Home/Daniel Larison/The Trump Administration’s Hare-brained ‘Plans’ for War with Iran

The Trump Administration’s Hare-brained ‘Plans’ for War with Iran

Newsweek has more details on the administration’s plans for possible military action against Iran:

A Pentagon source told Newsweek if anything is likely to happen involving the preliminary Iran options, it would involve a heavy guided missile strike campaign in an attempt to lead Tehran to the negotiation table with Washington.

“It depends on the escalation of force. But no matter the bravado from Iran’s side, when you get hit it with 500 missiles every day, it degrades you, which and is the objective [sic]. When your opponent is weak, you get more out of any negotiation,” said one official with knowledge of the Iran plans.

If this quote is any indication of how the administration is thinking about an attack on Iran, things are even worse than I imagined. Launching an attack on Iran would not only be wrong and illegal, but it is all but guaranteed to lead to further escalation. Carrying out an unprovoked attack on Iran would be received as a repeat of Iraqi aggression against Iran in 1980, and the Iranian government would retaliate accordingly.

At the same time, trying to bomb Iran to the negotiating table is a dead end. Among other things, hitting Iran with barrages of missiles will confirm the Iranian government in their conviction that they must continue building up their missile forces for their own defense. If Iran considered U.S. demands on its missile development unacceptable before a U.S. attack, they wouldn’t suddenly become willing to make concessions when they are under attack. Iranian officials have repeatedly said that they will not negotiate with a gun pointed at their heads, so they are unlikely to start negotiating when the U.S. starts pulling the trigger.

The new report confirms the original Times article on plans for deploying as many as 120,000 troops to the region:

Pentagon officials confirmed a report published in The New York Times on Monday outlining an option to deploy as many as 120,000 U.S. troops to the Middle East if Iran initiates an attack on U.S. forces or continues to work in secret on its nuclear proliferation objectives.

Pentagon officials told Newsweek the role 120,000 U.S. forces would play if deployed would center around logistical support and developing infrastructure to preposition U.S. forces for the option of a ground invasion. The original 120,000 would integrate into an additional surge of U.S. forces sent into the region.

If that is accurate, that suggests that the reported figure of 120,000 would just be the beginning of preparing an even larger invasion force. It is insane that the government is even considering a ground invasion of Iran as an “option,” and they probably haven’t given this much thought since the Iraqi government is never going to allow their country to be used as a springboard for war with their biggest neighbor and trading partner. Just as the Iraq war architects mistakenly expected to get Turkish support for their invasion and were surprised when they didn’t get it, administration officials have very likely failed to think about what they will do when all of Iran’s neighbors decline to permit U.S. forces to use their countries as a staging area.

An attack would be an outrageous violation of international law. If it did this, the U.S. would find itself condemned by most other governments and it would have very few supporters beyond the usual suspects in the region. War with Iran would give new meaning to “going it alone.”

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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