Is a war between the US and Iran on the way?

Mirali Agayev

Political Analyst specializing on Iran.


One of the most discussed issues by most people during one year period has been the possibility of the occurrence of a military confrontation between Washington and Tehran. It would be helpful to have a brief look at the Tramp administration’s approach to Iran before talking about the possibility of a war between the two countries.
During the pre-election campaign, Donald Tramp was announcing that his first job would be to tear out the nuclear deal signed between Iran and 5 + 1 countries if elected, considering it was not within the interests of the US. Approximately one year and three months after he took office in the White House, on May 8, 2018, the Tramp administration unilaterally left the aforementioned agreement, declaring that the USA would impose fresh sanctions against Iran in two stages.
Since then, a new tension has been observed in the relations between the two countries. By the first days, American officials and the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s speeches indicated that Washington does not intend to launch large-scale military operations against Iran. Pompeo’s subsequent 12 requests for the normalization of the relations with Iran which also included calling Tehran for not to intervene in internal affairs of the region’s countries, and to stop nuclear and ballistic missile programs, as well as to cease its support for terrorist groups, once again were the harbinger of what the US prefers negotiating over engaging in a military intervention with Iran.
In particular, after the US imposed sanctions on Iran’s oil and gas sectors on November 5, 2018, in order to reduce Iran’s oil exports to zero and revenues to a minimum, have so far further exacerbated the tensions between the two. Following statements by Iranian officials and statement that Iran would close down Strait of Hormuz, if they could not export oil, and Washington’s statements based on that they would give a radical response to any attempt for ceasing to operate the Strait, further reinforced the possibility of the occurrence a war between the two countries.
The United States began to thoroughly implement the maximum pressure policy on Tehran, ending the eight waivers on May 2, 2019. Taking into account that more than 70% of Iran’s economy relies on oil incomes, Iranian officials threat to close Hormuz is logical.
The White House decision for the deployment of “USS Abraham Lincoln” aircraft carrier along with bombers (that later identified as B-52) to the Middle East, or to be clear, to the Persian Gulf, after receiving data on Iran-linked threats, showed that the Tramp administration was determined to react harshly to Iran’s threats. Then some of high-ranking statesmen and military officials, as well as Tramp’s National Security Adviser, John Bolton, and the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, stated Washington does not follow the path that would lead to a new war to break out, vice versa the decision was taken to harshly counterattack any sabotage or attack by Iran against US regional allies, as well as its national interests. On the other hand, the fact that the decision to send ” USS Abraham Lincoln” aircraft carrier along with bombers to the region was declared at the same time with the clashes escalated between Israel and the Iran-backed Hamas organization could be considered to affect the decision to be made.

Nowadays, one of the most discussed issues is whether a war between the two sides will occur, considering all these facts and statements.
To predict a total war between Iran and the United States does not seem to be persuasive when evaluating the outbreak of a war between two countries in terms of semiotics. According to the semiotics, generally the following situations take place before clashes escalate between two sides:
Usually, high-ranking officials and army officers from both sides enter into verbal war stage before the occurrence of war. Though coinciding with the tensions in the recent past weeks, either high-ranking Iranian officials including Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader and some commanders of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), or US officials, as well as President Donald Trump have been engaging in verbal war, none of both sides has threatened each other to go to war. Despite the fact that the IRGC commanders have been speaking in a threatening way out against Washington, the US military officials have had fewer comments on the issue, including the Central Intelligence Agency’s chief and Defense Minister.
On the other hand, as such verbal wars have been in existence almost in three decades, it is not logical to seek a trace of the escalation of a new military confrontation in the region.
As well, conditions such as termination of diplomatic relations, territorial claims, and withdrawal from boundary delimitation agreements that are considered to be a sign of the occurrence of a potential war, are currently not being observed between the two countries. Although the diplomatic relations between Tehran and Washington were severed in 1980, none of the sides ever mentioned it a war cause during the past 39 years.
With regard to withdrawal from official documents which are also included as war causes in semiotics, the US officially withdrew from both the nuclear deal on May 8, 2018, declaring fresh sanctions would be imposed on Iran and its oil export, and the friendly agreement signed between the two countries in 1955, during the Pahlavi period. Though those steps by Washington witnessed the aggravation of the tensions, but have not paved the way to any battle to take place between the two sides so far.
According to the semiotics, usually before any war, a limited number of crashes occur. Whereas, following the establishment of theocratic government in Iran in 1979, despite all tensions, the sides have never confronted, except the Operation Praying Mantis on 18 April 1988, in the Persian Gulf, in which 56 Iranian naval forces were killed and caused many material casualties of Iran.
Increasing the number of land forces on the contact line is also considered as a sign of a new war. While America has military contingents stationed in several countries of the region, but the deployment of troops in countries neighboring Iran has never been observed. The main goal lied behind the dispatching of the “USS Abraham Lincoln” aircraft carrier, B-52 Stratofortress strategic bomber and other warfares to the Middle East was to prevent Iran from closing down the Strait of Hormuz, keeping all oil tankers crossing through the strait safe. It was a threat that the US would retaliate harshly on every provocative action taken by Iran.
On the reverse side, in the middle of May, Iranian media outlets including the Islamic Republic News Agency – IRNA published news covering that “the Islamic Republic of Iran will act on the basis of international principles related to peace and security” towards US factual decisions in sending the “USS Abraham Lincoln” aircraft carrier and other warfares to the region. It can be considered the retreat of the Islamic Republic in front of the US.

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