While US President Donald Trump may have threatened to obliterate Iran, Iran said any attack on its soil could lead to the obliteration of all the oil and gas installations in the region. Picture: Alex Brandon/AP/African News Agency (ANA)

Imagine a situation where China is the new superpower, having surpassed the US in both economic and military power.

Then imagine that China were to demand that the US must abandon its missile programme, break links with its regional allies and give up its nuclear programme. The consequences of not doing so are either devastating economic sanctions or war.

In this hypothetical situation, China then pressures other global powers not to trade with the US, and punishes those that do.

Then, as a way of testing the US’s military capability and resolve, China flies a $200million (R2.8billion) drone into US airspace, and when the US shoots it down, China claims it was minutes away from launching a retaliatory attack.

Such an attack could have potentially been the start of World War III.

However ludicrous that may sound, that is precisely what the US has been doing to Iran, the insanity of which needs to be exposed.

We live in a world where it is accepted that the US has over 4000 nuclear bombs, 1411 of which are deployed on 673 ICBMs, SLBMs and strategic bombers.

Since World War II, the US has launched bombing campaigns against 16 countries, a number of which were subjected to multiple US bombing campaigns during different eras.

In many instances the US was enacting regime change in pursuit of its own political agendas. As the military theorist Carl von Clausewitz said: “War is the extension of politics by other means.”

Iran, on the other hand, has never attacked another country in its modern history. But somehow the mainstream media have bought the narrative that Iran is a country with a destabilising influence in the international arena.

As a result of that narrative, Iran is forbidden from even developing a peaceful nuclear programme that would enable it to develop its own nuclear energy.

It just goes to show that a unipolar world does not serve the cause of justice, which is why middle powers like South Africa argue so forcefully to shore up multilateralism.

So we are stuck in a situation where the superpower is attempting to starve Iran into submission. But if the US thinks it will get away with it indefinitely, it has grossly miscalculated.

Iran is a major power in its own right, with a sophisticated and motivated military, and a population of 83million people.

Iran was easily able to shoot down the $200m drone the US flew into its airspace, using only a $20000 surface-to-air missile. Iran has warned that any attack on its soil will be met with overwhelming force, and no one in the region will be safe.

Iranian experts have referred to their vast underground military facilities that stretch from Iraq to Pakistan.

While US President Donald Trump may have threatened to obliterate Iran, Iran said any attack on its soil could lead to the obliteration of all the oil and gas installations in the region.

Oil tankers and cargo ships would likely be hit and Iran would no doubt attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz.

In any war games scenario, it is clear that the Middle East region would be set on fire, and the rest of the world would feel the effects, not least of which would be rocketing oil prices.

For now Iran has exercised strategic patience ever since the US withdrew from the nuclear deal, in spite of all the provocations.

For over a year, the EU has been promising it would find an acceptable solution and shield Iran from US sanctions, but to date the mechanism the EU set up in order to trade with Iran has yielded no results, not even in terms of humanitarian goods.

Trump has dubbed his sanctions as “economic war with Iran”, and the sanctions have indeed plunged Iran’s economy into recession.

Oil exports have collapsed from 2.6million barrels per day in 2018 to estimates of 380000-500000 bpd.

The cost of medicine, food and other staples has rocketed, the most devastating being the lack of life- saving medicines for serious diseases such as cancer.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif recently insisted that Iran would continue to sell oil to its allies, but it would never sell its dignity. Iran will also never agree to renegotiate the nuclear deal that was the product of 12 years of negotiations, two of which were intensive high-level negotiations.

The US may feel empowered to throw its weight around now, but there is no question that Iran is playing a long-term game, and it will not be easily bullied into submission.

* Ebrahim is the group foreign editor at Independent Media