Focusing on events alone based on personal political ideologies causes misinformation in information gathering procedure. Rather than looking at events in one point in time, or personal political beliefs one should look at the objective of each parties involved in any scenarios.
The US objective at this point in time is not to resort to military conflict but to weaken the Iranian political position. To do that, military can be a possible solution once other means have been exercised without desired results. Currently the economic isolation to bankrupt the Iranian system is the process of this project. Iran’s overall objective has been put on hold to answer or react to these processes along the way. Time plays an important factor in this project and Iran’s focus has been to divert the processes to gain time, and at times change the momentum of this flow.
Unlike many arguments that US military can destroy Iranian “threat”, Iran’s objective is not to fight head to head with US. That would be foolish and the winner in such conflict is clear. What Iran is trying to do is to create uncertainties that directly influence the economic livelihood of its enemies. Hence the focus of Iranian military has been to create a conflict that disrupts the normal economic flow of nations, based on energy. Any military strategies will tell you that closing the Strait of Hormuz is not sustainable for Iranian military yet the economic disrupt will take months to clear. It can certainly take longer if the planning is done in concise calculated processes based on Iranian strength.
With sanctions in place, Iran has been concentrating on its strengths rather than weaknesses. To Iran, the bombing and destroying infrastructure of the country without reaching an objective is winning this “war”. Iran will gain in many ways if the objective is not reached. The assumptions to reach this objective based on processes could be:
1- The Iranian system will collapse: Some analysts believe that the population would line behind the enemy’s objective to further weaken the system. Other analysts believe the opposite is true. The historical lesson tells us that people in old countries such as Iran will forget their system’s flaws and line behind their regime to defend against the aggressor. No certainty of how a complex society will react in case on a war generates more possibilities or confusion than answers. Regardless, Iran in this war game will have a home game advantage. Similar to Afghanistan war, the Iranian forces will resort to hit and run tactic with more sophisticated weapons and hide behind the population. The US will have to make a choice to hit Iranian cities or leave them. In either case, the US objective will be diverted and the war goes to nowhere. All these can change if the population rises against the system. Knowing Iran, and all cities and villages in the country, I would assume this to be very unlikely.
2- Economic blockade will collapse Iranian system: To change this belief, Iran has demonstrated that it will resort to force and change the game of slow death to sudden change of tactics. The recent events are in line with this strategy. By stopping the ships passing through Strait of Hormuz, Iran forces US fifth fleet to engage with Iranian military. Most probably this will end with war. If the process of production of sanction is to block Iranian wealth, Iran will have nothing to lose and to create a possibility of actually come out a winner. Time is the key in this scenario. If Iran is bombed to dust, but has enough to sustain the uncertainty of energy shipment, the public opinion and Western pressure will change the landscape dramatically. West might be willing to pay the extra price for goods and services or their gas pumps, but not for a long period of time. Keep in mind that countries such as Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan, and India to name a few are more capable of handling poverty and accept their economic misfortune than most Western societies. One possible reason is that war for the West is not in their soil and they do not see it as necessary but an option. Iran views this very differently.
3- Russia and China will not lose their alliances with the West for a country like Iran: This is a very interesting assumption. After Libya, Russia lost its base in that country. The only other base in the region that Russia has today is Syria. One can conclude, based on current events that Russia will not change its position and will continue on its short-term interests. However one can also assume that time is the key. Russia has not allowed NATO forces to enter Syria and has been very active to keep its strategic position in Syria. Therefore, Russia has a reason to at least indirectly be pro-Iranian cause. China also wants the cake and eats it too. Meaning China wants to keep its economic trade with the West and US while having the possibility of future energy access without permission from the West.
Here is what makes the strategy even more complicated. China and US will not change their economic trade behavior but may engage indirectly against one another. Since both need each other similarly and own each other’s wealth, they may put that aside and allow the game to be mutually exclusive. Iran then may take advantage of this situation and indirectly gain strategic support from China that may influence the decision of continuation of a war to reach the objective.
Many other factors can be played in this scenario but certainly these are the first series of assumptions in this conflict. In summary, if the population will rise against the Iranian system, then the situation is clear otherwise the US objective will not succeed and Iranian system will survive well over its estimated timeline. In a case, after the war is over, Iran will be semi destroyed but will gain respect and momentum while the opposite is true for the US. The shrinking US footprints in the region will continue.
The solution is simple. Keep in mind that we are not speaking about right or wrong, or political ideologies of individuals. The solution is what President Obama had promised during his election to talk to Iran and open a diplomatic channel. Show with actions not force, that they are willing to deal with Iran as a legitimate system. With this, US can benefit three ways:
1-Iranians will gain more access to wealth and will be able to deal with their system’s shortcomings without constant external threats.
2- Iranian system with its vast corruption cannot blame any other country
3-US can focus on Iranian Human Rights violations and play the good guy who is on the side of the Iranians.
Above three points are what Iranian system doesn’t want, and that is exactly what US should do. Beyond those points, the US is playing in Iranian system’s hand and I believe US’ objective will not be reached.