The Russians must be excited about the burbling Iran crisis, which has set the Middle East chessboard back a decade or so. Under a questionable pretext, the Trump administration has somehow reworked the ‘Axis of Evil’ paradigm that led to George W. Bush’s foreign policy magnum opus: the invasion of Iraq. The White House has advanced the notion that Iran is the world’s biggest producer of terrorism. But, unlike Iraq in 2003, crippled by some of the toughest sanctions the UN has ever enforced, Iran has recently acquired a powerful S-300 missile defense system from Russia. The Russians are eager to show off their military industry’s capabilities, and President Trump could end up giving them a persuasive endorsement should he persist in reversing the United States’ commitment to the Iran nuclear deal.
President Trump and his generals must consider the inherent risks in threatening – let alone attacking – Iran. Under the Iran nuclear deal that Obama approved, Tehran can maintain some nuclear facilities that American inspectors visit as they see fit. Nuclear weapons require 90% enriched uranium; the agreement limits enrichment to 3%. Though President Trump criticizes it, many would argue that it’s a good deal considering Washington’s geopolitical restrictions.
The other option would be a strike on Iran’s centrifuges – a risky gamble, and one that could cause Iran to redouble its efforts to achieve nuclear weapons-grade uranium and develop a weapon in order to deter future attacks.
A worsening military outlook
It’s doubtful that the Trump administration could achieve any military breakthrough amidst the current state of Russo-Iranian entente. Russia has the power to prevent the conversation from even beginning in the first place. It did just that last summer, when it used the Iranian airbase of Hamadan to deploy its Tu-22 strategic bombers to run missions over Syria; it could deploy them again along with other planes. Now that the U.S. is threatening military action once again, Russia’s potential use of an Iranian airbase represents a formidable deterrent for Iran. Accordingly, any American aggression against the Islamic Republic would affect Russia, implicating it either directly or indirectly in the conflict.