U.S. and Iran on edge: Misjudgments could trigger wider war

Written by Jeppe W

Nov.30 - 2023 12:11 PM CET

Photo: Shutterstock.com
Photo: Shutterstock.com

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As tensions between the U.S. and Iran continue to simmer, officials in both countries are expressing concerns about the potential for a miscalculation that could lead to a larger conflict, especially in the wake of escalating hostilities in the Gaza Strip.

The ongoing strife has been marked by over 70 rocket and drone attacks by Iranian-backed militias against U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria. In response, the Pentagon has conducted four rounds of airstrikes, resulting in up to 15 casualties.

The primary concern among national security officials is the risk of a miscalculation amid these tit-for-tat attacks. Both sides believe the other does not want a larger fight, but this perception could inadvertently trigger a regional conflict. This comes just two years after the United States ended its 20-year military involvement in the Middle East and South Asia.

Despite the recent U.S. reprisal attacks, there has been no significant escalation, even after an attack in Iraq killed several militants with Kataib Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed group.

However, U.S. military commanders and intelligence agencies remain vigilant, monitoring Iran and its supported groups, which include Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen, and militias in Iraq and Syria.

A U.S. Navy warship in the southern Red Sea recently shot down a drone fired from Yemen, indicating the ongoing threats in the region.

Vali Nasr, an Iran expert, warns that the current conflict could be just the beginning of a much larger issue, especially if Israel expands its campaign to encompass Hezbollah or targets Iran’s nuclear program.

U.S. defense officials believe Iran is using these militia attacks as a warning of what might happen to U.S. troops and interests in the region if the current conflict escalates.

The Biden administration is striving for a strategy of deterrence, deploying military assets to the region. However, this approach is constantly evaluated as the situation evolves.

Some U.S. Congressional members have criticized the military response as insufficient, arguing that it might encourage more aggressive actions by Iran and its proxies.

As the U.S. continues to maintain a significant troop presence in Iraq and Syria, the risks of further escalation remain a concern for policymakers and military officials alike.

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