The View From Olympus: War With Iran?

On the surface, war with Iran appears unlikely.  President Trump has made it clear, including to the warhawks in his administration, that he does not want war.  He was elected as the anti-war candidate.  Hillary was a wild-eyed interventionist, who under President Obama launched the war on Libya that destroyed that state and created another stateless region.  Pat Buchanan has warned President Trump that the war may be John Bolton’s, but it will be the Trump Presidency that is destroyed by it.

The same desire not to go to war is apparent on the other side.  The May 15 New York Times reported that:

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in comments carried on state television, that “no war is going to happen,” The Associated Press reported.

“Neither we, nor they, are seeking war,” he said.  “They know that is not to their benefit.”

And in a visit to Russia on Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “We fundamentally do not seek war with Iran.”

Of course, there are other players.  The neo-cons, led by the court fool John Bolton, are doing their utmost to sabotage President Trump’s peace policy and bring about the war they want, which seems to be any war, everywhere.  Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps may well want a fight, although it is unlikely to defy Ayatollah Khamenei.  There is a certain irony in the fact that peace appears to depend on Donald Trump and a crazy Ayatollah, but God does have a sense of humor.

However, the U.S. and Iran are not the only players.  Two other countries in the region do want war and are doing their utmost to bring it about.  Both are highly influential in Washington, including in the Trump White House.  Those two countries are Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party have wanted a war with Iran for at least a decade.  They see Iran as the greatest threat facing Israel.  They are wrong about that–the greatest threat is spreading state failure in the region and the rise of more and more non-state entities that fight Fourth Generation war–but Tel Aviv, like Washington and almost every other capital, does not grasp the 4GW challenge.  In fact, given Israel’s nuclear arsenal, the only threat Israel faces from Iran comes by way of Iranian support for Shiite 4GW entities.  But those entities, and Iran itself, are focused more on fighting Sunnis in Islam’s Sunni-Shiite civil war than they are on attacking Israel.

That is why Sunni Saudi Arabia wants a war with Iran.  Iranian support for non-Sunnis who are fighting Sunnis, such as the Houthis in Yemen, is a major block to Saudi ambitions to spread its violent, harsh Wahhabi version of Islam throughout the Muslim world.  But unlike Israel, Saudi Arabia dare not face Iran in a conventional war.  While the Saudi’s spend incredible sums of on their military, that military exists primarily to maintain the throne at home.  Its competence at real war, as we have seen in Yemen, is small. I suspect the Iranians would kick the Saudi’s butts easily and quickly, and I also suspect the Saudis know that.

So what’s the answer for both countries?  Get the U.S. to fight a war with Iran on their behalf.  Both are working frantically behind the scenes in Washington to bring such war about.  Both influence or control a great deal of money that can be channeled to politicians who do their bidding.  Both have massive Washington lobbies.  It’s as they say of a swan:  above the waterline all is serene, but down below some furious paddling is going on.

So we are back to our ironic fact: peace appears to depend on President Trump and Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei.  Both are under severe pressure, President Trump from the Likudniks who surround him in the White House and the Ayatollah from the Shiite 4GW forces that find their funding dropping fast.  We must all hope that both dams hold.