Throughout contemporary history, there have been a few times when it has appeared that World War III has been on the verge of breaking out.
The USA has often been in the thick of things, although in the end nothing has ultimately come of any bravado and peacocking that has gone on.
When Donald Trump ascended to the White House, you always suspected that more ego-driven antics would occur, but so far any potential conflicts with the likes of North Korea and China have, thankfully, been averted.
And then the US assassinated Iranian army general Qassem Soleimani.
Why? Well, Trump claimed that he had received intel that Iran was planning some kind of terrorist atrocity on American targets, and that the slaying of Soleimani was merely pre-emptive self-defence.
Iran followed up by aiming missiles of their own at US bases in Iraq, and yet reports claim that there were no casualties and only minor damage caused – leading some experts to claim that Iranian officials ‘missed on purpose’ in order to avoid provoking the situation further while still showing off their armoury.
Indeed, CNN journalist Jake Tapper tweeted that ‘Pentagon official tells me that many US military leaders think Iran deliberately chose targets that would NOT result in loss of life especially US life.’
And that claim was backed up, in a way, by Iranian commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh, who told The Associated Press that the missiles were launched to ‘strike the enemy’s military machine’, rather than to end lives.
There seems to have been some thawing in the animosity then, but a position as best of enemies is always a precarious one. Given Iran’s hostile past and the unpredictability of Donald Trump, nobody can really say for definite what will happen next.
Should I Start Building a Bomb Shelter in the Garden?
Ah no, not exactly.
The UN simply would not allow for a major conflict of this scale to unfold, while other world leaders would, presumably, apply pressure on the two countries to stand down.
That was a phrase that Trump used to define Iran’s stance earlier in the week, claiming that they were ‘standing down’ after their retaliatory air strike.
That said, another Iranian military official promised ‘harsher revenge in the near future’, although that does sound like the kind of threat an exasperated mother might put upon their children in an attempt to get them to behave.
But Abdollah Araghi, who has been employed as Soleimani’s successor with the Revolutionary Guard, has promised to rule in the same manner as his predecessor.
The US President has mentioned further sanctions against Iran, although it is believed he was referring to ‘peaceful’ measures beyond military action, such as withholding trade and so on.
Iran does not have any nuclear capabilities, and there is no evidence to suggest they are developing such technology on the quiet.
Instead, any threat that Iran poses to the US is using traditional weaponry and on ‘local’ targets – the American military has a number of bases across the Middle East.
But the hope is that it won’t come to that, even if tensions between the two countries have been festering since Iran shot down a US drone that flew too close to their airspace – a threat Trump was never likely to take lying down.
One ally that might be able to call upon is Russia, with many pundits believing that Vladimir Putin is keen to bring an end to the USA’s ‘unilateralism’ by increasing their own power in the Middle East.
Putin, an opportunist and no mistake, views the current high tensions as a perfect opportunity to position Russia somewhere in the middle of proceedings.
In a tragic indictment of the human condition, US president’s that have been embroiled in some kind of military aggro have typically enjoyed a gain in popularity with voters – hence why many feel that Trump’s stance is merely one to boost his credibility in an election year.
It’s hard to say why exactly that is the case, but any further conflict with Iran can only be a good thing for the president’s grip on the White House.
It’s a phenomenon known as ‘rally around the flag’, and it was a concept that changed the political fortunes of both George HW Bush and George Jr in their stints as president.
Bush Sr enjoyed a climb in popularity during the Gulf War in 1991, while his son enjoyed a momentous shift in approval in the period following the September 11 terrorist attacks and subsequent military intervention in Afghanistan.
It’s quite possible that Donald Trump’s posturing is just the latest tactic in a deadly re-lection game.