Will there be war on Iran?

Can't crippling sanctions coupled with small-scale warfare do the job?


Will there be war on Iran?
by Ali Fathollah-Nejad

In 2002 Iran was added to the neoconservative-designed ‘Axis of Evil’ and thus declared ripe for US military intervention. The threat of war in the ‘greatest crisis of modern times’ (John Pilger in the New Statesman, July 12, 2007) was at its height in 2006-2007. With President Obama assuming office in 2009, a great hope for peaceful change emerged. But still, Washington’s mantra of ‘all options are on the table’ looms over the ongoing US-Iran conflict.

The launch of the Centre for Iranian Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), the first of its kind in the British capital city, last October featured a debate between two in-house experts – Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, who lectures on the politics of West Asia, and Dan Plesch, who directs the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy (CISD) – on the literally explosive theme of ‘Is war with Iran inevitable?’ Their answers could not have been more different as they discussed the military, political and economic dimensions of a possible war.

Militarily, both agreed, the US could easily destroy Iran. Plesch stressed that there is a huge gulf that separates the US from Iran in terms of military capabilities. While Israel would be able seriously to damage Iranian facilities, it could not finalise a military campaign. Also, the US military is hardly overstretched in the Iraqi and Afghan war theatres, since the Air Force and Navy are ‘almost unused’, said Plesch. Key bones of contention emerged around ‘the politics preceding the war cycle’, as Adib-Moghaddam put it: the economic dimensions of war and the multilayered fallout from an attack.

Adib-Moghaddam agreed that in the US, ‘there is an organised, systematic movement for war on Iran, which should not be underestimated’. But the Obama administration is realistic enough to fear the fallout of an attack since Iran has emerged as the most powerful regional player after the neoconservative wars on Afghanistan and Iraq. There is now an understanding in Washington that military success does not necessarily translate into strategic gain. Today’s ‘buzzword’ is ‘smart power’, instead of the ‘war on terror’, mandating aggressive diplomacy but not military action.

Today, explained Adib-Moghaddam, the US is aware that a war would unleash at the very least a protracted, asymmetrical regional war. Iran’s retaliatory capabilities would span from Hezbollah’s firing of Scud missiles on Tel Aviv, the targeting of US interests in Iraq and Afghanistan and the destabilisation of Shia areas in US-allied Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. However, Plesch responded, all these retaliatory measures are already factored into Washington’s military planning. He added that the Persian Gulf Arab rulers would feel quite confident in containing any domestic turmoil. Also, in the wake of a vast bombing campaign against Iran, out of self-interest, neither Hezbollah nor Hamas would be willing to stand with an ‘imploded’ regional power, he claimed.

One might add that a future major Israeli war on Lebanon or Gaza, which many experts at the turn of 2010-2011 saw to be in the offing, could be part of a strategy to weaken Iranian allies there so paving the way for a future war on Iran. But what if Iran, as another retaliation to an attack, blocked the Straits of Hormuz through which the bulk of the world’s oil supplies is shipped? Based on 25 years of scenario exercises, the US would be able to destroy and take over that sea lane, said Plesch, who has an extensive background in researching the US military.

While Plesch assessed that the forces for a peaceful resolution are too weak as the lack of diplomatic success illustrates, Adib-Moghaddam emphasised that the power of civil society to organise anti-war movements should not be underestimated. While the former favoured the notion of ‘military Keynesianism’ to argue that waging war could serve as means to save the US economy, the latter held that after the $1 trillion Iraq War, ‘another protracted war is simply not financeable’ and would plunge the world into deeper recession.

On the political front, opinions also diverged. Adib-Moghaddam stressed that an Iran war would be a unilateral one without international support, further exacerbating the US’ reputation. But for Plesch, such calculations would not matter that much as ‘the Iraq experience can only encourage those intent, such as Tony Blair, on a military confrontation with Iran to think that they can get away with it because they did so already once’.

