The Next Gulf War

By, Issam Khoury

The report in Arabic: حرب الخليج القادمة

The detention of the Iranian oil tanker in the Strait of Gibraltar early in July 2019, the preventing of providing oil tankers[1] to Iran in ports in compliance with US sanctions, the unified Western media critical discourse of Iran’s policy in the nuclear file, the  economic sanctions on Iranian banks and companies dealing with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the series of sanctions against Hezbollah figures and the banks that deal with this party, and Washington’s decision to end commitment to Iran’s nuclear deal all together have pushed Iran to status of alert and anticipation of a war that will end Iran’s dreams to be a regional significant power in the Middle East .

This series of such sanctions is accompanied by regional changes in the Middle East, the most prominent of which are the following:

1 – Although the UAE army is the most important and effective party in the international coalition against the Houthis in Yemen[2]

It pulled between 70-75% of its troops out from Yemen mid-July 2019 under the pretext of needing to give a platform for political negotiation with the Houthis. Certainly, such a pretext is not convincing, as the UAE military experts are still there training Yemenis against Houthis, just in a smaller amount. UAE withdrawal from Yemen could be intended to mobilize its military and intelligence capabilities towards the east, especially as Iran began the detention of UAE and British ships in the Strait of Hormuz in response to Britain’s detention of the Iranian oil carrier in Gibraltar.

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If the Iranian regime collapsed, the Houthis in Yemen would lose their most prominent allies, and this will be a victory for the UAE and Saudi Arabia. So, the Emirates put its army and intelligence within an international coalition to protect maritime navigation in the Strait of Hormuz. Such an alliance would urge operating power to ensure the safety of ships sailing through the Bab al-Mandab Strait where Houthi – and the Iranians behind – play a significant role in threatening the marine navigation.

2- Strengthening Gulf – Israeli relations:

GCC-Israeli relations have witnessed diplomatic courtship starting with the participation of an Israeli sport team in Abu Dhabi in the end of October 2018[3], reaching the climax of relations when a peace meeting between Israelis and Arabs was organized in Bahrain ” Manama ” on 25-26 June 2019, sponsored by Kouchner[4], the son-in-law of US President, through the so-called Century Deal.

Israeli sports team/ Abu Dhabi / 2018

Whether there is peace between Arab gulf countries and Israel or not, both the gulf and the Israeli sides have an interest in reducing Iranian influence in the Middle East. This mutual interest may allow the Israelis to use the Gulf airspace to protect global maritime navigation and prevent the Iranian threat to the global economy.

3 – The British Conservative Party and Iran:

The British have always been considered the policy engineers for the Middle East. And, after the departure of Prime Minister Mai from power and Boris Johnson assumed his position as the new prime minister, Johnson launched tough criticism against the leader of the opposition Labor Party, Jeremy Corbyn, in front of the members of the House of Commons on 25th of July, 2019, accusing him of befriending the mullahs of Iran and taking a stand against the interests of the British Kingdom in its alliance with the United States[5] .

Johnson is known for his outright hostility to the Islamic Republic of Iran and for his respect for the Republican Party of the US. Before issuing this indictment, a British minesweeper had arrived at the Gulf waters. This move from the British was made in case the Iranians decided to deploy marine mines freely to close Strait of Hormuz, to negotiate with the Americans not to bomb them.

 4- Raids of Israelis air on Syria and Iraq:

The policy of retaining the right to respond, that has been so long echoed by the army commander of the armed forces, Bashar al – Assad, after each Israeli strike on Syrian territory did not stop Israel from proceeding to bombard the vital spots of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Syria. Israel’s next move occurred on 18th July/ 2019 when it bombed sites of the Popular Mob in the province of Salah al-Din[6].

5 – The new US bases in Iraq:

The Iraqi News Channel “Al Iraqiah” reported on Sunday, 6 January 2019 the intention of Washington to set three new US bases as follows:

The first base will be in the Baiji district inside the Chinese base near the refinery headquarters of the former brigade 14. 

The second base will be in the Fatha area, named ” second regiment” previously.

The third base will be located in (K 1) in Kirkuk province.

Of course, this approach from Washington shows the concern of the Pentagon and the US oil companies to strengthen their presence in the Middle East to fight terrorism first and to protect American interests in Iraq second.

The decrease of US military presence in Iraq during Obama’s administration has led to the growing influence of Iran there and also of the religious parties backed by Tehran mullahs in parliament and in the Iraqi government.

6 – The resuming of training of the Syrian opposition of the Al-Tanf[7] who are supported by Washington in May 2019, after that training has been suspended on 2017.

