The Trump Administration's rhetoric and actions have alarmed the world. The protests in response to his visa ban have overshadowed and distracted from a darker threat: war with Iran. Is the fear of the threat greater than the threat itself? The answer is not clear.
Certainly Americans and non-Americans who took comfort in the fact that we would have a more peaceful world believing that 'Trump would not start a nuclear war with Russia must now have reason to pause. The sad and stark reality is that US foreign policy is continuous. An important part of this continuity is a war that has been waged against Iran for the past 38 years unabated.
The character of this war has changed over time. From a failed coup which attempted to destroy the Islamic Republic in its early days (the Nojeh Coup), to aiding Saddam Hossein with intelligence and weapons of mass destruction to kill Iranians during the 8-year Iran-Iraq war, helping and promoting the terrorist MEK group, the training and recruiting of the Jundallah terrorist group to launch attacks in Iran, putting Special Forces on the ground in Iran, the imposition of sanctioned terrorism, the lethal Stuxnet cyberattack, and the list goes on and on, as does the continuity of it.
While President Jimmy Carter initiated the Rapid Deployment Force and put boots on the Ground in the Persian Gulf, virtually every U.S. president since has threatened Iran with military action. It is hard to remember when the option was not on the table. However, thus far, every U.S. administration has wisely avoided a head on military confrontation with Iran.
To his credit, although George W. Bush was egged on to engage militarily with Iran, , the 2002 Millennium Challenge, exercises which simulated war, demonstrated America's inability to win a war with Iran. The challenge was too daunting. It is not just Iran's formidable defense forces that have to be reckoned with; but the fact that one of Iran's strengths and deterrents has been its ability to retaliate to any attack by closing down the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow passageway off the coast of Iran. Given that 17 million barrels of oil a day, or 35% of the world's seaborne oil exports go through the Strait of Hormuz, incidents in the Strait would be fatal for the world economy.
Faced with this reality, over the years, the United States has taken a multi-prong approach to prepare for an eventual/potential military confrontation with Iran. These plans have included promoting the false narrative of an imaginary threat from a non-existent nuclear weapon and the falsehood of Iran being engaged in terrorism (when in fact Iran has been subjected to terrorism for decades as illustrated above). These 'alternate facts' have enabled the United States to rally friend and foe against Iran, and to buy itself time to seek alternative routes to the Strait of Hormuz.
Plan B: West Africa and Yemen
In early 2000s, the renowned British think tank Chatham House issued one of the first publications that determined African oil would be a good alternate to Persian Gulf oil in case of oil disruption. This followed an earlier strategy paper for the U.S. to move toward African oil The African White Paper that was on the desk May 31, 2000 of then U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, a former CEO of energy giant Halliburton. In 2002, the Israeli-based think tank, IASPS, suggested America push toward African oil. In an interesting coincidence, in the same year, the Nigerian terror group, Boko Haram, was "founded".