Due to time pressures, other issues could not be sufficiently explored. What about Israel? Can it tolerate Iran attaining a ‘nuclear weapons capability’ that would deprive it of its nuclear monopoly and hence potentially from its ‘special relationship’ with Washington in the context of a strategic re-alignment of US policy in the region? Would the power of the so-called ‘Israel Lobby’ and the military-industrial complex in the US be strong enough to lure Washington into a war on Iran if Israel struck first?

Moreover, is the comprehensive sanctions regime on Iran that very much weakens its economy not a satisfying replacement for military action? And as we know from the press, there is already an ongoing small-scale war, which has been waged for many years, which includes (1) the sabotage of Iran’s nuclear programme through the assassination of leading Iranian scientists and cyber-warfare and (2) US and Israeli support for terrorist separatist groups in Iran’s strategically important border regions. In other words, can crippling sanctions coupled with small-scale warfare not do the job of weakening and containing Iran without risking the unpredictable consequences of a war, while the alleged threat posed by Iran provides the basis of massive US weapons sales to Iran’s wealthy southern neighbours?

The controversy proved to be refreshingly stimulating and contributed to a richer understanding of the ongoing crisis, helping us in the effort – shared by both panellists – to avoid another cataclysmic war in the region. In that vein, Adib-Moghaddam finally called on everyone to work towards dialogue and reconciliation, as ‘no war is inevitable’, thus making ‘a “cold peace” between the United States and Iran viable’. Plesch’s focus on the military prowess of the US as well as the Machiavellian sphere of politics is a valuable reminder of the utterly destructive potential of a war that would not limit itself to the bombing of Iranian nuclear facilities but would extend to a whole range of military and civilian infrastructures. The annual CISD conference on a WMD-free zone in the Middle East is an indispensable element for a way towards regional peace and security. However, as was pointed out in a lively discussion that followed, wars are often kicked off accidentally. Indeed, that an incident in the heavily militarised Persian Gulf could be utilised as a casus belli by war profiteers who have overcome obstacles on the political scene is certainly not a matter of sheer fantasy. Urgent action is therefore required to lower the temperatures

Ali Fathollah-Nejad, author of

The Iran Conflict and the Obama Administration (in German, University of Potsdam Press, 2nd edn., 2011), is a PhD candidate in International Relations and Graduate Teaching Assistant at SOAS. Website: fathollah-nejad.com

* This article was first published in The Middle East in London, London: London Middle East Institute (LMEI), School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, Vol. 7, No. 7 (February–March 2011), pp. 16–17.


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Veiled Prophet of Khorasan


by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on

So why do folks come on this website and defend the IRI, which has killed tens of thousands of Iranians, raped and tortured them and try to change the subject always to Israel? Why?

1) Because they are paid by IRR

2) Because they hate Jews

3) All of above


IRI has killed and tortured Iranians

by AMIR1973 on

So why do folks come on this website and defend the IRI, which has killed tens of thousands of Iranians, raped and tortured them and try to change the subject always to Israel? Why?


And these defenders of the mass murderers and torturers of the Iranian people dare call anyone "reactionary"? 

Mola Nasredeen


by Mola Nasredeen on

a decendent of Daryush the Great.

and as for Hazate shotor

he is a decendent of the Daryush's royal stable

(birth certificates will be provided upon request).

But your position on Muslims and Egypt's Revolution is as reactionary as any Zionist on this website and identical to the racist regime of Natenyahu. You surely belong to that group, you've earned it. I provided the link to Natenyahu's speech, go and listen to him. 

They ask us why are we so concerned about what the racist regime of Israel says or does?

1. Because it is the only country who is using her operatives inside United States to provoke Americans to attack Iran.

2. Because Israel is the only country in the world that is always threatening to bomb Iran.

3. Because it take more than 3 billion dollars of our tax money every year and creates more enemies for Americans by her atrocities.

4. And above all. Hello! Don't you get it? This is an Iranian website not an Israeli website. The audacity, Really!  

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan


by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


I know many Israeli. They are not anti Iranian. In fact I find them far better people than Islamists. I take an Israeli Jew any day over an Islamist. They do not want to destroy my nation.  Iran enemy is Islam not Israel.

