(CNN) – The recent decisions of US President Donald Trump to avoid military action against Iran in the face of tactical humiliation and strategic threats have been intelligent, subtle and ethically impeccable.
They are also a risk.
According to intelligence sources in the Middle East and the West, recent attacks on Saudi oil facilities were launched from Iranian soil. The United States, Britain, France and Germany, among others, have blamed Iran for being behind the cruise missile attacks; The claims that the Houthi rebels in Yemen were responsible were dismissed as implausible.RELATED
But the direct accusation that the attack on Saudi Arabia really came from Iran – what is an act of war – has not yet been made public, although, according to sources, intelligence officials have told politicians that they are 100% sure that your information is accurate.
The option to retain such data is based on the hope that, while it remains an open secret, there may be an opportunity to reduce the risk of a war in the Gulf through diplomacy.
The urgency to achieve this was visible at the United Nations General Assembly last week, where the French led efforts to bring the United States and Iran to dialogue.
Recognizing a brazen act of violence against a sovereign nation will almost inevitably demand a violent response from that nation or its allies and will end diplomacy.
The risk to Trump and other leaders is that resisting retaliation for what was an effective strategic attack against Saudi Arabia can be seen in Tehran as weakness.
And that could result in a new escalation that, in the opinion of many diplomatic and intelligence sources throughout the region, would surely trigger a conflict.
Attacking Iran would trigger a complex war that the West and its allies simply could not win. And it could be easily lost.
So far, the operations that the United States has attributed to Iran against ships in the Persian Gulf, the Saudi Arabian oil industry and the demolition of an American drone have not shed blood.
As much as the Iranians deny their participation, it seems that their actions have been carefully calibrated to indicate greater dangers to come, in addition to Iran's military reach.
Iran raises bets
Now, imagine a retaliation, perhaps for another attack that (even accidentally) causes casualties.
A US-led coalition would want to measure its response. Retaliation would have to be painful for the Iranians. But they would be a sign that the worst is yet to come.
Obvious objectives would include the command and control structures of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, air defenses throughout the country, weapons storage facilities and strategic communications centers.
The elements of the nuclear program in Iran would stand out, but they are in large part in a semi-inactive state anyway.
The Iranians know it. Anyone who plans to attack Iran knows that they know it, so it would be difficult to find genuine targets.
Iran will have studied international air campaigns against Iraq by Saddam Hussein, as well as against Yugoslavia, Kosovo and Libya. The Revolutionary Guard and the Quds Force, its elite wing abroad, will have buried the most important in the mountains and mounted decoys.
Iran has been raising bets steadily this year as the economic sanctions imposed by the United States affect its economy. He is angry at the apparent failure of the European Union and others to circumvent the sanctions of the United States.
The United States withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Action Plan (JCPOA), agreed with Iran in 2015, which limits its nuclear program in exchange for lifting the sanctions last year.
Trump and other hawks, especially the Israeli Benjamin Netanyahu, say the deal was "terrible." In addition, they argue that Iran had dangerously wasted the economic benefits it enjoyed in destabilizing operations, often through representatives in Syria and Yemen.
They also say that Iran has continued to support Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, while developing missile technology that has now been used with spectacular effect.
The United States, and privately several of its allies, now want everything to be renegotiated to end Iran's missile program and its nuclear ambitions.
Iran says it is willing to resume talks, but only if sanctions are lifted.
It is the danger of waging war against Iran now that has raised the spectrum of even greater horrors if a conflict is postponed.
But any attack on Iran could go from a demonstration of force by the West to a total conflagration in a moment.
Iran's military reach
Hundreds of thousands of Shia militiamen in Iraq see Iran as their spiritual home. There are US bases throughout Iraq next to the Shiite militia camps, where troops hardened by the fight against ISIS could turn against their American neighbors.
Thousands of Iranian soldiers, as well as the Iran-led militia from Iraq and Afghanistan, are currently fighting alongside the forces of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
Intelligence officials are concerned that some, or all, as well as Syrian forces may be sent to try to recover the Golan Heights, controlled by Israel, at the time a war with the United States began.
In southern Lebanon, Israelis believe that Hezbollah has at least 130,000 missiles pointing in their direction. Some of them are capable of attacking Tel Aviv and other places further south, already threatened daily by Hamas missiles from Gaza, where Iran supports the militant group.
Israel, the closest ally of the United States in the Middle East, could be immediately involved in a war with its neighbors, which the Jewish state has frequently indicated would be catastrophic, especially for Lebanon.
Nearly 200,000 descendants of Palestinians who fled their country in successive Israeli wars to expand their territory in 1948 and 1967 now live in Lebanon. A similar number is in Jordan.
Jordan is an important ally of the United States. It also has a peace treaty with Israel. The war in their neighborhood could threaten the Jordanian monarchy if the Palestinians there sympathize with their brothers in Lebanon and Gaza.
There is anxiety in the Gulf for a possible conflict with Iran amid concerns that Tehran can raise the ante with more attacks on Gulf targets as a means to force negotiations to return to the negotiating table.
“The conversation should no longer be about JCPOA, but about Iran's missile program and its regional behavior, which are equally important, if not more. They have the potential to keep the region kidnapped, ”a senior Gulf official told CNN.
Iran may already be at that stage.
In a conflict caused by reprisals for what the same official called "ill-fated actions" of Iran, the Gulf is immediately vulnerable to rocket attacks.
One or two impacts, or even signs of impacts, at the Dubai airport, and its tourism industry would go into free fall.
Abu Dhabi has most of the oil in the Emirates, but like Dubai, it is within the reach of conventional Iranian artillery, let alone sophisticated missiles.
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Qatar: all export their oil and gas through the bottleneck of the Hormuz Strait. Iran, according to the United States and Great Britain, has already demonstrated its ability to undermine super-oil tankers sailing through the closure point and a complete strangulation of the world's most important oil-sea route would be relatively straightforward.
A handful of cruise missiles that were manufactured in Iran, CNN intelligence sources told him, damaged Saudi Arabia's oil industry so much that panic purchases settled briefly in crude oil markets, increasing the price of oil by 20% for a short period.
The closing of Hormuz, in addition to attacks on the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, as well as a brief increase in oil prices could cause oil to skyrocket at $ 100 or $ 150 per barrel.
Iran's agenda is clear: to show that it can paralyze ships in the Persian Gulf using mines located in super-tankers, operations that it has denied.
And let's not forget Hezbollah cells and Iranian intelligence agents planted around the world. Ready to attack enemy targets (Americans or Israelis) wherever they are.
The same reasons why the Trump administration hawks wanted to weaken Iran and get out of the nuclear deal are what make attacking it so dangerous.
It may depend on Trump and his allies to show some diplomatic subtlety. Negotiations are now urgent or Iran could tear it all down.