Nuechterlein wrote that misplaced attentions in the George W. Bush administration led to the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks, and welcomed that this was not the case for Donald Trump who faces three potential flash point crises: North Korea, Russia, and Iran.
However, he quickly eliminated North Korea or Russia as the next fire that would need putting out, thanks to the deployment of US troops and regional support from China and deployment of US and NATO troops respectively.
Nuechterlein wrote: “Iran is a different challenge. And unless Tehran changes course, it may trigger an armed confrontation with American forces in Iraq and the Persian Gulf.”
He highlighted that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) uses paramilitary units to support Shiite forces in Lebanon, Yemen, Syria and Iraq and undermine pro-US governments in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the Arab Gulf States, Jordan and Egypt.
He notes that the IRGC only ever have to answer to the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, and therefore lack any real accountability in the Iranian Regime. Their crimes are encouraged by Khamenei, who only seeks to extend his power because with power comes money.
Iran and the US regularly clash in the Persian Gulf, where two important American overseas air and naval bases reside. Iranian speedboats, most often under control of the IRGC, will fire upon or otherwise threaten US warships in the Gulf.
Nuechterlein wrote: “Neighbouring Iraq, however, is the most dangerous flash point for conflict between Washington and Tehran. This emerges as ISIS is driven from major cities, including the newly liberated Mosul. Iraq’s Shiite militias, bolstered by Iranian Special Forces, plan to fill the political vacuum left in liberated areas and push Iraq into Tehran’s embrace. Baghdad’s moderate prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, will be powerless against this outcome unless Saudi Arabia and other Arab states fully support U.S. actions to back his government and Iraq’s new army.”
Indeed, most defence experts agree it was a mistake for the US to withdraw its troops from Iraq in 2012 because of just this issue. As a result, Washington changed tack in 2016 and now over 5,000 advisers, trainers and intelligence specialists are stationed there.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who served in Iraq, said that more troops may be needed to stabilize Iraq and stop Iran from taking over.
Mattis has previously called Iran “the most destabilizing influence in the Middle East”.
While Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently told a congressional committee that the Iranian Regime plans to extend “its hegemony” in the Persian Gulf at the expense of Saudi Arabia.
He said: “Our policy toward Iran, [is to] push back on this hegemony [and work] toward supporting those elements inside Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of that government.”