The escalation of tensions in the Middle East between the United States and Iran triggered spectacular precautionary measures on Wednesday, but many shadows persist on the contours and the reality of the threats.
– What concrete consequences? –
After ten days of mutual accusations, intense diplomatic activity in Washington and US military deployments in the Gulf, these are the first concrete decisions in response to this high-risk situation: the United States Wednesday reminded its non-staff essential in Iraq.
Accused of fueling escalation itself with its thunderous announcements, the Trump administration has called for an "imminent threat" and "real" in "direct connection with Iran" to justify the withdrawal and its recent actions. days.
The Europeans seem more willing to stand out from the strategy of the tension maintained by the Americans, and avoid being caught in a gear that could degenerate into an armed confrontation. Spain, which has withdrawn a frigate engaged alongside a US aircraft carrier deployed in the Middle East, has raised the possibility of a "possibility of confrontation or bellicose action".
– What do we know about threats? –
"Information pointing to an escalation of Iran's activities", "credible threats" to "pro-Iranian forces in the region", and even plans for "imminent attacks" against "US interests" … Since May 5, the Americans have multiplied accusations as serious as vague towards the authorities of Tehran; but without clearly specifying the nature of these threats.
"The Trump administration has not provided any information" to the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee "on the information that motivates its decisions, nor on what it intends to do," said Wednesday Democratic Senator Bob Menendez.
The State Department has therefore stepped up to defend the credibility of this information.
This threat "is real," hammered a US diplomat. He referred in particular to the responsibility of "Iraqi militias under the command and control of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards", the ideological army of the Islamic Republic of Iran, citing by name the Shiite groups Asaïb Ahl al-Haq and the Iraqi Hezbollah brigades. .
And to those who compare the situation to that of 2003, when the administration of George W. Bush had invoked, wrongly, the presence of weapons of mass destruction to justify the invasion of Iraq, this manager rather returned to the 2011 attacks on "American installations" in this country.
According to several US military officials, the intelligence found movements of weapons and pro-Iranian groups on land and at sea and instructions to attack US interests such as embassies, consulates or soldiers.
– Why now? –
Donald Trump has made Iran his number one enemy, and slammed the door a year ago of the 2015 agreement meant to prevent Tehran from making the atomic bomb, which was considered too lax. Since then, he has continued to strengthen his sanctions to bend the Iranian regime.
Several observers but also officials who have requested anonymity believe that the current risk is related to possible retaliation to the registration, in April, of the Revolutionary Guards on the US blacklist of "foreign terrorist organizations". "Iran's response has been to make new terrorist threats, which seems to justify our decision," US envoy Brian Hook said last week.
"Of course Iran is not happy" because "we apply a historic pressure," said Wednesday a State Department official.
– What connection with "sabotage" in the Gulf? –
Simple coincidence? As tensions mounted, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates denounced "acts of sabotage" against four oil tankers in the Gulf, reinforcing the feeling of a very precarious situation that could ignite at the slightest spark.
But the United States, which supports the investigation, has remained at this stage publicly denouncing Iran's involvement in these specific incidents.
– What are the risks? –
The European allies of the United States warned against the possibility that, in this explosive context, a simple incident or misunderstanding might provoke a conflict.
The vagueness surrounding the alleged threats but also the US strategy against Iran has also sparked skepticism from some of the observers and elected Democrats, who suspect the Republican government, or its most important elements. war like National Security Advisor John Bolton, to want to provoke a military confrontation with Iran.
"Congress has not allowed the war with Iran," warned Wednesday Senator Menendez.