(May 25, 2019) — A crisis in the Middle East is escalating extremely quickly. For the past few weeks, Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton has frantically tried to make war with Iran a foregone conclusion.
A war with Iran would be devastating – likely on a larger scale than even the war in Iraq that Bolton helped engineer 15 years ago.  We must stop him from re-using his Iraq playbook to drag us into yet another catastrophic war in the region – and there’s one critical time-sensitive way you can help.
Congress has the constitutional authority to make — and stop — war, but legislators are not feeling the pressure to act. Our friends at Win Without War and other peace activists are calling on us to change that. We have to turn up the heat before bombs start flying.
The build-up to war is moving fast. On May 5, Bolton issued a statement based on bogus intelligence threatening Iran with an attack.  He promoted a plan to send 120,000 troops to the region. 
Then Bolton’s wingman Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to Brussels to win European support, but failed. 
Then, in an effort seemingly meant to create a sense of urgency, team Trump ordered all non-essential staff out of the US embassy in Baghdad. 
This is an intentional strategy to create the perception of a dramatic new threat that makes war seem inevitable. It isn’t. A British general responsible for joint US/UK operations in the region says, “There’s no increased threat” from Iran.  Germany’s defense ministry says there’s “no concrete threat.”  No other nation is preparing for military intervention.
Bolton is not going to let facts get in the way — he will take us to war if he can. But if we rise to this moment, we can stop a horrific, preventable disaster from unfolding for the Iranian and American people, the region and the world.
TELL CONGRESS: Block War in Iran. The petition to Congress reads:
“Stop Bolton’s war in Iran. Pass S.1039 and H.R. 2354, the Prevention of Unconstitutional War with Iran Act of 2019.”
ACTION: Sign Petition here. [Note: You will receive periodic updates on offers and activism opportunities.]
- Adam Taylor, “A conflict with Iran would not be like the Iraq War. It would be worse.” The Washington Post, May 14, 2019.
- Matt Spetalnick and Idrees Ali, “US deploying carrier, bombers to Middle East to deter Iran: Bolton,” Reuters, May 5, 2019.
- Eric Schmitt and Julian Barnes, “White House Reviews Military Plans Against Iran, in Echoes of Iraq War,” The New York Times, May 13, 2019.
- Al Jazeera and news agencies, “US orders ‘non-emergency government employees’ to leave Iraq,” Al Jazeera, May 15, 2019.
A Conflict with Iran Would Not Be Like the Iraq War. It Would Be Worse
(May 14, 2019) — Judging from appearances, the United States and Iran are worryingly close to conflict. This weekend, only days after the United States dispatched warships and bombers to the Middle East to deter what it deemed Iranian threats, two Saudi oil tankers and a Norwegian ship were damaged in apparent acts of sabotage in the Persian Gulf.
The dispute between a US administration led by a tough-talking Republican president and an embattled but antagonistic Middle Eastern power has reminded many observers of the run-up to the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 — a move that, in the years since, has been widely condemned as disastrous for all involved.
Even some of the characters in this apparent remake are the same: John Bolton, President Trump’s national security adviser, played a key role in President George W. Bush’s buildup to the Iraq invasion as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security.
Bolton’s actions at the time earned him a reputation as reckless. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif appeared to allude to him on Tuesday, telling reporters that “extremist individuals in the US administration” were falsely trying to blame Iran for the incidents in the Persian Gulf.
Despite the similarities, a conflict with Iran would not simply be a redux of the 2003 war with Iraq. It would be quite different in many ways — and it would almost certainly be substantially worse. Present-day Iran is a significantly different country compared to Iraq in 2003. The way it would fight a war is very different, too.
If nothing else, Iran is simply a bigger country than Iraq was before the 2003 invasion. At the time, Iraq’s population was about 25 million. Iran’s population is estimated to be more than 82 million. Iran spans 591,000 square miles of land, compared with Iraq’s 168,000 square miles.
One estimate from 2005 suggested the Iraqi army had fewer than 450,000 personnel when the invasion began. Recent estimates suggest that Iran has 523,000 active military personnel, as well as 250,000 reserve personnel.
Just as important, however, is Iran’s location. Unlike Iraq, Iran is a maritime power bordered by the Caspian sea to the north and the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman to the south. It shares land borders with several troubled US allies, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey and Iraq.
Its location in the center of Eurasia is particularly important for trade. About a third of the world’s oil tanker traffic passes through the Strait of Hormuz, which is bordered by Iran and Oman. At its narrowest point, this shipping route is just under two miles wide. Blocking it could lead shipments of daily global oil exports to drop by an estimated 30 percent.
In terms of conventional military strength, Iran is far weaker than the United States. But the country has long pursued asymmetric strategies that could allow it to inflict serious damage on US interests in the region.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, a force loyal to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and separate from the regular military, has an external special operations arm known as the Quds Force that has helped build proxy forces in places such as Iraq, Lebanon and Syria. It funds militias such as Hezbollah, which is powerful in its own right.
Iran has used these type of groups to target Americans before. Earlier this year, a revised Pentagon estimate found Iranian proxy forces had killed at least 608 US troops in Iraq between 2003 and 2011. Iranian proxies could cause havoc in Iraq and Afghanistan again.
Iran’s navy has a real advantage against the United States, too. It doesn’t need big ships or firepower to block off the Strait of Hormuz, for example, but could use mines or submarines to force a halt in trade.
US war games have suggested that speedboat suicide attacks and missiles could be surprisingly effective against the American military. A 2017 report from the Office of Naval Intelligence found that the navy of the Revolutionary Guard, which is distinct from Iran’s regular navy and focuses on smaller and faster but still heavily armed vessels, had received more responsibilities to protect the Persian Gulf.
Then there’s Iran’s ballistic missile program, which the Missile Threat Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies describes as “the largest and most diverse missile arsenal in the Middle East.” The threat from Iranian missile technology extends beyond the country’s borders, too: Hezbollah is thought to have an arsenal of 130,000 rockets.
If the United States were to engage in a military conflict with Iran, it would probably require significant manpower that would otherwise be used to check bigger powers such as China or Russia.
The New York Times reported Monday that Trump’s acting defense secretary, Patrick Shanahan, drew up plans to deploy 120,000 US troops to the region if Iran attacks American forces or restarts its nuclear program; this was based on a scenario that did not involve an invasion, which would require more troops.
The invasion of Iraq involved 150,000 US troops, along with tens of thousands from allied nations. The financial cost of the Iraq War was pegged at over $2 trillion in 2013, with about 400,000 people estimated to have been killed between 2003 and 2011.
American military planners know all this. However, the US government cannot say that there are no good options to militarily engage Iran, because doing so would take the threat of military action off the table and diminish the pressure that it hopes to maintain on Tehran.
It’s a risky strategy that has even some of America’s closest allies worried.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.