As we await POTUS’ speech to the nation this morning I think there are some things we can know, and others we can reasonably suspect.
First, looking at the general reaction on social media, for and against, statist and haters, there seems to be few that understand what this conflict really is. It is asymmetric, it is not WWIII and cannot be (unless some vastly remote and unlikely set of circumstances play out and that is as likely as snow in Miami).
Asymmetric warfare can describe a conflict in which the resources of two belligerents differ in essence and, in the struggle, interact and attempt to exploit each other’s characteristic weaknesses. In asymmetric warfare, the smaller opponent picks targets, measures action by cost versus gain and above all else crafts operations to ensure it remains in the fight. It requires realism and rationalism and patience. Iran has demonstrated again and again, and specifically last night, that it is capable and willing to play the long game.
For instance, the satellite imagery above from the al-Assad airbase shows that Iranian missiles clearly missed the areas that look to be CHUs (containerized housing units). We now know that the Iranians informed the Iraqis before the attack, knowing full well the Iraqis would tell the Americans. In this way, Iran was fairly certain that troops would have time to seek shelter. We can conclude that this was a saving face response for Iran, they reacted, they were able to claim heavy casualties in their national media, satisfying their populace. They did not kill US soldiers, and apparently not even any Iraqis, therefore it was only a minor escalation.
For Iran, this was strategic, patient and measured. They acted, saved face and put the ball in the US court. This does not mean in the Iranian mind this conflict is over, it simply means that the leadership in Iran is smart enough not to escalate so much as to force a decisive engagement that they cannot win. They will live to fight another day.
Their next actions will be just as measured, whether through proxies or direct action.
If Iran now awaits a US response what might that be?
As reported yesterday, the US has repositioned B-52s to Diego Garcia
By my assessment 5th FLeet has at a minimum seven platforms afloat capable of launching Tomahawk missiles. Certainly, the US could launch a robust cruise missile response, but that would likely be overkill in the optics of international affairs at this point. It would also certainly not be enough to destroy Iranian capability, it would be, just like the Iranian attack a message.
A message will not change the perspective of Iran. They believe, rather firmly, that concession or weakness will lead to regime change efforts. They likely see no option to pull back, a message will not deter them at this point. For the first time in centuries, the Persians are poised to regain ascendancy in the region, this is a do or die time for them. A message will not deter them.
I suspect if Trump is determined to force the issue he will use patience and build forces and force Iran to act next, and only strike when he has sufficient power in the region. We will likely hear Trump proclaim that we are willing to leave but we are showing force in the short-term and that Iran should not act. We shall see.
Update: 11:42 am
based upon the content of POTUS’ speech this seems to have been predictable last evening.
Social media and the MSM will bash him, left and right, but this seemed to me to be perhaps his greatest moment, and I am neither a fan nor a hater. Knee-jerk launching a bunch of missiles would have been the easy answer, this path took patience and wisdom.