Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has dismissed the idea that Washington was preparing to strike Iranian nuclear facilities as "speculation" following a report by following a report citing senior security sources by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation saying that such strikes may come as soon as sometime in August.
The news comes after the appearance of a narrative-style article in the National Interest late last month speculating that the US may launch an Iraq-style "Operation Iranian Freedom" in 2026 after the US finds 'irrefutable evidence' that Iran is enriching weapons-grade uranium and launches a ground campaign from the former state of Iraq, which has split at this point into Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish-controlled statelets.
Welcome to 2026 (and the U.S. Is About to Invade Iran): Operation Iranian Freedom https://t.co/xBq8MEcRDW— National Interest (@TheNatlInterest) 29 июля 2018 г.
Speaking to Sputnik Persian about these scenarios, Dr. Seyed Hadi Afghahi, Middle Eastern affairs expert and former official at the Iranian embassy in Lebanon, commented on their realism in light of recent events in the region.
"For starters, the scenario of a military invasion [described by the National Interest] is only a fantasy of its authors and is not backed by any documentary evidence," Afghahi said. "Secondly, the conditions in the region for implementing such an invasion scenario by the Americans and their allies (be it the British, the French or even the Saudis) are not favorable," he added. "Moreover, neither the Americans nor any European powers really believe that an attack on Iran would 'tame it' or 'put it in its place'…"
According to the analyst, Washington currently faces a much more urgent problem. "When Donald Trump threatened to cut off the exports of Iranian oil, he received a threat in response. Our political and military leadership has indicated that even before the start of such an oil embargo, Iran would close the Strait of Hormuz," i.e. the choke point between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman through which some 20 percent of the world's crude oil supplies flow.
Some regional oil exporters are already facing problems related to security, Afghahi noted. "Saudi Arabia recently suspended oil exports through Bab-el-Mandeb," (the strait situated between Yemen and Djibouti) "due to rocket attacks by Yemen against Saudi oil tankers. All this is taking place even before the coming US oil embargo against Iran and the closure of the Strait of Hormuz."
Pointing to the increasingly hostile rhetoric coming from both sides, the former diplomat stressed that the fate of the Hormuz Strait was "a very sensitive issue which could plunge the whole region into a military conflict which would bring absolutely no benefit to the US. If this happens, the US would be to blame, given that they have come here from across the ocean and are trying to foment unrest in the Strait. If a clash does occur, it will not be limited to Iran and the US. Many countries and jihadist groups from various countries will enter into the fray," Afghahi warned.
A Divided Iraq?
As far as the National Interest scenario's assumption about the division of Iraq into several separate entities were concerned, Afghahi argued that these weren't far off from Washington's actual strategy.
"For the Americans, the division of Iraq is an important question. They have carefully sought to implement it, but have not succeeded so far. First they created Daesh (ISIS)*, which they wanted to use to create a Sunni quasi-state. In the space of just over two years, Daesh collapsed, having been defeated by the Iraqi government army, the Iranian military and the Popular Mobilization Forces [an umbrella group consisting of 40 Iraqi militias]."
Later Afghahi noted, "the Americans decided to take a chance and bet on the Kurds. Even before Daesh was defeated and Mosul freed, [Iraqi Kurdish leader] Masoud Barzani decided to declare Iraqi Kurdistan's complete independence from the government in Baghdad, and a referendum was called. But the Iraqi central government, as well as Iran, Syria and Turkey, opposed such a scenario, given that it would signal the start of a series of complex and dangerous events affecting the territorial integrity of all four countries."
"In the end, the Iraqi army and the Popular Mobilization Forces moved in the direction of autonomy for Iraqi Kurdistan, and literally snatched Kirkuk, one of the largest oil and gas fields in the world, from Barzani. The Kurdish leader retreated. Therefore, today, the question of dividing Iraq into separate states has become impossible, despite American wishes," Afghahi said.
According to the analyst, US pressure aimed at weakening and dividing Iraq will continue, as evidenced most recently by the Electoral Commission's failure to declare an official winner to the May 2018 elections, which saw the victory of the forces of the so-called front of resistance opposing the US presence. "Without confirmation that the elections took place, a parliament composed of the winners cannot be created, and the country's leaders – the president and the prime minister, cannot be chosen…The American plan for Iraq is to plunge the country into a 'tunnel of darkness', with a paralyzed government without a president or ministers."
Ultimately, Afghahi warned that should the US attempt to use Iraq as a jumping off point for an invasion of Iran, the Iraqi government army and the Popular Mobilization Forces would help to repulse it.
The views expressed by Dr. Seyed Hadi Afghahi are those of the speaker, and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.
* A terrorist group banned in Russia and many other countries.