You are an Islamist and thus one of them; how do you even call yourself Iranian? We are children of Cyrus the Great; of Siavash and Rostam. Not Mohammad and Ali or Hussain. We are friends of Israel. Our mortal enemies are Arabs and Islam not Israel.


I wish the Arabs great success in their Jihad

by AMIR1973 on

Perhaps if the Arabs can finally triumph in their Jihad against Israel, we can finally have another topic to discuss on Iranian.com other than Israel.

Mola Nasredeen

'Veiled' one,

by Mola Nasredeen on

Your position on what's happening in Egypt in no different

than Nateyahu's.

if one listen to Natenyahu's speech on Jan 31 about the Egypt uprising  it would be easy to see the exact position of the 'veiled' one and a few others here. 

The reason Israel is discussed on this Iranian website is obvious, it's because Israel is the main force behind pushing United States to attack Iran and Israel is the only country in the world who is constantly threatening Iranians with military attack. 



What is this obsession with Israel?

by AMIR1973 on

Why do some folks always want to bring it back to Israel? "Goor beh goor-e Israel va Felestin".

And why do some folks repeatedly get away with making numerous false accusations about different Iranian.com users?

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan


by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on

That the same folks who denounce the lousy dictatorship of Mubarak (which has killed hundreds of Egyptians but no Iranians, as far as I know) also support the far more brutal IRI (which has executed tens of thousands of Iranians) on Iranian.com and elsewhere? Why is that so? Is this hypocritical of them?

The reason is that they are not against dictatorship. They just want to turn the world into an Islamic dictatorship. Mubarak to them is an obstacle. It has nothing to do with freedom. They are also anti-Western and that is why they hate Mubarak.

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan


by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


Please drop  this poetry business. Mubark and IR are both dictatorships. Mubarak happens to be much less insane. I would pick Mubarak over Khamenei any day. 

I will never trust an Islamic dictatorship. Israel is your obsession not mine.


Why is it?

by AMIR1973 on

That the same folks who denounce the lousy dictatorship of Mubarak (which has killed hundreds of Egyptians but no Iranians, as far as I know) also support the far more brutal IRI (which has executed tens of thousands of Iranians) on Iranian.com and elsewhere? Why is that so? Is this hypocritical of them?

Mola Nasredeen


by Mola Nasredeen on

the one who poses

as a pro-democracy individual

on this website:

when you declare:

"Thanks to Mubarak"

that's when

you expose yourself

as a reactionary

pro Israel voice

that you've always been.

Meanwhile the Egyptian Revolution

goes on

and the Iranians' Reform movement

rolls on.

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan


by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


There is some truth in what you are saying. But again it is more complex. Israel does not want an Islamist government. Britain does and I am not sure if Obama knows what he wants. 

Mubarak to his credit kept the Islamists in check for now. Good for him. 

I also agree that we will never get anywhere expecting USA to help. It ain't gonna happen. If it does they will set up another Islamic republic like Iraq or Afghanistan. 


Islamist governments in the

by vildemose on

Islamist governments in the ME are preferred by transnational corporations and MIC because they deem it as more stable and more profitable; hence, more cost efficient in the long run. The US admin and its corporate lackeys tried to turn Egypt into another Islamic Republic to turn the clock back on the progress of Egypt but thanks to Mubark they miserably failed.

As long as we think that the US wants democracy for the ME and does not prefer the mullahs over a democracy or a secular government, we will not be able to organize our efforts in the right direction.

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan


by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


Things are not as simple as you make them sound. The opposition to IR criminals is not superficial. It is your understanding of them which is superficial. 

Sure some are blinded by hatred but many are not. The last 32 years have not been static. For a long time I did have hope that a democracy would emerge from IR. It is only in the past few years that many of us gave up. Basically after the failure of "reform" and the rigged "re-election" of AN a new chapter in IR was turned. That is when IR lost its last shreds of legitimacy. So it is not 32 years it is only since the total discrediting of the IR in the past few years. Their time is going to be up. I suggest you open your eyes to it.


