James Fallows in the Atlantic Monthly does a war game to simulate relations with Iran. Their conclusion: given the set up of the game an attack by America on Iran is not in the cards.
But they do come up with one point to look for if America intends to provoke Iran into action without actually crossing any borders:
But the President had asked for a full range of military options, and unless his closest advisers were willing to go to him empty-handed, they needed to approve the steps that would keep all the possibilities alive. That meant authorizing the Department of Defense to begin expanding airfields, mainly in Azerbaijan, and to dedicate $700 million to that purpose.So to keep the American options open we must begin expanding the air fields around Iraq. They then go on to evaluate the consequences of such a move. Refering to the regime in Teheran:
This war game shows that expanding the air fields in Adjzerbajan would be a severe provocation. So severe that Iran would need to attack first.
"This is a paranoid regime," Kenneth Pollack said of Iran. "Even if the development of the Caucasus airfields … even if it weren't about them, they would assume it was about them. So that in and of itself will likely provoke a response. The Iranians are not inert targets! If they started to think we were moving in the direction of a military move against them, they would start fighting us right away."
Michael Mazarr, as Secretary of Defense, said he did not want the authority that was on offer to his department. "Tell the President my personal judgment would be the only circumstances in which we could possibly consider launching any significant operation in Iran would be the most extreme provocation, the most imminent threat," he said.
It is always good to be on the strategic offensive and the tactical defensive. It is the strongest position in war.
My guess is that in the coming war Iran will attack first. The first sign? Watch cement, rebar, and diesel futures go up in the Caucasus. A price spike in the price of wood. Especially plywoood.
In a country skitish about another war like the USA is currently it is always good to provoke the first strike. FDR kept squeezing the Japanese. What surprised him was the location and timing of the strike. Not the strike itself.
I do believe the Iranians will surprise us. Think Sinai '73. Then think Suez '73. America will not stop short of Cairo.