Iran’s actual power:

The Iranian regime is a totalitarian religious system, and its military power is concentrated in the following axes:

1- Ballistic missiles[8]:

Iran launched a ballistic missile on July 26, 2019, with a range of 1,000 km, with the intention to tell the international force that it possesses deterrent force in the event of an attack. However, Iran’s missile arsenal is small in the face of the military force that is watching Iran, be it USA or Israel, where Netanyahu recently announced on Sunday, 28 July 2019, in front of his government, his country ‘s success in cooperation with Washington on the test of  Arrow 3 System for air defense through experiments conducted in the state of Alaska[9] . This system is capable of destroying ballistic missiles outside the atmosphere, Netanyahu said: “Today Israel has the capabilities to act against ballistic missiles launched at us from Iran and from anywhere else. All our foes should know that we can best them, both defensively and offensively[10].”

And, it is certain that Russia will not support Iran in this regard. It may employ (The S-400 Triumph) deployed in Syria to protect Israel from Iranian missiles under the pretext of protecting Jewish civilians. Moscow, in spite of its cooperation with Tehran in Syria, is a reliable partner for the Israelis. The shared capital of Zionists in Russia is large and makes Israel an effective State in the Kremlin.

Photo: The USS Devastator, a Navy minesweeper, is pulled into position as it arrives in Bahrain in 2012. (Jayme Pastoric/U.S. Navy)

2 – A naval mine:

Iran is certainly capable of closing the Strait of Hormuz through the dissemination of naval mines[11], and this presents a very complex situation since no country with a minesweeper can conduct a thorough sweep of the Arabian/ Persian Gulf. But, if the war against Iran breaks out, all commercial ships will leave the Arabian Gulf, and with such departure, it may take three months to secure shipping in this Gulf, which will be according to one of the following two scenarios:

The first: punitive airstrikes on Iran, resulting in political negotiations. One of its most prominent outputs would be that Iran removes its naval mine and remove its ballistic missiles off the west coast of the Arabian / Persian Gulf.

Second: launching a comprehensive war aiming at overthrowing the Iranian regime, and, if such thing happened, the new leaders in Tehran would force the defeated military leaders to disclose the mine maps and where they are deployed. That may make the new Tehran government, backed by the US and other western countries, pay the cost of war against Iran and the cost of demining conducted by international demining companies.

“We are eager to operate if called upon,” the officer aboard one of the Persian Gulf ships said. “We’ll operate the systems as best as they can operate. My concern is the ships are old and, like any old ship, they break.”

The Avenger-class ships were built in the late 1980s and early ’90s and slated for retirement years ago. But their retirement date has been continually delayed because the service still doesn’t have a working replacement. The Navy’s latest estimate is that the ships will all be decommissioned by fiscal year 2023.[12]

3 – Sectarian militias and suicide bombers  

Iran ‘s revolutionary guards and specifically Qods Force managed to train thousands of sectarian Shiites in order to form multiple battalions ( like  Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iraq, Liwa Fatemiyoun[13], Popular Mobilization Forces[14], Houthi movement[15], Liwa al-Imam al-Hussein[16]..) and also contributed to the training of Sunni jihadist radicals such as  (Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine[17], Hamas[18], Mumtaz Dughmush Group [19]).

This sectarian radical force is inspired by sectarian ideology to hate Americans and Israelis, so it is very easy to recruit such fighters to carry out suicide attacks on American bases in the Middle East; and, certainly these suicide operations will not be in the Arabian Gulf but will be in Iraq and Syria, specifically the Al-Tanf base, near the areas under the influence of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC. (

The Al-Tanf Base[20] may be the most exposed area for such operations if the Iranian Revolutionary Guard decides to carry them out. In the north-east of Syria and Kurdistan of Iraq, there are many defensive points by the People’s Protection Units[21], and the Peshmerga[22] forces which would impede the arrival of these suicide bombers to areas of US military concentration; but, in Al-Tanf area, the Syrian opposition does not have such a large presence.

The number of civilians at al-Rukban camp[23], which is adjacent to the Al-Tanf base, is less than 40,000, and the Syrian militias loyal to Washington in that region are limited to the Eastern Lions, Free Army of the Clans, Martyr Ahmed al-‘Abdu” – all of who are residents from al- Rukban camp. Washington acknowledges this risk, prompting it to retrain and arm the militia in early May 2019, after they had suspended its project in supporting and arming the Syrian opposition in July 2017.

Survey Predictions:

Americans are not in a hurry to declare war against Iran, and the best time for announcing it would be in spring or summer next year, when such a war may be a good leverage point for President Trump to use in the 2020 elections. Leveraging this war will bring him backing from all the pro-Israeli lobby research centers in Washington, in addition to arms and oil companies. We now see Trump’s tweets on social media focused on criticizing Iran ‘s regime and on possibly reforming the US’s relationship with Tehran if Tehran first agrees to changes in the nuclear deal. His tweets also discuss demanding rich countries such as ( Saudi Arabia, Japan, and China) to provide financial support for the US Army, which will protect navigation in the Arabian/ Persian Gulf. This will make it that the cost of the war will not be paid by the USA but by those countries which will participate in the International Coalition to Protect Maritime Navigation.

