The latest events pertaining to Iran are very much reminiscent of those transpiring in Europe right before the Fist World War. Tensions were high, all the nations were ready for the ‘big fight’ and were simply waiting for an excuse to start it. And then the opportune moment arrived when a 19-year old Bosnian Serb, Gavrilo Princip, who was a member of a terrorist organization, assassinated the heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, and his morganatic wife, Sophie Chotek, on 28 June 1914 in Sarajevo.
In this case, the trigger for the attack on Iran was meant to be a provocative violation of this nation’s airspace by an American drone and a reconnaissance aircraft with 35 servicemen on board following the unmanned aerial vehicle. The unfortunate fate that had awaited them (i.e. being shot down by Iranian air defense systems) was supposed to signal the start of an aerial attack by US forces on Iran, involving a heavy deployment of modern missiles and possibly low-yield nuclear weapons. These plans were already at the Pentagon, and in order to justify their execution, an American spokesperson was prepared to give a pre-prepared speech at just the right time during a United Nations Security Council emergency session. These were the plans concocted in Washington that did not come to fruition.
The Iranian leadership behaved in a much more rational and cautious manner than the US command and Donald Trump’s cronies. The Iranian air defense systems only shot down the drone and not the military aircraft with people on board. After all no one starts a war over a heap of metal when there have been no human casualties. Just recall the events in Sarajevo.
The Commander of Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force, Amir Ali Hajizadeh, stated that Iran chose not to shoot down the US aircraft that was following the unmanned aerial vehicle. “Along with the US drone, there was also an American P-8 plane with 35 people on board. This plane also entered our airspace and we could have targeted it, but we did not because our purpose behind shooting down the American drone was to give a warning to terrorist American forces,” said Amir Ali Hajizadeh. He added that the Iranian military had sent two “warnings” to the American unmanned aerial vehicle before it was shot down.
We would like to remind our readers that on 3 July 1988, an Airbus A300B2-203 passenger plane (commercial flight IR655, operated by Iran Air), flying from Tehran via Bandar Abbas to Dubai over the Persian Gulf, was unceremoniously shot down by a surface-to-air missile, fired from USS Vincennes (a guided missile cruiser of the United States Navy), 7 minutes after he had left Bandar Abbas. American servicemen had not sent any warnings, they were simply having some fun on the missile cruiser. Recently, Iranians could have chosen to follow in US footsteps and brought down the American aircraft with ease, but instead Tehran made a decision not to shoot down the American reconnaissance airplane that had violated their air space.
This time around, Donald Trump’s and his adviser’s plans to start a war against Iran were postponed for a later date, but most certainly not abandoned. It is also important to mention that there is a fierce debate over policy towards Iran in the United States right now. The so-called ‘B-team’, which includes the National Security Advisor of the United States, John R. Bolton, a number of leaders in the Middle Eastern region (including Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, and Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi) as well as the Senior Advisor to the U. S. President and the latter’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has been desperately trying to get Donald Trump to fall into the Iranian trap. But being an experienced businessman, the President clearly understands that his power does not lie in the deployment of military forces. Plus the Iranian adventure would not be a walk in the park. As in an event of a war, Donald Trump’s ‘die hard fans’, the Democrats, are bound to start the impeachment process against him. Hence the predicament that the US President finds himself in: he is willing to apply non-stop pressure on his partners but not engage in military operations.
Evidence to this includes rather vague factual statements, publicized by the well-informed Reuters News Agency, that say Donald Trump had sent a message, via Oman, to Iran warning Tehran about the impending attacks against it, and giving its leadership a ‘limited’ amount of time to respond. The American President said that he preferred negotiations to war in his ‘letter’. “Reports that a message was passed last night to the Iranians via an Omani back channel are completely false. These reports are pure Iranian propaganda,” stated Morgan Ortagus, the Spokesperson for the United States Department of State. Kayvan Khosravi, the Spokesman of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, also denied that Tehran had received such a message.
Arguably, this is the first time that Washington and Tehran have been able to agree on something. And the speed with which both sides repudiated the statement, made by the Reuters News Agency, only lends credence to the story that such a message had actually been sent by Donald Trump. After all, the adage does say ‘there is no smoke without fire’.
The possibility of a war between the United States and Iran is becoming more real, and Donald Trump’s allies will continue with their attempts to depict Iran as a threat, as was the case with Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. “A US war with Iran looms. Don’t for one second think that it is justified,” writes Owen Jones, a Guardian columnist, who is well-versed on this particular subject. According to the political commentator, “We must not fall into step with their prefab bloodlust. We know how the story goes. The decision for war is made long in advance.”
However, there is another aspect to this story. Clearly, the leader of the largest super-power in the world has not been making empty threats, but still they should not be perceived at face value, since they are an integral part of national as well as foreign policies of the United States. The White House has issued such threats on numerous occasions before against Russia, the PRC, the DPRK and other countries but usually such words have not translated into action. Donald Trump prefers to only frighten his partners on the world stage, but so far he has not been tempted to engage in military action. However, there may come a time when the President’s advisers and cronies will manage to create such an environment that Donald Trump has no other recourse but to resort to the use of force (against his will and better judgement).
Seemingly, this must have been the aim of sending the drone and the US reconnaissance aircraft to Iranian airspace. Still, this time around Iranians saw through the devious scheme and only shot down the American drone. It is quite clear that it is impossible to start a military conflict over one unmanned aerial vehicle. Thankfully, the war has been avoided this time around.
Viktor Mikhin, corresponding member of RANS, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”