Could President Trump propel a nuclear war in the Middle East?
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"He's going to get us all killed." --Michael Moore
Feb. 10, 2017 | "Should the enemy make a mistake, our roaring missiles will rain down on them." – IRGC Iran Air Force Commander, General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, Feb. 4, 2017
When all pertinent factors are taken into account, U.S. President Donald Trump could sometime undertake more-or-less selective military action against Iran. In response, the Islamic Republic – then having absolutely no meaningful option to launching at least certain forms of armed reprisal – would target American military forces in the region and/or carefully chosen Israeli targets. Whatever its precise configuration of selected targets, Tehran's retaliatory blow would be expressly designed so as not to elicit an unacceptably massive (possibly even nuclear) counter-retaliation. With particular regard to Israel, moreover, this sort of retaliation would plausibly include, inter alia, a substantial reliance upon Iran's own surrogate militia forces in Hezbollah.
All such bewildering calculations, of course, must assume perfect rationality on all sides. If, for example, the new American president should cast all caution to the winds with his own first strike (a strike that would be defended by Washington, in law, as an allegedly legitimate expression of international law-enforcement, or "anticipatory self-defense"), the Iranian response, whether rational or irrational, could expectedly be "proportionate" – that is, comparably massive. In that prospectively escalatory case, any contemplated introduction of nuclear weapons into the ensuing conflagration might not necessarily be dismissed out of hand.