Why the United States Will Not Strike Iran Now

By Ali Younes

The reasons that there will be no US war or military strike against Iran, in the near future, and under the current political environment, are that the US military command, under the guidance of its political leadership, is implementing a strategy of “deterrence” to prevent Iran from continuing its nuclear program. This strategy is based on the latest US military concept of “Joint Operations” which was released on 15 January 2009.

The key question here, moreover, is what will be the purpose of a military strike against Iran? Will it end the Iranian nuclear program forever, or delay it by few years then eventually and perhaps go for regime change similar to the Iraqi scenario. Such options will not bring about, if not impossible, the desired change the US and Israel wants in Iran. The only option remains is “convincing” the Iranian leadership that its nuclear program is not in its best interests. Iran, however, is also developing its own counterstrategy of “convincing” and “Deterrence” against the US and Israel, by having its own forward operating bases in the Levant, Iraq and Afghanistan. Such bases and influence can serve Iran politically and military should the US and or Israel decides to attack Iran.

When US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, (CJCS) Admiral Mike Mullen said on NBC’s Meet the Press last Sunday that “Allowing Iran to develop nuclear weapons is unacceptable” and that the US has plans to attack Iran if needed to prevent it. His statement generated a perception among the countries in the Middle East that a US and possibly Israeli attack on Iran is imminent.

It is worth noting, however, that Admiral Mullen statement regarding Iran’s nuclear program is not new and does not reflect a new US position with regards to launch or not to launch a military strike against Iran. General David Petraeus, the former commander of CENTCOM, and now the Commanding General of US forces in Afghanistan said the same thing late last year. That too generated fear in the Arab World that a US attack on Iran was on the table. Adm. Mullen did not say these words and Gen. Petraeus before him for nothing.

According to the “Capstone Concept for Joint Operations” which was signed by CJCS Mike Mullen, it states that; “Defending the national interests requires not only being able to prevail in conflict, but also deterring potential adversaries who might threaten the vital interests of the United States or its partners.

“Deterrence”, the concept continues, “convinces potential adversaries not to take threatening actions by influencing their decision making.” Indeed, several US officials including Vice president Joe Biden who said last year that the United States will understand if Israel decided to launch a military strike against Israel.

Biden and the US military commanders “threatening” statements against Iran, including using the Israeli power as leverage, were designed, in accordance with Capstone, to “convincing those adversaries [Iran] that a contemplated action [its military nuclear program] will not achieve the desired results, that the cost of such action will be too great, or that an acceptable situation can be achieved without it—or some combination of the three.”

In other words, the current US strategy aims to prevent Iran from developing  a nuclear weapons program through deterrence in the form of economic and military sanctions and by convincing the Iranian leadership by way of influencing  their thinking (psychologically) that the costs are too great for them should they choose to continue with their nuclear program. The Iranian leadership will be influenced to think, as part of the “Deterrence” concept, that should they relent and abandon their nuclear ambitions, “an acceptable situation can be achieved without it.”

In addition the above mentioned reasons, the domestic US political environment is not in the mood for another potential war in the Middle East while the country’s military is set on retrograding or redeployment footing from both Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the current US strategy, the US combat troops are scheduled to withdraw from Iraq by the end of this month and completely out of Iraq by the end of 2011. The timing is perfectly set to give the president time to prepare for the midterm and run a clean 2012 presidential elections.

Given that by the end of this month, the US mission in Iraq will shift from “combat to training and advisory role” shows that the US is unlikely to attempt to launch military strikes against Iran, at least in the near future, from the Gulf waters or by its B-1B, or the stealthy B-2 strategic bombers. During the height of the war in Iraq the B-1B bombers maintained permanent airborne positions in order to provide a rapid precision bombardment on high value targets. This is no longer the situation.

The same scenario in terms of strategic weapons redeployment from the region will also be applied to Afghanistan when the US troops will start its drawdown next year.

Nevertheless, the US still has immense capabilities to launch ICBMs or Submarine based missiles as well as its stealthy B-2 strategic bombers from either the Diego Garcia air base in the Indian Ocean or direct from Whiteman Air Force base in Missouri in the United States, with multiple refueling.

More, the current operating environment in the region is not conducive to wage a successful military strike with manageable repercussions for the US interests in the region and its allies and partners. Gulf Arab states, will most likely be the biggest losers should the US decides to attack Iran. The current US administration does not appear to be keen on disrupting the stability of its oil producing Arab allies and partners in the Gulf which in that case will further damage the weak global economy and along with it the US economy. 

– Ali Younes is a defense and policy analyst based in Washington D.C. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: ali.younes@charter.net.

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