Cousin Farmarz,

by Bavafa on

I guess the fear for some of us, me included, is the distrust in the foreign SWAT team in that they have proven to be too trigger happy to care about the hostages and when given a chance would not hesitate to rubb the store/bank in the chaos themselves.

So, lets hope and make sure that the rescue is accomplish by a home grown team that they can control the situation once the shots have started to fire.


Mola Nasredeen

What a lucky bunch

by Mola Nasredeen on

the ruling clerics of Iran are

as long as their enemies

are so superficial

so detached from the realities

so blinded by hatred.

Without a strong character

unlike the demonstrators in Egypt

They've been waiting for the last 31 years

for a foreign hand to enter

and remove the Velayate Faghih.

day dreamers, they are. 

Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime

Despite the hopeful and wishful thinkings of many, the mullahs

by Everybody Loves Somebody ... on

will not disappear into the ether! They are here to stay and as long as there is a critical mass of mules in Iran to provide the free ride, the mullahs will gladly take it and enjoy it!

That's why it is more then ever imperative that US and/or Israel strike the very hearth of the Islamic Republic. The following is not an exhaustive list but is a good start for a massive military campaign:

1) Khomeini's sherine (Ghombol Azim)

2) Khamenei's residence,

3) Islamic Republic Majles when it is in full session,

4) Ahmadinejad's residence,

5) The revolutionary guards headquarter,

6) Basiji's headquarter,

7) Qom (Hozeyeh Elmiyeh & Hazeart Zeyna's shrine, etc.),

8) All mosques across Iran,

9) Mashhad (Imam Reza's shrine),

10) Any other  structure that houses elements of the regime and their supporters***.

*** Not a single "Irani" item can be found in the list!!!!






by Faramarz on

At this point the only remaining question is "who is going to storm the building and kill the hostage-takers?" People inside Iran or the international community.

And I think that issue will work itself out in the near future.

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

Faramarz is right

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


IR Islamist Mollahs are holding a nation hostage. I am not sure what the right solution is. However the criminal Islamissts gang should be brought to completed and fair justice. That part is an absolute requirement.

Mola Nasredeen

reminds me of

by Mola Nasredeen on


who have taken

Iranian dotcome  

as hostage

with their warmongering.

What's to be done

with these 'Iranian Hating Iranians'

who lurk around here 24/7.


A Classic Hostage Situation

by Faramarz on

The situation in Iran is a classic hostage situation.

A gang of criminals have taken a group of innocent people hostage and are telling the world that if our demands are not met, the women and children will die. Meanwhile, the relatives of the victims on the outside world are begging the police to negotiate a peaceful solution by meeting the demands of the criminals, or in some cases, pray that the criminals will see the light and will go easy on the hostages.

It is not going to happen!

The way to deal with a hostage crisis, as every SWAT team knows, is that you keep talking to the criminals (Istanbul Meeting), cut off the flow of food and water (sanctions), put snipers on the rooftops and at the proper moment storm the building and kill the hostage-takers.


For the LOVE of War

by Cost-of-Progress on

Islamic regime would love to start a war. They are just itching for it. That's their ticket to another decade or two of Iran-looting and they are willing to pay the price, that is a lot of young dead Iranians defending their HOMELAND NOT Islam (although that's how they'll spins it) and devestation at all levels. All this war this and war that is their propaganda engine at work. How long have we been reading and seeing the "War with Iran" topic now?





No, there will not be a war on Iran.

by Roozbeh_Gilani on

But of course this "war threat" will be used as an excuse by the fascist islamist regime to go about spending tens of billions of dollars  more on "nuclear research" (AKA buying a nuclear bomb on black market). It'll also provide some west residing "Iranin-american/canadina/inglisi!!!"with some added income to publicize "iran's right to nuclear energy" on certain internet forums, and give me a chance to write a comment first thing in the morning on iranian.com before going to my daily, boring job! 

