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US-Iran: Dr. Strangelove in the Middle East
Albert Goldson --  Indo-Brazilian Associates LLC Albert Goldson -- Indo-Brazilian Associates LLC
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: New York , NY
Sunday, January 05, 2020


It appears “art imitates life” as President Trump has enthusiastically embraced the role of Jack D Ripper brilliantly by Sterling Hayden in the iconic movie Dr. Strangelove. The ultra-nationalist and fervent anti-communist General Ripper illegally and unilaterally issues a special “go” code that sends US nuclear armed bombers to attack the USSR in the hopes that the US government will have no choice but to follow suit with additional support bombers to smash communism and “protect our way of life.”

Like General Jack D. Ripper, Trump’s deliberate order to kill a high-ranking government official he has placed the US in an “all in, all or nothing at all” position that is designed to provoke a violent Iranian response. Of course actions on both sides will escalate. How they will play out is conjecture however any diplomatic resolutions will be all but impossible for the Iranians to agree to based on the Trump’s administration’s hyper-aggressive actions that began with withdrawal of the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) agreement (the Iranian nuclear arms deal) to which Iran was abiding to draconian economic sanctions.

Ironically Iran’s response may be delayed for one simple reason: profound psychological shock. The Trump administrations has worked diligently to avoid military conflict or direct action that included the last minute cancellation of a drone attack on Iranian assets last summer. The deliberate targeting and killing of a top general was considered unfathomable which meant the sudden action shocked the world.

The Middle East situation with Iran becomes murkier and even more complicated including domestic risks without General Soleimani for several reasons:

New Leader, New Profile
Intelligence services had a tome-thick operational and psychological profile of the general and his relationships with his associates and contacts on which to successfully monitor, predict and possibly prevent terrorist activities. Intelligence services now have nothing more than a pamphlet-thin profile on his replacement deputy commander Brigadier General Esmail Ghaani. This one of many reasons previous US administrations, despite ample opportunity to eliminate him, decided that the blowback of killing a sovereign government official was not worth the risk.

Though Iranian policies will be carried out under General Ghaani, the relationships with forces under him are not as developed and their ability to be as operationally efficient as under Soleimani. In this part of the world relationships are everything which is the crux of Iran’s ability to project its power through its proxies throughout the Middle East. Deep relationships and trust are impossible to replace immediately with a new figure who has the political and revolutionary fervor but not the operational “chops” required.

Terrorist Proxies and Domestic Lone Wolves
Not only will the US have a problem Iran’s retaliation against expected targets but it has probably already inspired anti-US (not necessarily pro-Iranian) international and domestic groups, specifically lone wolves without any direct instruction from a group.

Increase in Anti-Semitic Attacks
Sadly expect an explosive increase of anti-Semitic attacks globally.

Historic Date for Iranian Retaliations
A frightening possibility is the use of one date - January 20 which is the month & day in 1981 that the 444 US embassy hostages were freed - that could be selected by Iran for some sort of retaliatory attack.

Iran’s menu of retaliatory responses will take asymmetrical warfare to a new level:

·         Inspiring their proxies to intensify their attacks on military and civilian targets globally.
·         Cyber-attacks on any number of targets globally.
·         Drone and missile attacks on Saudi and other oilfields in the region. Patriot missiles need to be heavily concentrated at a specific oil facility to provide good protection. However if a preponderance of missiles and drones are launched then it will overwhelm the Patriot system. Additionally there are many petro-targets throughout the region without such defenses which are extraordinarily expensive to purchase and maintain.

Of course one must conspiratorially consider the unusual timing of the killing. A robust stock economy, blistering market and a highly divided Democratic Party with respect to promoting a specific presidential candidate for the 2020 presidential election already give the administration electoral leverage. However with the impeachment process gaining steam, this looming and long-term crisis automatically throws a monkey-wrench in this political process.

With respect to a US response against an Iranian retaliatory attack, hopefully it never reaches the point in which the powers at the highest levels ask someone like General “Buck” Turgidson played by George C. Scott to provide his expert assessment on a successful bombing run on Iran.

What we may never know is the internal Iranian power struggles behind the scenes. One possible scenario is as follows:

As happens throughout history regardless of the political system, when a charismatic military leader gains too much power militarily and politically, his influence and actions result in the “tail that wags the dog.” He proactively initiates even dictates his own policies that the governmental political body tacitly (yet unofficially) approves.

As tip of the spear he probes, pushes and sometimes exceeds the mandates and boundaries of the country’s foreign policies. In other words his actions have by de facto established the country’s foreign policies without formal orders. And if these are successful in achieving the country’s aims, often ahead of schedule, then the political body increasingly “trusts” his decisions and gives him freer reign by default.

On the other hand some high-level government officials may have realized too late of Soleimani’s outsized power endangered Iran’s positions particularly against the draconian sanctions that have placed enormous economic pressure and provoked social unrest but he held too much political influence, allies and power to challenge him.

[No copyright infringement is intended with respect to the cartoon of Trump riding the bomb which appeared 18 September 2019 edition of The Independent and submitted by Sean Delonas].

Copyright 2020 Indo-Brazilian Associates LLC. All rights reserved.

Indo-Brazilian Associates LLC is a NYC-based advisory service and think-tank that provides geopolitical investment and security assessments.

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