top of page
  • Reggie Peralta

Target Tehran: The Risk of War with Iran

With the world feeling like it’s going to hell in a hand basket as it is, it brings me no pleasure to relay the following story from the Associated Press. According to officials with knowledge of the matter, the Biden administration has deployed American Marines to the Persian Gulf with the intent of stationing them on foreign commercial vessels operating in the region. The stated reason for such a deployment is to deter Iranian aggression, in reference to Iranian searches and seizures of ships in the region. Why it’s America’s responsibility to act as the world’s police (world’s Coast Guard?) and make sure those perfidious Persians understand they have no business in the Persian Gulf is unclear, but what is clear is the risk of straining already heated tensions between the US and the Islamic Republic that this move poses. Many have noted the unprecedented nature of the move: The Jerusalem Post, a right-wing Israeli newspaper, hailed the deployment as “The strongest US commitment to the region in decades” and even favorably compared Biden to Ronald Reagan (the archvillain of an earlier, less war-friendly Democratic Party) for proposing it. More cautious analysts like the Quincy Institute’s Trita Parsi, however, have warned of the danger posed by Biden’s proposal, with Parsi even going as far to call it a “remarkable escalation” with the potential to lead "the two countries into war”.

This latest escalation comes in the wake of several provocative developments on the part of the US. At the start of the year, 100 US aircraft joined their Israeli counterparts in what CNN called “their largest joint military exercise ever”. Both the messaging of this operation and its intended recipient were clear: despite any current disagreements with the Netanyahu government over its internal policies (its oppression of the Palestinian people, not so much), Biden continues to stand side by side with Bibi on the international stage and stands ready to bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran if President Raisi, the Ayatollah, or that cute vampire girl from A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night so much as looks at him funny. More recently, the two countries have taken concrete steps to flesh out this arrangement, with Washington proposing that they and Tel Aviv conduct military planning for potential attacks on Iran together while Israel has pushed for a formal security guarantee that would almost certainly require America to join a hot war between it and the Islamic Republic. Such an alliance would likely need to be approved by Congress but given the rabid fealty that both congressional Democrats and Republicans continue to hold towards Our Greatest Ally™, I won’t be surprised at all if it sails right through the Capitol and we soon find ourselves committed to another war that isn’t our business and is in fact inimical to our interests.

Believe it or not, Biden sounded a very different tone on Iran while on the campaign trail. Piggybacking off the popularity of the Obama administration’s nuclear deal, he blasted Trump for withdrawing from the deal and pursuing a “maximum pressure” strategy that punished Tehran for activity unrelated to its nuclear program (it’s worth noting that, according to our own intelligence community, there is no evidence that said program is aimed at producing nuclear weapons.) Pledging to return to diplomacy and re-enter the deal if he was elected, Biden reneged on this promise once in the White House, deciding instead to use Trump’s sanctions as “leverage” to pressure Iran into accepting less favorable terms. The Iranians, unsurprisingly, were outraged that the US went full Darth Vader and tried to alter the deal after the fact (and against their favor) when it was Washington that broke the agreement in the first place, demanding we either return to the deal that was initially agreed upon or face the prospect of no deal at all. Now, close to four years into Biden’s tenure, his own cabinet has seemingly admitted the failure of his approach, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken stating this past July that “We’re now in a place where we’re not talking about a nuclear agreement” with the Islamic Republic. Needless to say, a war between our two countries would be a disaster for all involved. Tucker Carlson, in a segment originally aired in the aftermath of Trump’s 2018 assassination of Iran’s General Qasem Soleimani, frankly informed Fox News viewers — many of whom probably supported every military action of the past 25 years — that war with Iran would “not be like intervening in Libya or Syria or even invading Iraq”. Instead, he explained, the US would be in for a bloody slog with a country four times the size of Iraq and with a population that’s three times bigger (plus a large, asymmetrically-oriented military that has spent decades preparing for such an invasion.) This isn’t just isolationist alarmism: in 2002, the US military ran a war game exercise simulating an attack on an unnamed Middle Eastern country widely understood to be Iran. Despite the American forces’ technological advantage and numerical superiority, the Iran stand-in inflicted a humiliating defeat on the invaders, with the US suffering losses that would have amounted to as many as 20,000 servicemen dead had it been the real deal and not just a war game. And mind you, these were only projected casualties for a failed invasion of Iran: countless more lives would undoubtedly be lost in the costly multi-year occupation and violent insurgency that would inevitably follow a successful one.