"Personal business must yield to collective interest."

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

Personal vs reality

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


We need to keep in mind what is out personal preference and what is reality. 

Most of us want IR gone. However what is the best way?

Reality is that most Iranian Americans do not want war on Iran. This has been verified with various polls of Iranian Americans. From Casmii {which I do not trust| to RP {whom I do trust} there is agreement that attacks are a bad idea. Attacks by Israel are particularly a bad idea. As they will reinforce the propaganda already out by IR.

By attacks I mean a military attack not sending some computer worm or the like. 

Sanctions are a totally different thing. It is perfectly possible to be pro sanctions and against attacks.

If there is an attack it better be successful and complete. It will be neither easy nor cheap. It will be risky  and take a lot of effort. Something USA has not been able to get right in other places. So what will happen? I do not know. The focus on nuclear is a giant mistake. It proves that West cares about just one thing: Israeli paranoia. Not about how Iranian people do. If they do a partial attack it will cement the IR power for some time. Unfortunately the policy makers in USA seem incapable of grasping the obvious.

Jeesh Daram

If Iran is attacked

by Jeesh Daram on

If Iran is attacked, the Islamic Republic has all the reasons to stay for at least another 30 years and in that case, sadly I say noosheh jooneshoon let them stay and fight our enemy first, while we have an organized military. Because if we want to change our current regime, we the Iranian people should do it and not an enemy of Iran. Any country that drops bombs on Iran is an enemy of Iran and anyone advocates the necessity of war on Iran is an enemy of Iranians.

Any country that attacks Iran on the basis of Iran's attempts in building nuclear bombs will face severe resistance from the entire population of Iran to include Iranians abroad. Iranians will unite, repatriate and will fight like an Iranian fights. I do not believe an attack will take place on Iran, because no army has the balls to face the Iranian people on the ground and air attacks are only work for chicken hawks, real soldiers fight on the ground. 

As for sanctions, here is my thoughts. There is an increasing food inflation taking place in the entire world. Industiralization, climate changes and on-going economic drepression has created a drop on food and crop production. Today, all over the world we are witnessing food price inflation despite that bad economy. Food for the third world is far more important than democracy at this time. Iran as a net importer of food is very vulberable to all types of sanctions. With on going food scarcities, Iran must sell oil to import verious commodities. This time the sanctions can be devastating if they are continued, both for people of Iran and the regime. 


Mola Nasredeen

I call them

by Mola Nasredeen on



By their comments.

They hardly have any followers among Iranians, inside or outside.

Their methods among other things:

1. Demonization of the ones who are against a war on Iran or against sanctions. Hence, starting personal attacks and name calling of the opponents.

2. Distraction from subject at hand.

'FredCo' acts as a ring leader, a self confessed Zionist entity and defender of Israeli government where at least 2 full time bloggers post their attacks against Iran and the peace camp.

Their Goal: To turn more Iranians against each other.



Only Israel lovers want sanctions and war on Iran

by Researcher on

Why is it  that anytime someone is supportive of war and sanctions on Iran, we find that this person is a supporter of the mainstream Israel right-wing propaganda? It seems that this site belongs to Israelis. Maybe it should be named anti-Iranian.com?

Masoud Kazemzadeh

a question for JJ

by Masoud Kazemzadeh on

JJ jaan,

I see you deleted my research on CASMII and IRI.  Was it inappropriate to THIS blog only?   May I post it on my blog?  If I post my research on my blog, will you delete it?






by afshin on

Your well worded commentary presumes the United States wants regime change in Iran to begin with.  I think the long held policy of containment is still being pursued at this time.  There is no viable alternative to the current regime.  With this regime the US can at least predict with a reasonable amount of certainty what the next move is when it comes to Iran.  If the IRI should fall it will only add more to the chaos in the Middle East.

Jahanshah Javid

Stay on topic

by Jahanshah Javid on

Please post comments specifically related to this article and avoid personal attacks.