By Syed Zafar Mehdi
TEHRAN (AA) – Heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump's unilateral withdrawal from a 2015 landmark nuclear deal have brought the two adversaries to the brink of a direct military confrontation.
Last week, Iran shot down a U.S. military drone - RQ-4A Global Hawk, which it claimed was flying over Iranian waters in the Persian Gulf region.
U.S. officials, however, said the incident took place in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz, an important shipping route.
A day later, Trump said he had called off a retaliatory strike against three sites in Iran in the last minute because it wouldn't be a "proportionate" response.
The dangerous turn of events has rekindled the debate of whether the U.S. and Iran would go for war and what will be its possible repercussions for the region.
Prof. Sayed Mohammad Marandi, an Iranian academic and political analyst who was part of the nuclear deal negotiations in 2015, sees a U.S.-Iran military confrontation unlikely.
"What is preventing the U.S. from moving from economic warfare to open military conflict is the fact that an Iranian-made missile has been able to destroy the most advanced weaponry in the U.S. arsenal," he told Anadolu Agency.
He believes that U.S. war with Iran would lead to global economic catastrophe since all the gas and oil facilities in the Persian Gulf region would come under attack and the Strait of Hormuz will be closed.
"The downing of a U.S. military drone by Iran has clearly stunned the world," he said.
Iran's military capabilities
Sadrodin Moosvi, managing director of Iran's state-run Iran Daily newspaper, sees the downing of the U.S. military drone an indicator of Iran's sophisticated military capabilities.
"It shows that there are many U.S. and regional targets that are vulnerable and within Iran's reach," he told Anadolu Agency.
While tensions are running high, regional observers believe that Washington will not be able to launch a new war in the West Asian region.
Last month, the U.S. military announced that it had deployed Abraham Lincoln Aircraft Carrier for a probable war with Iran in the Persian Gulf.
"After several weeks of power show, the carrier was withdrawn as there was no change in the position of the Iranian government towards the U.S.," Syed Sajjad, a Middle East researcher, said.
Marwa Osman, a journalist and political observer specializing on Middle East affairs, said the option of war does not have the support of the majority of Americans, and in case of war Iran would strike back hard.
"The message from Tehran to the White House is clear: Iran will not succumb to threats and pressures, and is ready to confront even if it is an all-out war," Osman told Anadolu Agency.
"Its position vis-a-vis the United States is based on two central factors: a clear strategy and the will to fight in defense of its national sovereignty and vital interests," she said.
Osman said regional and international leaders will have to work towards de-escalation between Iran and the U.S. because everyone will be affected in the event of a war.
Ali Ahmadi, a political commentator, said although both Iran and U.S. understand that war is not in their interest, the simmering tensions could potentially result in miscalculation and lead to a conflict.
"This high level of hostility was caused by Washington leaving the JCPOA (Iran nuclear deal), branding [Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] IRGC a terrorist organization and adopting a very hostile military position towards Iran," Ahmadi told Anadolu Agency.
"Only Washington can defuse this tension," he said.
The analyst opines that Iran needs a high level of readiness and discipline in its armed forces to manage Washington's saber-rattling.
Iran at the same time should work with its allies in the region to try to reduce the possibility of U.S. using their territory for any attack against Iran, Ahmadi said.
Iran and the U.S. have been at loggerheads since the 1979 Iranian revolution and tensions between them have often escalated.
In 2015, former President Barack Obama signed a nuclear deal with Iran which was scrapped by his predecessor in May 2018, a move that was widely criticized and led to tensions again.
Last month, U.S. officials blamed Iran for attacking oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, but Tehran dismissed the accusation with Iranian President Hasan Rouhani saying that Tehran does not seek war but "is determined to show its vitality and defeat the enemy's plots."