Moreover, the unleashing of Shia militias across the region would make IS violence look minimal. Hezbollah in Lebanon would most likely engage directly in war against Israel, this time endangering the very existence of Lebanon as a country.
Hamas in Gaza could equally be prompted to open another front, endangering the already devastated Gaza strip. Syria and even Iraq would inevitably become embroiled battlefields, causing further calamities.
The economies of the Gulf countries would be extremely damaged, oil supplies drastically hit and oil prices sent rocketing. How Turkey would behave in northern Syria amid such chaos and what form of engagement it would pursue is an open question. If such a war went on for a longer time, which is not unlikely, it is hard either to imagine or project the magnitude and directions of massive waves of refugees and displaced people.
The failure of diplomacy
Another scary dimension to such a war is the position of Russia. Judging by the worsening relations between the West and Russia, it is not far-fetched to predict Russian support of the Iranians, driven by Kremlin hostility to Western policies and by the desire to maintain a strong Russian influence in the region.
In terms of Israel’s position and perceptions, Israeli propaganda against Iran portrays Tehran’s mullahs as a bunch of fanatics that pose an existential threat to the Jewish state. This is simply hollow and baseless. Rhetoric aside, Iran’s official declared line towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to accept what the Palestinians would ultimately accept.
A just conclusion of the Palestinian cause would neutralise Iran’s purported threat. Ignoring Palestine and blindly supporting Israel, as the current American administration does, feeds into Iran’s belligerent attitudes, as well as radicalising a public environment receptive to what Iran stands for.
The Yemeni war should have given the Saudis the harshest of lessons, one repeatedly taught by history: you can decide when to start a war but you can’t control when to end it. A war against Iran is a lose-lose deal with unimaginable consequences.
If a fraction of the effort and resources that would be consumed in such a war had been invested in diplomacy, a peaceful grand deal with Iran that spread across the region could have been achieved. If the U.S. can talk to North Korea and try to save that region from the dangers and devastation of nuclear war, why shouldn’t it do the same in the Middle East?
© Open Democracy 2018