Is Tehran willing to play brinksmanship with President Trump? We’re about to find out. It’s a relatively complicated calculation for me. The Iranian people are extremely disgruntled against their theocratic regime due to economic problems associated with the American embargo. Recently the government’s suppression of protest was responsible for the death of hundreds of anti-regime partisans. Will that make the mullahs less likely to hazard a war or do they think it will distract the people who will instead concentrate on an outside aggressor. And what are the leaders guessing about the temperament and intentions of President Trump? Do they think he’ll be cautious about engaging in a shooting war during an election year or do they think he will be forced to save face if they kill American soldiers?
With regard to the second question, Tehran may be basing their estimation of the President’s response on their experiences with George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Obama was entirely unwilling to deny Iran anything they asked for. His deal with the Iranians included $150 billion dollars in tribute including over a billion dollars in one hundred-dollar bills packed onto pallets for ease of shipment. There was the ideal American President from an Iranian perspective. With Bush they had a man who earlier on needed to be avoided due to his campaign of Middle Eastern military reduction. But once he allowed himself to become immobilized in the quagmire of the Iraq occupation, he was a fantastic victim for the Iraqi Shiite surrogates that Iran controlled. He was too weakened by the damage he had done to the American military and his own constituency to see that holding Iran responsible for the Shiite resistance should have been part of his larger campaign. Also, he never ended Iran’s nuclear program when he easily could have.
Getting back to the point, if the Iranians judge that President Trump will be either too pacifistic like Obama or too strategically naïve like Bush, they may be in for a nasty shock. If they manage to kill a large number of American soldiers in this revenge campaign it’s entirely possible that President Trump may elect to escalate the conflict with a very extensive series of missile and aerial strikes against the most important assets of the Iranian military forces. If a series of strikes to take out Iran’s ballistic missile stockpiles, the nuclear production facilities and the jet fighter and naval vessels were to occur it might not be easy for the mullahs to continue their war.
A further thought occurs that if human intelligence allowed targeting of “Supreme Leader” Ali Khamenei and his clerical kitchen cabinet that might put an end to the Iranian regime altogether.
Now these are enormous escalations based on where we are right now but anyone who has followed the Middle East knows that just to engage in tit for tat low level violence is to play to their strengths. It is even possible that the missile strikes that the Iranians have fired may be a minor incident that won’t require a strong response. We’ll know soon. By morning the damage reports will begin to appear.
It seems to me that Tehran will elect to use proxies to harass Americans anywhere they have a chance. That is more their style. But if they decide to get in a shooting war with President Trump, I predict they will get more than they bargained for.