Consequently, as the first anniversary of Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear accord approaches, the action-reaction spiral the administration set in motion with its maximum pressure campaign has produced a very ominous situation—one in which the risk of military confrontation grows by the day.
Thousands of U.S. troops and Iranian-backed forces operate in close proximity to one another in Iraq, Syria, and the crowded waters of the Persian Gulf. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates continue to pursue their air campaign against Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen despite international outrage over the world’s worst humanitarian disaster there. And Israel regularly conducts military strikes against Iranian arms shipments and infrastructure in Syria. In this volatile context, the scenarios for an intentional or inadvertent U.S.-Iran war are legion.
If Iran or its proxies respond to U.S. pressure in ways that draw American blood or deal a major blow to critical oil infrastructure in the region, things could quickly get out of hand. Unlike in the latter years of the Obama administration, there are currently no high-level lines of communication between Washington and Tehran to manage a crisis. And hard-liners on all sides seem keen for a fight, looking for opportunities to escalate, rather than de-escalate, tensions.