US sent 1500 solders to Syria in the Memorial Day , Directed by, Issam Khoury
NEW YORK – 2019

Iran, in turn, has realized that Washington will not act alone against it and is establishing an international coalition that will take several months; this will be dangerous and possibly even a repeat of what happened to Iraq in 2003. Tehran, in anticipation to the possible collective action against it, is provoking Washington and Britain to carry out limited punitive strikes against it so that Washington will retaliate on a small level only: and then no further, larger-scale action will be taken against Iran.

As the plan of the Iranians seems to be exposed to Washington, Washington will not be dragged into a limited war with Tehran. The demands of Washington for Republicans are high:

1.  Tehran renounces its nuclear program.

2.  Iran abandons the development of its ballistic missile program.

3.  Tehran stops supporting radical religious militias throughout the Middle East.

Of course, these demands mean, in short, the suspension of Iran’s program to export the Iranian Islamic revolution outside Iran. It also means the end of years of efforts of the Iranian government, which is impossible to accept by Qom’s Sheikhs and the Supreme Leader of the Iranian Revolution, as well as by the Conservative Party and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards there. So, Iran will most likely not comply with Washington’s demands, which will push the latter to begin a major war that will end the Tehran regime and bring a democratic government to Iran.

Syria-Iranian protest front UN in NY, Sep 20.2016, with around 2,000 demonstrators/ Directed by, Issam Khoury

Washington and Europe today have a reasonable and organized alternative to the Iranian opposition: (The National Council of Iranian Resistance[24]), whose most significant pillar is the People’s Mujahedin of Iran[25]. The People’s Mujahedin of Iran is active in organizing frequent demonstrations against Iran throughout the world after they were cleared of terrorism in Europe in September 2011, and also the USA cleared them in  September 2012.

