What Would War With Iran Look Like?

In going to war with Tehran, the U.S. would face a military far superior to anything it’s faced since the Vietnam War

Jared Keller
GEN
Published in
5 min readJun 24, 2019

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Iranian protesters demonstrate outside the former U.S. embassy in Tehran on November 4, 2018. Photo: Majid Saeedi/Getty Images

AAfter months of escalating tensions, the United States and Iran came closer to outright war in the last week than any other time in the past four decades. In a series of tweets on Friday, President Donald Trump claimed that he had authorized strikes on Iran in response to Tehran’s downing of a drone, only to back off after he learned that the attack would result in around 150 Iranian deaths. For weeks, National Security Adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and CIA Director Gina Haspel have urged military action amid a series of provocations by the Iranian regime; Trump opted instead to reach out through Oman and offer a diplomatic solution to Tehran.

It was the right call: A military engagement with Iran would be a complete mess. But in pushing for armed conflict, Trump’s coterie of advisors have revealed the extent of their hubris — and underscored U.S. military’s greatest vulnerability of the 21st century.

In going to war with Tehran, the U.S. would face a military force that outstrips anything it’s faced since the Vietnam War. A 2018 analysis from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) suggests that…

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Jared Keller
GEN
Writer for

Deputy editor at Task & Purpose. Other words for Aeon, The Atlantic, LARB, Pacific Standard, TNR, Slate, Smithsonian, the Village Voice, and elsewhere