Echoes of Iraq in Trump’s Confrontation with Iran
Various US intelligence experts and lawmakers believe that the escalation of tensions between the US and Iran in recent weeks bears an eerie resemblance to the run-up to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. One of the key similarities they see is the role of US National Security Advisor John Bolton in provoking the adversary.
Tensions between the US and Iran have risen dramatically since Trump pulled his country out of the Iran nuclear deal last year and reimposed sanctions on the country. The situation has further escalated in recent weeks after the US increased sanctions and designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a foreign terrorist organization. In response, Iran labeled the US army as “terrorist” and the IRGC threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman if it would be barred from using it. An Iranian news agency also claimed that an Iranian military drone was closely monitoring a US warship in the Persian Gulf.
In a move that surprised many analysts, Bolton announced the US government’s response this week, when he said the US was sending an aircraft carrier and bomber task force to the Middle East in response to various “troubling and escalatory indications and warnings.” Iran then announced that it will scale back some of the commitments it made under the nuclear deal and threatened to resume enriching high level uranium unless the current signatories to the agreement would fulfill their promise of protecting Iran’s finance and oil sectors from US sanctions.
Former US State Department intelligence official Greg Thielmann believes that Bolton’s announcement seems “like such an obvious effort to provoke an attack by the Iranians.” He also sees parallels between the US dismissal of the Iran deal despite initial compliance by Iran and the fact that the US didn’t change its strategy toward Iraq in the early 2000s after Iraq started to dismantle its missiles and allowed UN inspectors into the country. Democratic senators Tom Udall and Dick Durbin also fear that the Trump administration’s approach to Iran is inspired by the way the Bush administration dealt with Iraq. In a recent Washington Post op-ed the lawmakers warned that “[s]ixteen years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, we are again barreling toward another unnecessary conflict in the Middle East based on faulty and misleading logic.”
There are also indications that Iran shares these sentiments. Two weeks ago, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters that he does not think US President Donald Trump wants war with Iran, but added that Trump could be “lured into one,” by people like Bolton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Analysts warn that a military conflict with Iran would be very risky for the US, since Iran is a much larger country than Iraq and has a far more powerful army than Saddam Hussein did in 2003.