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The Clear Case for Staying Out of the Brewing Iran War

America and Israeli interests part company at a certain point. The time is coming.
Pro-Palestine Demonstration In Medellin

The last time Persians attacked the Holy Land, they had the Jewish forces on their side. According to Antiochus, the Sasanian capture of Jerusalem resulted in the death of around 60,000 Byzantine Christians. Nearly 1,400 years later, retaliatory Iranian missiles struck Israel in a conflict where the Persians and Jews are on the opposing sides and the world’s still predominantly Christian hegemon is just on the margins as a helpless bystander. I guess that is something of an improvement, although not by much. 

It is too fluid a situation to comment in detail, but, for what it’s worth, it appears that the Iranians wanted to keep the attack within that goldilocks threshold with ample warnings ahead. They had backchannels open with the U.S. They informed Iraq about the flight path and trajectory of their missiles. The choice of weaponry—no one intent on waging war uses subsonic drones that take hours to reach the airspace of the enemy to start an air attack followed by a few ballistic missiles, thereby letting enemy air defenses go fully active—was another signal that Iranian actions were predicated on reestablishing deterrence, and not escalation. 


Iran’s official statement was measured, and targeted towards signaling the U.S. that Tehran wants to avoid a full-scale war. 

"Conducted on the strength of Article 51 of the UN Charter pertaining to legitimate defense, Iran’s military action was in response to the Zionist regime’s aggression against our diplomatic premises in Damascus. The matter can be deemed concluded. However, should the Israeli regime make another mistake, Iran’s response will be considerably more severe. It is a conflict between Iran and the rogue Israeli regime, from which the U.S. MUST STAY AWAY!"

An almost Trumpian ending to a cautiously worded statement that attests three points: the conflict in Iran’s eyes is over, Iran will have to respond to further Israeli action, and the U.S. and Iran are not enemies—this is not between us. 

The American response was equally measured. A DoD source stated, “Our forces remain postured to provide additional defensive support and to protect U.S. forces operating in the region.” Note the emphasis here on defensive actions.

Nevertheless, war has a momentum of its own. For all the Iranian calculations, neither the U.S. nor Iran controls how Israel will react. 

Ultimately, however, America is facing the same problem as any hegemonic empire faces, the lack of control over its protectorates and peripheries and contradictory lobbying forces within the core. President Biden cannot control the Muslims chanting “death to America” in Minnesota and Michigan, a core constituency of the Democratic party who refuse to assimilate to the American mainstream. He also is unable to control Benjamin Netanyahu—and Biden is also determined to “stand by” Israel whatever be the cost. There’s of course no incentive for Israel to be minimalist in war aims, just as there is no incentive for Ukraine to listen to Washington, given that they have both been assured of unlimited American support. 

The Jewish revolt against the Byzantines that invited the Persian conquest started when rabid Christians banned Jews from Jerusalem (despite opposition from a relatively more liberal Empress Eudocia). The Byzantine behemoth was unable to control ethnic rivalry within the empire and was therefore helpless in matters of foreign affairs. Perhaps there is a hidden lesson somewhere, about detachment abroad and assimilation within.