Yet, some view a final reckoning with Iran as not only unavoidable but a golden opportunity to overthrow the fundamentalist Muslim dictatorship that governs it and install a democratic, pro-Western government. Such thinking is driven by understandable revulsion at the barbaric conduct of the regime (such as its brutal crackdown on protestors last year) but also by a messianic belief that American power is a transformative force for good and unfailing friend of democracy. It can’t be stressed enough that American power is in large part responsible for the current state of affairs in Iran, the butterfly effect of the CIA’s decision in 1953 to overthrow the democratically-elected leader Mohammad Mosaddegh. By orchestrating Mosaddegh’s demise and replacing him with the tyrannical Shah, the US made an enemy of ordinary Iranians who rightfully resented this interference with their democratic process and indirectly laid the long and treacherous road to the Islamic Revolution of 1979. If a coup instigated by the US against a popular leader led to the rise of Ruhollah Khomeini and his theocratic terror two decades later, one should shudder at what a full-on war launched against the very same country - in the holy name of “democracy” no less - might unleash down the line. As if the stakes weren’t perilous enough, there is a very real threat that intervention could draw in other powers, expanding an already-deadly conflict into a much larger war. Russia and China, themselves the target of American sanctions and bellicosity, have stepped up cooperation with the Islamic Republic. The three countries have held joint naval drills in the Gulf of Oman, the Indian Ocean, and even off the coast of Venezuela, while US intelligence accuses Tehran of providing Russia with drones for its war in Ukraine. And just last week, Moscow and Beijing invited Iran to BRICS, a group of developing countries with the potential to challenge Western political and economic hegemony. This emerging alliance was predicted some 25 years ago by Zbigniew Brzezinski, one of the masterminds behind US support for the Afghan mujahideen and a devotee of American imperialism if there ever was one. Writing in The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives (a title that you would think might have made him ask himself “Are we the baddies?”) after the collapse of the USSR, Brzezinski warned, “Potentially, the most dangerous scenario would be a grand coalition of China, Russia, and perhaps Iran, an ‘antihegemonic’ coalition united not by ideology but by complementary grievances.” Considered unlikely at the time of writing, two decades worth of regime change wars, crushing sanctions, and hypocritical rhetoric about “freedom” and “sovereignity" have achieved the improbable and made Brzezinski’s prophecy come true.

The international situation is already dangerous enough. The US and its allies continue their reckless strategy of fighting Russia to the last Ukrainian and are currently threatening military action against a popular new government in Niger. The last thing we need right now is another war, much less one with the potential to escalate into World War III. What we need now are leaders who understand that — while we may not like the leaders of Iran, Russia, or whoever the enemy of the hour is — we have to respect their legitimate security interests and seek peaceful solutions over violent ones. But perhaps even more importantly, we need engaged citizens who are ready to actively support such leaders (even if it means risking condemnation and cancellation by others) and stand up for them when they pursue peace instead of war.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily the views of the Libertarian Party of Orange County.

Reggie Peralta is a native of Santa Ana and UCLA graduate with a BA in Political Science. In addition to helping out as Blog Editor for the Libertarian Party of Orange County, he has volunteered and written content for local arts and cultural organizations like The Frida Cinema, Makara Center for the Arts, and LibroMobile.

Do you want to submit an article?

We're looking for interesting and informative articles that present or explore the libertarian perspective.

bottom of page