy the Iranian SAMS. But that will then cause the signals send from the SAMs to the missiles to be cut, which then automatically triggers the launch of tens of thousands of missiles at Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

You’ll then get enormous gas fires in the Gulf, fires as large as in the Piper Alpha disaster where gas was burning at the same rate as is consumed by the whole of Britain. Fireballs reaching 90 meters height will incinerate everything in a radius of hundreds of meters.

The difference with an accident such is then that you don’t have the means to deal with the disaster in the usual way, because the Iranian missiles will keep on raining down.

So, despite the US military superiority, the war will likely end with an Iranian victory. The Iranians could demand that the Gulf nations cede parts of their territory to Iran as a security zone to preventing future aggression against Iran.

Also Iran would probably be able to overturn the nuclear deal and get the rest of the World to accept it as a nuclear state.

#22 Comment By PETE SMITH On March 16, 2017 @ 11:33 pm

You remember the movie Canadian Bacon, don’t you?
The general was certain a war-with anyone-would guarantee a 25-30% bump in favorability rating for the President.

If our current chief’s approval ratings continue to drop, who knows what actions might be taken.

#23 Comment By fayez chergui On March 17, 2017 @ 8:44 am

And what happen if US are cornered and nuke Iran?

#24 Comment By Brian Tinklepaugh On March 17, 2017 @ 9:14 am

The LtGEN (Ret) Ripper vignette is typical of the US military approach to wargaming. War-games are highly scripted and computerized, resulting in a rigid operational sequence. Free play that challenges the pre-determined structure of the exercise, especially by the enemy force, is stopped immediately by the exercise directors. As LtGEN Ripper stated, unanticipated positioning (read ‘effective’) positioning of air defense and anti-access capabilities will generate a very negative responses. In my experience, this is usually directed to the junior officers assigned responsibility for simulating the enemy (me). I’ve participated in half a dozen division and above war-games across two different COCOMs, and have seen two reasons for this tendency. The first is because the highly structured, pre-programed computer-based exercises cannot be modified quickly enough to allow free-play. This is a case where the rules have undermined the purpose of the game. This could be fixed through some basic changes in exercise structure and expectations for ‘tactical’ realism versus ‘operations’ realism. The second reason is much more serious and hard to correct. I have some to believe the purpose of the games themselves are not the stated reasons (i.e develop dynamic leaders, challenge doctrine, or innovate a tactics, techniques, and procedures). The purpose is to validate these things, regardless of their actual validity. Until we get more senior generals (and senior civilians) willing to challenge DOD orthodoxies and staid practices, this will not change.

#25 Comment By Sharmine Narwani On March 18, 2017 @ 9:35 am

Brian, thanks for weighing in on your own experience with DoD war gaming exercises. To spend time, money and manpower on war-gaming that is rigged to validate a desired outcome – instead of identifying genuine vulnerabilities – is an exercise in self-deception. And it creates a false sense of US infallibility that is likely only to encourage conflict, during moments when it should clearly be avoided. Would love to hear from others with similar experiences with Pentagon war games.

#26 Comment By Bruce B On March 18, 2017 @ 4:56 pm

You give Trump too much credit for a coherent strategy. He revealed distain for military leaders during his campaign while showing no talent for consistency or competence in any sphere.

#27 Comment By Balconesfault On March 20, 2017 @ 4:56 am

Any conflict with Iran causes a big spike in the price of oil.

Putin wins big, ExxonMobil wins big, Texas wins big, and the US GDP gets a short term bump that Trump can brag about.

Why won’t Trump end up going down that path?

#28 Comment By Tony Austin On March 20, 2017 @ 5:07 am

How can Traitor Trump accuse the North Koreans of acting badly when he refused to shake hands with Angel M. and has infuriated the Brits. He is a disaster!

#29 Comment By James Drouin On March 20, 2017 @ 9:05 am

The $64 question is whether the ROEs that B. Hussein Obama instituted, which put great big bullseyes on US navy vessels, are still in place.

#30 Comment By Zebesian On March 21, 2017 @ 8:19 am

It is likely that the USA’s large, modern, well-trained military could defeat Iran’s. The problems would be the same as those of the Iraq war-who is going to help rebuild the country and re-stabilize it, or are we just going to leave it a smoldering wasteland? Hundreds of thousands dead and devastated infrastructure and resources just because their leaders were rude?

Also, they might attempt a suicidal nuclear attack on any occupiers or our troops in the field. Yeah, we could hit them back much harder, but who wins then?

#31 Comment By waynej On March 28, 2017 @ 10:26 pm

i firmly belive it would be very dangerous for the us to attack iran one its helping other countries to get back their countries and i know our country will ever be involved in anymore wars over there and the us is now acting like war hawks which it shouldnt be