'When US National Security Adviser John Bolton announced last week that Washington was deploying a naval strike group to the Gulf to send a "clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime", many likened the situation to the lead-up to the Iraq war.
Still, a military confrontation between Washington and Tehran would be nothing like the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, when American troops reached Baghdad in less than a month, analysts told Middle East Eye this week.
Instead, an all-out US war with Iran would have "hideous" ramifications and may spark deadly battles across the Middle East.
"In one word, it would be catastrophic," said Imad Harb, director of research and analysis at Arab Center Washington DC.
'The Gulf countries - Saudi Arabia and the UAE - should really be cautious about what they wish for'
- Imad Harb, Arab Center Washington DC
This week, US President Donald Trump reimposed a series of strict sanctions on Tehran and did not rule out a direct military confrontation between the two countries.
That came after US officials warned about the possibility of Iranian attacks on US forces and commercial ships.
For its part, Iran announced plans to pull out of parts of the 2015 nuclear deal that Washington abandoned last year, and called on European leaders to protect it against United States sanctions.
This latest round of tensions has led some observers to wonder whether some US officials, especially the interventionist hawks in the Trump administration, may be manoeuvring towards all-out war with Iran.
Should that happen, Harb painted a doomsday scenario in which Iran would not only retaliate against US troops in the region, but would also target the Arab Gulf countries hosting those American forces.
Tehran and its allies in Yemen may also block or at least disrupt the straits of Hormuz and Bab el-Mandeb, the passageways into the Gulf and Red Sea, crippling international trade.
"Iran is not going to go down without harming others," Harb said.
"We're talking about a Gulf that's anywhere between 35 and 70 miles-wide, and on the western coast ... we have Saudi and UAE installations. And Iran is not going to spare them if things really come to a head."'