Iran vs. America: Decisions

Andrew Bustamante | January 3, 2020

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(Image Credit: Brett Wilkins, USA Military Bases surround Iran. BrettWilkins.com)


Greetings Everyday Spy,

Being an American living in the Middle East hasn’t been easy with tensions between the United States and Iran steadily increasing. 

  • In May 2018 the United States withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal (officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – JCPOA) and leveled economic sanctions that depleted the Iranian economy.
  • In November 2018, a second round of sanctions targeting Iranian energy and banking sectors further slowed Iran’s economy (9.5% decrease in GDP, 16.8% unemployment, 41% decrease in oil production, 30% spike in currency inflation).
  • In April 2019 the US designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – Iran’s second largest military group – a terrorist organization.

By late Spring 2019, the world was watching to see what would happen as Iran seized civilian oil tankers and the United States deployed a carrier strike group to Iran’s coastline.

  • In May 2019, Iran announced plans to increase nuclear enrichment programs to levels that supported nuclear weapons.
  • In June 2019, shortly after the US deployed 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East, Iran shot down a US military drone.
  • In the same month, Iran publicly announced the execution of a covert CIA asset working in Iran.

The final days of 2019 and the early days of 2020 have taken Iran and US tensions to a new high.

  • On December 28, 2019, an Iran-backed Shia militia in Iraq bombed a US military base killing one American and injuring several others.
  • Two days later, the US launched airstrikes against the Kataib Hezbollah militia in Iraq and Syria in response to the December 28 bombing.
  • The next day saw Shia militia supporters waving Hezbollah flags and attacking the US Embassy in Baghdad.

This morning, world news organizations announced the killing of Iranian Quds Force General Qassem Soleimani in a targeted US drone strike near Baghdad airport.

Unlike previous rhetoric, accusations and threats from both sides, the killing of General Soleimani is a watershed event for both countries. 

It means two things:

  1. Senior Iranian military officials were in fact supporting Shia militias in Iraq attacking US interests.
  2. The United States intentionally attacked and killed a senior ranking Iranian military officer.

Every event in the escalating story-line between Iran and the United States has one thing in common…


Civilian and military leaders in both countries have had to work with limited information. They have been forced to take tactical action in order to show strength and commitment. And they have had to prioritize international issues against competing domestic issues:

  • Public riots and economic depression in Iran.
  • The formal impeachment of President Donald Trump in the United States.

Decisions are difficult, especially when the stakes get higher and time gets shorter.

World leaders have the curse of aging in front of the world. US Presidents grow just as tired and grey as the foreign leaders sitting opposite them year-after-year. 

Wrinkles and white hair hint at abundant stress and lack of sleep that world leaders have to face every day.

But when you look at the senior military advisors to world leaders, they do not appear to age like their presidential counterparts.

  • Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford showed much less aging than President Barack Obama.
  • Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Hugh Shelton aged far better than President Bill Clinton.
  • And late IRGC Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani continued to cut a powerful, imposing figure next to aging Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

The difference is in the way they make decisions.

Field operators understand that decisions are a privilege and responsibility.

We approach decisions objectively, balancing cost against benefit and success against failure. We understand that making decisions is not an easy business. There are variables, there is missing information, there are consequences that are difficult to predict.

But a decision still has to be made. 

And we know that our training prepares us to make the most effective decision possible.

That is why world leaders lean on military advisors. Because battlefield-hardened generals bring a level of consistency and confidence that can steady world leaders in uncertain times.

And our world is entering uncertain times, indeed. 

As of January 3, 2020, Iranian President Rouhani has lost one of his strongest pillars.

And the days ahead only promise to bring him more stress and less sleep as the United States demonstrates its global influence and lethality.

In the United States, President Trump also faces an unknown future.

There will certainly be consequences for his first-strike attack on General Soleimani. But the bigger question may be how President Trump’s first-strike decision will impact the current impeachment and/or his re-election campaign.

In the meantime, I will be watching my home (USA) and my neighbor (Iran) from this end of the globe and sharing my experiences with you along the way.

Godspeed, #EverydaySpy


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Author: Andrew Bustamante, Founder of www.EverydaySpy.com. Andrew is a former covert CIA Intelligence officer, decorated US Air Force Combat Veteran, and respected Fortune 500 senior advisor. Learn more from Andrew on his Podcast (The Everyday Espionage Podcast) and by following @EverydaySpy on your favorite social media platform.

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