Translator: NAHID ALSAYED SULEIMAN

Editing and proofreading by, Issam Khoury, Joseph Shaham


[1] A tanker is a ship designed to transport or store liquids or gases in bulk. Major types of tankship include the oil tanker, the chemical tanker, and gas carrier.
[2] The United Arab Emirates sent at least 5,000 troops to Yemen to train and lead a mélange of pro-government troops and militias, have wanted out for some time now. They say the United Arab Emirates has sharply cut its deployment of men, attack helicopters and heavy guns around the Red Sea port of Hudaydah, the main battleground last year. A shaky United Nations-mediated cease-fire in Hudaydah that came into effect last December provided the excuse and a reason to pull back.  (Follow the Emiratis’ Lead, Out of Yemen/ NY-Times/ July 15, 2019).
[3] Flying own flag, three Israelis win bronze at Abu Dhabi judo tourney/ The Times of Israel/ 28 October 2018.
[4] Bahrain conference showcases Israeli ties with Gulf states
Read more: https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2019/06/israel-gulf-states-bahrain-saudi-arabia-iran-palestinians.html#ixzz5vqrYPeBo
[5]https://iranintl.com/ar/%D8%A5%D9%8A%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%86/%D8%A8%D9%88%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%B3-%D8%AC%D9%88%D9%86%D8%B3%D9%88%D9%86-%D9%8A%D8%AA%D9%87%D9%85-%D8%B1%D8%A6%D9%8A%D8%B3-%D8%AD%D8%B2%D8%A8-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B9%D9%85%D8%A7%D9%84-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A8%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%B7%D8%A7%D9%86%D9%8A-%D8%A8%D9%80%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%A8%D8%B9%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D9%84%D9%85%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%8A-%D8%A5%D9%8A%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%86
[6] https://aawsat.com/home/article/1821021/%D9%82%D8%B5%D9%81-%D9%85%D8%B9%D8%B3%D9%83%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D8%B4%D8%AF-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B4%D8%B9%D8%A8%D9%8A-%D9%81%D9%8A-%D8%B4%D9%85%D8%A7%D9%84-%D8%A8%D8%BA%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%AF
[7] Al-Tanf, also known as “At Tanf”, is a United States military base in Syria’s Homs Governorate located 24 km west of the al-Tanf border crossing in the Syrian Desert
[8] While Iran has not yet tested or deployed a missile capable of striking the United States, it continues to hone longer-range missile technologies under the auspices of its space-launch program. In addition to increasing the quantity of its missile arsenal, Iran is investing in qualitative improvements to its missiles’ accuracy and lethality. Iran has also become a center for missile proliferation, supplying proxies such as Hezbollah and Syria’s al-Assad regime with a steady supply of missiles and rockets, as well as local production capability. https://missilethreat.csis.org/country/iran/
[9] Arrow-3 missiles successfully took out target missiles in high-altitude, hit-to-kill test engagements conducted at the Pacific Spaceport Complex-Alaska in Kodiak. The tests were a joint effort between the Israel Missile Defense Organization of the Directorate of Defense Research and Development and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency. https://www.defensenews.com/pentagon/2019/07/28/us-israels-arrow-3-missile-put-to-the-test-in-alaska/
[10] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-israel-usa-missiles/israel-says-arrow-3-missile-shield-passes-us-trials-warns-iran-idUSKCN1UN088
[11] A naval mine is a self-contained explosive device placed in water to damage or destroy surface ships or submarines. Unlike depth charges, mines are deposited and left to wait until they are triggered by the approach of, or contact with, any vessel.
[12] https://www.propublica.org/article/iran-has-hundreds-of-naval-mines-us-navy-minesweepers-find-old-dishwashers-car-parts
[13] Liwa Fatemiyoun, literally “Fatimid Banner”, also known as Fatemiyoun Division, Fatemiyoun Brigade, or Hezbollah Afghanistan, is an Afghan Shia militia formed in 2014 to fight in Syria on the side of the government
[14] The Popular Mobilization Forces, also known as the People’s Mobilization Committee and the Popular Mobilization Units, is an Iraqi state-sponsored umbrella organization composed of some 40 militias that are mostly Shia Muslim groups.
[15] The Houthi movement, officially called Ansar Allah, is an Islamic religious-political-armed movement that emerged from Sa’dah in northern Yemen in the 1990s. They are of the Zaidi sect.
[16] Liwa al-Imam al-Hussein (The Imam Hussein Brigade) is an Iraqi Shi’a militia primarily operating in the Damascus area, working under the narrative of defending the Sayyida Zainab shrine. It has most notably been a participant in a regime offensive on the East Ghouta locality of al-Mleha (a focal point of Sunni rebel activity), coordinating with other Iraqi Shi’a militias such as Liwa Assad Allah al-Ghalib. Ideologically, Liwa al-Imam al-Hussein asserts affinity with Muqtada al-Sadr.
[17] The Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine known in the West as simply Palestinian Islamic Jihad, is a Palestinian Islamist organization formed in 1981 whose objective is the destruction of the State of Israel and the establishment of a sovereign.
[18] Hamas is a Palestinian Sunni-Islamist fundamentalist organization. It has a social service wing, Dawah, and a military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. It has been the de facto governing authority of the Gaza Strip since its takeover of that area in 2007. During this period it fought several wars with Israel
[19] Mumtaz Dughmush (also spelled Durmush) is the leader of the Salafi-jihadi group Jaysh al-Islam in Gaza, and a member of the large Dughmush clan. According to journalist Donald Macintyre, “during the 1990s he had been a member of the PA Preventative Security Organisation headed by Mohammed Dahlan, but during the [Second] Intifada he joined Jamal Abu Samhadana to form the militant Popular Resistance Committees. After the 2006 elections, Dughmush, whose militia was now operating autonomously…joined with the PRC and Hamas’s Qassam Brigades to capture [Israeli soldier] Gilad Shalit, and defied the Islamic faction’s authority, by kidnapping the two Fox News journalists. https://www.ecfr.eu/mapping_palestinian_politics/detail/mumtaz_durmush.
[20] Al-Tanf, also known as “At Tanf”, is a United States military base in Syria’s Homs Governorate located 24 km west of the al-Tanf border crossing in the Syrian Desert. The surrounding deconfliction zone is located along the Iraq and Jordan–Syria border
[21] The People’s Protection Units or People’s Defense Units is a mainly-Kurdish militia in Syria and the primary component of the Syrian Democratic Forces. The YPG is mostly ethnically Kurdish.
[22] Peshmerga, the military forces of the autonomous region of Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Since the Iraqi Army is forbidden by Iraqi law to enter Kurdistan Region, the Peshmerga, along with their security subsidiaries, are responsible for the security of the regions in Iraqi Kurdistan.
[23] Rukban, sometimes transliterated Rakban, Arabic (الرُّكبان) or (الرُّقبان) is an arid remote area on the Syrian border with the near the extreme northeast of Jordan, close to the joint borders with Syria and Iraq. The area became a refugee camp for Syrians in 2014
[24] The National Council of Resistance of Iran is an Iranian political organization based in France.
[25] The People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, or the Mojahedin-e Khalq, is an Iranian political organization based on Islamic and socialist ideology. It advocates overthrowing the Islamic Republic of Iran leadership and installing its own government.

 

The report in Arabic 

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