Former CIA officer Sam Faddis recently wrote a piece here on SOFREP entitled, “The Coming War with Iran.”  Contrary to the article’s title, and even to some of the admittedly bellicose language within the piece (whether justified or not), Mr. Faddis was not advocating for a war with Iran.  The thrust of the article, rather, was that the Obama administration’s approach to Iran was born out of weakness and was ultimately feckless, and placed the United States closer to a war with the Islamic Republic.

Mr. Faddis’ last sentence in the article sums up his thesis:

We have allowed a very old and very dangerous enemy out of its cage and filled it with confidence and resolve. The challenge now is to regain control of the situation and restore an appropriate balance of power in the Middle East without ending up in a shooting war.”

If one reads this closing passage with a discerning eye — and the whole piece for that matter — Mr. Faddis is not calling for a war with Iran.  He is stating that conditions are pushing us there, especially as the newly-arrived Trump administration has put Iran “on notice,” and thus drawn a fresh new red line, even if it is a fuzzy and undefined one.

This article will not argue against Mr Faddis’ thesis, which is probably — and frighteningly — in large part correct.  Rather, this author will make the case that the United States should work to avoid a shooting war with Iran, if at all possible.

In looking at any national security and geostrategic issue, one must first start with the nation’s grand strategy.  In other words, what is our ultimate strategic approach to the region, and the world, and how does our approach to Iran fit into that grand strategy.  This article would argue that our strategy in the region is three-fold:

  • First, we want stability in the region, which supplies much of the world’s petroleum, and is home to many of the world’s more intractable political conflicts.  It behooves no country, especially the world’s sole hegemonic superpower, for the “Middle East” (southwest Asia) to erupt into yet another full-blown war.
  • Secondly, preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power is paramount to U.S. interests, as the regime is currently inherently threatening to both America and our allies in the region.
  • Third, America should seek to prevent Islamic extremist groups residing in and emanating from the region — including Hezbollah — from threatening U.S. interests worldwide.

Stated in the simplest terms, a war of choice with Iran blows apart all of these strategic aims.  The region would explode into a multilateral conflict, pitting Shia versus Sunni, U.S. versus Russian, and other unforeseen interests against one another.  The region would also be inflamed even more than it already is.

Secondly, Iran would move at-speed to restart its nuclear weapons program, in order to use a weapon as a defense against regime collapse and overthrow by the United States.  Furthermore, there is the real possibility of tactical nuclear weapons being used on the battlefield by the regime, including against Israel.