When Trump designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a terrorist organisation, Iran hit back hours later by labelling the US Central Command ‘CENTCOM’ a supporter of terrorism. Now two governmental military entities have been designated as supporters of terrorists, putting the US and Iranian forces at the level of al-Qaeda and the ‘Islamic State’ (ISIS) for their opposing armies. Trump’s decision is somewhat symbolic. Already in 2007, the IRGC was placed on the US Department of Treasury list of entities guilty of proliferation activities and support for terrorism. In 2011 President Obama added the Iranian Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces Logistics, the Basij and the Iranian police to a Treasury Department list of entities responsible for human rights abuses. Trump has now added Iran to a State Department list of supporters of terrorism. Tensions between Iran and the US has never reached such a high level, and have been in continuous escalation since Trump took office.
What could go wrong?
These decisions may put the two forces against each other, on the ground in the Middle East or at sea in the Strait of Hormuz. A violent reaction could emanate from either side and bring the Middle East into unprecedented danger. Iran, rightly or wrongly, believes that Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, who has obvious influence over President Trump, is pushing the US to trigger a war. Accordingly, Iran and its regional allies are preparing for war.
Preparing for the worse, in recent days Iran has contacted allies in the Middle East, explaining the dangers of the situation and its possible consequences for their respective countries. All allies expressed readiness to support Iran and engage in any future war if the US attacks the ‘Islamic Republic’ and its existence is at stake. This information has been confirmed by a trusted source in direct contact with decision makers among Iran’s allies.
According to the source, Lebanon, or more precisely the political-military force operating under the trio equation (the Army, the People and the Resistance), “shall not be excluded from any future war between Iran and the US in the Middle East”. The source confirmed that Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah promised that “Hezbollah will not stand idle if Iran comes under attack; it shall respond rather than watch events unfold”. This means any US-Iran war will expand to other countries, notably Lebanon and Israel.
“Trump is granting any wishes expressed by Israel Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu. He – Netanyahu – is said to be behind the US sabotaging and revoking the nuclear deal with Iran. Netanyahu told Trump to move the embassy to Jerusalem and to recognise it as the capital of Israel. Trump gave Israel the Syrian occupied Golan Heights to boost Netanyahu’s election. Trump even defined Netanyahu as “your prime minister” when addressing American Jews at the recent AIPAC meetings. Netanyahu boasts that Trump designated the IRGC as a terrorist organisation at his request. Thus, Israel –in Tehran’s view—considers this a golden opportunity to start a war against Iran, particularly now that many Arab countries enjoy good relationships with Netanyahu, share Israel’s hostility to Iran (i.e. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Emirates), and are either supportive of a war or unable to stand in the way of Israel’s plans. Netanyahu enjoys unlimited support from Trump and will have full US military support in case of war. This is why Israel will be a target in any war against Iran”, said the source.
On the delicate domestic situation in Lebanon, a multi-ethnic country in financial distress, the source said:
“Iran has invested (armed and financially supported allies) for decades in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Palestine. This investment will not be wasted. Both Lebanon and Israel have long had enough reasons to start a war, but the political and military circumstances were not appropriate. To be clear, there has been no cease-fire deal or agreed on rule of engagement between Hezbollah and Israel since the 2006 war but only a cessation of hostility. Therefore, a war between the US and Iran means a war against Israel”.
President Bashar al-Assad will not succumb; he would rather go to war against Israel to recover Syria’s Golan Heights.
On Syria, the source considers the economic situation to be critical. “By imposing economic sanctions to cripple the country, the US and Israel are trying to win what they lost on the battlefield. Any foreign support is blocked in order to prevent reconstruction and to straightjacket the government of Damascus. Any rapprochement between Damascus and the Arab countries has been stymied by the US, who have succeeded in stopping the resumption of Arab diplomatic relations with Syria. The US is pushing Syria to think carefully about its future steps and to submit to the will of Trump. President Bashar al-Assad will not succumb; he would rather go to war against Israel to recover Syria’s Golan Heights. This could happen when and if the US starts a war against Iran”.
In Iraq, the central government is trying to avoid any bras-de-fer between Iran and the US, maintaining a delicate balance between the two enemies. Nevertheless, Iraqi groups ideologically linked to Iran have expressed their readiness to be directly engaged against US forces in case of war, believes the source.
Iran may change its behaviour at sea, mainly around the Straits of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf. It is possible that the IRGC will take a more aggressive attitude towards the US Navy in the area, further complicating the situation. A conflict between the two sides seems inevitable even if a declaration of war is not imminent. Tehran, despite its tit-for-tat actions, is not expected to provoke US forces. It will not, however, hold back in the event of an error on the other side. If the US aims to frighten Iran, then a war-like situation is plausible.
Since taking control of the White House, Trump has transformed the Middle East into a more chaotic place: by his occupation of Syria, by allowing Saudi Arabia to continue its war on Yemen, and by offering Jerusalem and the Golan Heights to Israel. War is nothing new in this part of the world. The apparent victory of the extreme right and re-election of Netanyahu as prime minister make it all the more likely.
Israel tried, but failed to defeat and neutralise Hezbollah in 2006. The US and Israel, along with Europe and Arab countries, attempted regime-change in Syria. One of their many failed objectives in attacking Syria was to disrupt the flow of weapons to Hezbollah and to push Syria away from the “Axis of Resistance”. Under the watchful eyes of Obama’s administration, ISIS grew and expanded in Iraq and Syria. US policy failed there too, having sought to divide Mesopotamia into three weak states: Kurdistan, Shiistan and Sunnistan. All these attempts were directly linked to Iran, who benefits from having powerful allies in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. The latter country is currently rejecting US sanctions and expanding its energy and commercial relationship with Iran to an unprecedented level. All these US policies have sought to break Iran and force it to accept US domination, a policy Washington has been trying to achieve since 1979. Perhaps, in the minds of Trump and Netanyahu, it is time to hit Iran directly. Alternatively, it may be that Iran’s fears are exaggerated.
Cover photo: Iraq’s Shia Militias