- Iran shot down a Ukrainian commercail airliner.
- Iran is dangerous with its nuclear weapons ambitions.
- The US is likely to leave Iraq.
2020 started with mass casualties of innocent lives. Iran shot down a Boeing airplane operated by Ukrainian airlines, resulting in the loss of human lives. The attack happened after the US successfully executed (via drone strike) Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in Iraq. It is plausible to believe Iran was trying to murder the Iranian-Canadians on the plane, considering them traitors for leaving the regime.
Currently, the region is undergoing changes. The Middle East is embroiled in a war of political power divides and the desire for an overhaul of a few key players. The main players are an alliance of the Saudi Arabia and United Emirates dictators on one side (Sunni), and Iran and its supporters on the other (Shiite). The US is not gaining additional traction and Russian President Vladimir Putin has his own ambitions in the region. The fight is for geopolitical control and who will dominate. Thus far a full blown war with Iran has not started. The rhetoric back and forth has included heavy threats towards one another. Iran even moved to list the US as terrorists and an enemy of Iran, claiming they have 35 US areas of interest that could be attacked by the Iranian military. The US responded claiming they may target are 52 sites (including cultural areas). The cultural areas comment was made solely by US President Donald Trump.
The Iranian embassy in Switzerland was used as an intermediary responsible for passing messages between the US and Iran. EU leaders and NATO held emergency meetings pertaining to the volatile situation and the escalation of tensions in the Middle East. The world waited to see what would happen; a myriad of trade and crude prices could have been effected. The possible closure of the Strait of Hormuz could have had serious ramifications. The Strait of Hormuz is a strait between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. It provides the only sea passage from the Persian Gulf to the open ocean and is one of the world’s most strategically important choke points.
Moreover, neighboring nations would suffer losses due to losing tourists. The Saudi Arabian and United Emirates economies would experience a direct impact. Any war would not benefit the US or Iran at this time, especially because 2020 is a presidential election year in the US. As much as Iran wants the US gone from the region, it is not plausible, nor will it happen. As much as there is forced patriotism in Iran, the majority of people are not ready, nor do they want to fight a war with the US. America would win but the casualties and the cost would not be worth it.
One of the biggest questions remains: will the US stay in the Middle East and what strategy will be applied? The US will certainly not leave Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman. The US will more than likely completely leave Iraq, as the Iraqi government just tabled a proposal to end the presence of foreign military personnel. Also, Trump promised during his election to have the US military leave Iraq and Afghanistan. There are already discussion with Russia to supply anti-missile systems. Russia continues to forge ahead in the Middle East and Putin continues to resurrect former Soviet stronghold areas in the region.
During the George W. Bush presidency, Saddam Hussein was removed via a US military operation, which was a very costly error, even though he was a dictator. The costs and casualties of that operation were tremendous. It is highly doubtful the US would want to repeat the scenario in Iran. At the same time, Iran is dangerous with its appetite for nuclear weapons and its alliance with Russia. The recent conflict showed how unstable Iran’s economy could be and it might deter investors. In the long history of tensions between Shiite and Sunni Muslim groups, the tensions are de-escalating for now.