ANALYSIS: The escalating war between Iran and the United States

Islamic Republic activates proxies to strike the US and its allies in the Middle East while trying to disrupt oil transports in the Gulf.

Yochanan Visser ,

Oil tankers pass through Strait of Hormuz
Oil tankers pass through Strait of Hormuz

As I reported on May 22, the war between the United States and Iran has already begun and is now escalating.

The Islamic Republic has activated its proxies in Iraq, Yemen and Syria to strike the US and its allies in the Middle East while trying to disrupt oil transports in the Persian Gulf.

Over the past few weeks, Iran-backed militias launched rocket attacks on US-related targets in Iraq while the Ansar Allah or Houthi militia in Yemen shot down an American drone and repeatedly launched drone attacks on Saudi-Arabia.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) was, furthermore, reportedly behind new attacks against oil tankers in the Persian Gulf.

The attacks on the tankers Kokuka Courageous and the Front Altair which took place in the Gulf of Oman last week caused extensive damage to the vessels while the crew of both tankers remained unharmed.

The holes in the hull of the tankers indicate that Limpet mines were used while the crew of the Front Altair initially reported that the ship was hit by a torpedo or an underwater drone.

According to Sean Kido, the commander of an explosive ordinance dive and salvage task group in the Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) the mines used in the attack on the Kokuka Courageous were made in Iran.

“The limpet mine that was used in the attack is distinguishable and also strikingly bearing a resemblance to Iranian mines that have already been publicly displayed in Iranian military parades" Kido told reporters.

He added that his unit had recovered finger and hand prints from the hull of the Japanese-owned ship.

CENTCOM, the US Central Command in the Middle East, later delivered evidence that IRGC units were present in the area where the oil tankers were hit.

CENTCOM released a video depicting a glass bottom boat full with, what it claims, were members of the IRGC who removed an unexploded mine from the hull of the Kokuka Courageous.

The US Central Command also reported that the same IRGC units had unsuccessfully tried to shoot down a US MQ-9 armed drone which was monitoring the movements of the Iranians with Misagh-2 MANPADS.

On June 6th, the same type of American drone was shot down over Yemen by Ansar Allah which used an Iranian supplied SA-6 surface-to-air missile to down the UAV.

CENTCOM said in a statement that “the altitude of the engagement indicated an improvement over previous Houthi capability, which we assess was enabled by Iranian assistance."

Despite the overwhelming evidence that Iran carried out the latest attacks against unarmed oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman the regime in Tehran continues to deny any involvement in the escalating attacks.

Amir Hatami, Iran’s Defense Minister, told the Iranian news agency IRNA that the evidence delivered by the US was “unsubstantiated”.

"Accusations leveled against Iran’s armed forces and the published film with regards to the incident (that) happened to the vessels ... are unsubstantiated and we categorically reject these accusations," Hatami claimed.

Iran is now pressuring Europe to chose sides in the escalating conflict with the U.S. and is working hard to develop its global terror network in European countries.

The Islamist regime in Tehran has given Europe an ultimatum.

Unless the Europeans help Iran getting relief from the US-led sanction regime the Iranians will breach the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, the 2015 landmark nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers.

Whenever the Europeans don’t comply with this ultimatum Iran will start enriching uranium beyond the limits set in the JCPOA starting June 27.

The Europeans, however, can do little to address the Iranian concerns and aren’t able to force companies into investing in Iran’s economy because those companies will be targeted by US sanctions.

The question is now what will happen next.

There have been unconfirmed reports that the Trump Administration is preparing for a tactical strike on a nuclear-related target in Iran.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo doesn’t rule out military action against Iran and has made clear that the death of a single American service man or woman would trigger a military response,according to The Washington Post.

The Administration, however, does have other tools to up the pressure on Iran before retorting to military action and until now has only deployed 1,000 additional soldiers to the Middle East.

The most important step the US could take is building a global coalition against Iran including China which receives 80 percent of its oil supply via the Persian Gulf.

World powers should unite in confronting Iran over its attacks against unarmed commercial vessels in the Persian Gulf and the first step that should be taken is to protect these ships while they are passing through the waterway, Iran experts think.

The US and its allies should, furthermore, up the cyber attacks on Iran’s military apparatus and work together with Israel, Saudi Arabia and other countries to fold terrorist plots by sharing intelligence, something that is already happening.

From its side, Iran could further escalate the attacks against US-related targets in the Middle East and beyond and further increase its involvement in the Yemenite war.

Control over Yemen, even partly, would give Iran the possibility to disrupt the flow of oil via the Bab el-Mandeb waterway even more and the possibility to increase the pressure on Saudi-Arabia.

Another option is that Iran will activate its proxies to launch an attack against Israel, Ha’aretz analyst Amos Harel reported citing Western and Israeli intelligence sources.

The Israeli government and military are aware of this scenario and are preparing for this possibility according to Harel.