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Military Option in US Strategy

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Publish Date : 2018 Aug 20 11:16
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Military Option in US Strategy
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Politics, in a sense, means assessing the options available and choosing the best ones to help serve national objectives and interests. Governments have various options to achieve their intended goals, but the costs and benefits of these options are not the same. Some options produce positive results, while others are to the detriment of national interests. In relations between countries, the options available to reach an objective range from military ones to engaging in a dialogue, cooperating, or forming an alliance. The Iranian people and officials are all familiar with the "all options are on the table" phrase.
Mahmoud Yazdanfam

Politics, in a sense, means assessing the options available and choosing the best ones to help serve national objectives and interests. Governments have various options to achieve their intended goals, but the costs and benefits of these options are not the same. Some options produce positive results, while others are to the detriment of national interests. In relations between countries, the options available to reach an objective range from military ones to engaging in a dialogue, cooperating, or forming an alliance. The Iranian people and officials are all familiar with the "all options are on the table" phrase. This diplomatic phrase has been repeatedly uttered by US government officials while addressing Iranian authorities.
In October 2017, the administration of US President Donald Trump outlined the United States' new strategy on Iran. The US pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal—officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—on May 8 and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listed 12 sweeping demands for Iran on May 21, threatening the country with "the strongest sanctions in history" and Washington moved to impose them. An important question is where the place of the military option is in the US strategy on Iran. How has the use of military force been addressed in the US strategy toward Iran? 
The use of military power, as the most tangible and traditional indicator of national might, is important in advancing a country's objectives and fulfilling its national interests. However, there has been a significant decrease in the use of direct military force against another country since the end of the Second World War, particularly in recent years. For a host of reasons, it can be said that the Trump administration does not have any plan to get into a direct military confrontation to advance its agenda in dealing with the Islamic Republic in the short and medium term.
There are several issues that should be noted before setting out the reasons in question. The first issue is that not resorting to the military option does not mean that it is being ignored by politicians or regarded as ineffective in the two countries' calculations and decision-makings. The second point is that the military option could represent a wide range of actions, from muscle-flexing to waging an all-out war. In this article, the military option has been used in the sense of direct military confrontation through launching a strike against Iranian targets on the country's soil. The third issue is that Trump, due to his personality, changes his decisions and his foreign policy very quickly. So the psychological atmosphere may change fast with new developments, and a higher priority may be assigned to the military option. The fourth point is that a proper understanding of the reasons for the refusal to use military force helps determine its priority in the eyes of politicians.
Trump's personality: Unlike former US president George W. Bush, Trump is not an ideologue. He is a calculating businessman. He looks at every issue from a cost and benefit perspective. The war option is costly and detrimental. He believes that he is the greatest dealmaker and considers relations with other countries a deal that he can hammer out in the best way possible. Trump says those preceding him were incompetent and claims that he can reach the best deal with Iran. He argues that everything that the presidents before him did were wrong, bad and against the interests of the US but whatever he does is correct and completely in line with US interests. Trump's foreign policy is highly volatile and "he's such an erratic president that you could see him dropping bombs on Iran and you can see him trying to build hotels in Iran", as Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert, puts it.
Low-cost options: At this juncture, imposing sanctions, sparking protests, and offering dialogue are the three main options in the US government's strategy on Iran. Introducing "the most biting sanctions ever imposed" is their most important tool to force Iran to change its approach and agree to hold negotiations over disputed topics. The US has the lowest level of trade with Iran. It has been almost completely deprived of the chance to trade with the Islamic Republic for the past 40 years. The nuclear deal could not pave the way for economic relations between the two countries. The push to cut off Iran's economic ties with the world will hit the United States' economic rivals, from China to France, the hardest rather than harming the US itself. However, if the sanctions succeed in bringing about a change in Iran's attitude or political system, Washington will stand to benefit from economic relations with Tehran. Provoking social unrest complements the US strategy of exerting pressure on Iran, which is also a very low-cost option for the US administration. The confrontation between the people and the government in Iran would be in favor of the United States regardless of its outcome.
The failed experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan: The US is regarded as one of the greatest interventionist countries in the world, but its military intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past two decades is one of the most tangible experiences that the country's people and statesmen have had in this regard. Since the US mid-term election in 2004, candidates in all elections have spoken against the US intervention in Iraq, and many have fallen victim to their support for that military campaign. Since the 2008 presidential election in the United States, no candidate has expressed support for the US military intervention in Iraq. The heavy costs and few benefits of the US adventures in the Middle East have caused the country to be afraid of military intervention, which has made making decisions about intervening in Iran militarily much more difficult for the Americans.
Trump's anti-war slogans in his presidential campaign: Trump's actions over the past year and a half shows that he has made efforts to make good on his campaign promises. One of his slogans at the time was to oppose military intervention under the pretext of promoting democracy and building nation-states. In his presidential campaign, he had called for the US pullout from wars in the Middle East and had voiced criticism of the US war in Iraq. Trump believes that the high cost of such acts of interference is not acceptable and that such expenditures would undermine US power. The Trump administration's stance on Syria also demonstrates a deliberate refusal to trigger large-scale conflict in the region. With such views, it is unlikely that Trump would decide to carry out a military attack against the Islamic Republic.
Opposition of the international community: Although Trump has shown disregard for mass media, public opinion, and even the views of his allies, the world's greatest power could not afford to use military force without a national and international consensus. In the international arena, only four regional countries have supported the US hostile stance toward Iran. Fifty-three percent of the Americans oppose the idea of declaring war on Iran, with 37 percent saying that they are strongly opposed. The US government's pattern of behavior regarding military intervention over the past decades shows the importance of public support for the government. The US has intervened militarily in a country only when the majority of its people have approved of the use of military force.
Iran's wise policy: One of the most influential factors in governments' decisions to use military force is the other side's behavior. The Islamic Republic is so experienced and wise that it would not easily fall into the trap of escalation of threats that could lead to war. Iran's officials are well aware of the difference in firepower and vulnerability, the valuable experience of the Sacred Defense (1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war), the proven success of diplomacy and dialogue and the ineffectiveness of war in advancing the country's objectives and national interests. Although Iranian authorities do not have an impressive track record of taking timely decisions, they have succeeded very well in preventing the situation from deteriorating. So it is unlikely that they forget their valuable experiences in dealing with the United States.
The vulnerability of the US and its regional allies: The Islamic Republic of Iran is one of the main regional powers. The US has important bases and allies in the region. If Washington resorts to military force, Iran is capable of inflicting considerable damage on the US and its regional allies. The costs of a scenario involving Iran's retaliatory measures are so high that every politician should take this issue into consideration before making a decision to launch a military strike against Iran. Taking all this into account, the military option does not seem very tempting for US officials given its costs and benefits.
“ Military Option in US Strategy ”