“Commentary: Operation Silence the Mullahs”

A year or so before the intervention in Iraq, one of the president’s men told me that the plan then was to invade the country with two US Army brigades (10,000 men) and rely on a local uprising to do the rest of the job.

Arnaud de Borchgrave is a sensible, worldly man, knowlegeable in military matters.  He is right to be sceptical about this "plan."

Nothing is ever simple in war.  Weapons systems never function perfectly as designed.  Weather, fear, the opposition, etc. all create a situation in which many, many variable are in play in any combat operation.

Two B-2 bombers?  They would be the first of many, many sorties.


Pat Lang

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22 Responses to “Commentary: Operation Silence the Mullahs”

  1. zanzibar says:

    I wonder why the ratchet up in rhetoric for military strikes recently in the US & UK media. I don’t believe that Iran is going to be threatened easily and everyone knows that Iran is not Iraq and has multiple retaliatory options. If their radar evading missile and super fast torpedo tests are for real they provide a glimpse into their conventional military arsenal that has been bolstered with spending on Russian and Chinese arms. And their “influence” with Shiite populations in Iraq, Lebanon and the Gulf is another weapon to spread chaos in the region. And what about their ability to clog up the shipping lanes in the Straits of Hormuz. And launch ballistic missiles with a 2,000 km range. How would financial markets respond to a serious threat of attack? How would the public in Europe & the US react to an attack?
    Strikes with two B-2s is more silly than humorous!

  2. geoff says:

    As we know, there are known knowns. There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don’t know we don’t know.

  3. jonst says:

    Some conditions, or illnesses if you will, just have to run their course. And often, when one feels they can not take anymore manifestations of the condition, another 5, in some cases, even worse than previous manifestations, crop up.
    Yeah, hit Iran thinking it’s a relatively easy mission to accomplish. Or thinking that the aftermath can be stage-managed.
    These guys will not stop till the entire region is up, in some cases, literally, in flames. Who is to stop them? Republicans? Fat chance. Democrats? When pigs sprout wings.
    We’re are strapped to this “condition” till the bloody end. Get ready for a draft people. And oh what is a nasty surprise THAT is going to be to Bush supporters.

  4. RJJ says:

    Citizen soldiers are too uppity.
    Blackwater (and others) will provide.
    Not clear who will pay them, tho.
    IIRC the last time I posted this PL told me to get a grip.

  5. RJJ says:

    here is the tail end of the above link.

  6. W. Patrick Lang says:

    How many instances in history do we have of notable military or political men relying on their mere armed appearance to trigger an uprising that will work in their favor in toppling an antagonist? Hannibal did. He thought his victories in Italy would cause the defection of Rome’s allies. Except for a miniscule few, it didn’t. He ended up crammed in a small area in the heel of Italy as a result. Napoleaon counted on rising in Egypt to help him, so did Robert E. Lee when he invaded Antietam. Lee thought the populace would rise and flock to his aid. The Greeks often miscalulated in this area, as did the Persians. More recently, when the Hungarians rose in 1956 — they thought they would be joined other dissidents and reinforced by Americans. We stood by and watched them die. The Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto thought they had the backing of the British and Americans. The British even gave them arms, and then stood by an let them be slaughtered. In the case of the rising in Holland in 1945 against the Nazis, it was the same. Churchill had talked of setting Nazi occupied Europe aflame, but aside from giving some weapons, no help came and the weapons given weren’t in the least equal to the heavy mechanized military forces of the Germans, and so once agaiin, we simply stood by while the Nazis slaughtered them.
    I was talking recently to a neocon recently who talked arrogantly of how liberal democrats urged the overthrow of “genocidal regemes?” By what means? And what is to come after, if the uprising succeeds?
    The chief rule is that the populace is indifferent to everything that doesn’t have an immeidate effect on its own welfare. And that is as it should be. A population doesn’t live iin the abstract but must worry about tmorrow’s meal being on the table for the family. It doesn’t deal in ennobling abstractions. Given the intellecutal immodesty and the lack of any sense of limit on the part of the neocons, such common sense and practical caution is a relief.
    Richard Sale

  7. RJJ says:

    “A population doesn’t live iin the abstract but must worry about tmorrow’s meal being on the table for the family. It doesn’t deal in ennobling abstractions. Given the intellecutal immodesty and the lack of any sense of limit on the part of the neocons, such common sense and practical caution is a relief.”
    Well, no. This also describes us. In our case it not sensible or prudent.

  8. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I will state my opinion:
    There is absolutely no chance of a popular uprising against the Islamic Republic of Iran by its population as a consequence of an aerial attack by the United States. Across the political spectrum, the thinking people of Iran (those who bother to think about their country, that is) are deeply suspicious of West in general and US in particular.
    All throughout the Cold War, Russia was a major producer of oil as it is today. (Some might argue that the collapse of the oil prices helped expedite the collapse of the Soviet Union.) There are scenarios under which Russia’s hard currency earnings could be ruined by price competition with Saudi Arabia. Russia is aware of this and would do everything possible short of open war with US to prevent the United States from influencing oil production in Iran as well as Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Until a few years ago, China was not an oil importer. Now China is an importer. Strategically, China will need stable and independent oil producers. Like Russia, but for another reason, China cannot permit the United States to influence oil production of Iran, Iraq, UAE, and Saudi Arabia. They will also do what they can do prevent the strategic dominance of oil by US.
    The ability of the United States to influence the post attack (post war) settlement will be nil.
    From a strategic point of view, the prize is to induce the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to accommodate the Western interests in West Asia. That aim has not been, will not be, and cannot be achieved by the antagonistic policies that West has pursued up to this tome. Any act of war against Iran by US will postpone the achievement of this strategic prize to another day, possibly indefinitely.
    Russia and China will be extremely satisfied by the current trends. They will show themselves as conservative and constructive states in the international arena, in contrast to the rogue US. In case of an attack against Iran, they will then be in a position to pick up Iran on the cheap. I am sure that there are strategist in Moscow and Beijing that are sitting there hoping for an attack by US.

  9. John Howley says:

    You have provided insight on land and in the air over Iran, what say you about the water? My impression is that the Gulf is crammed with U.S. warships. Aren’t they vulnerable to Iranian attack (hence recent missile tests)? Wouldn’t the Chinese love to see how their anti-ship weapons hold up in real combat with the U.S. Navy?
    As for regional conflagration and break-up of Iraq, no one has more to lose than the Israelis. Maybe they will figure that out. See http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=10&categ_id=5&article_id=23478

  10. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Although naval things are not my specialty, i think that the Iranians might get in a lucky hit at the beginning of an afloat war in the gulf but would pay bitterly for it. pl

  11. zanzibar says:

    Babak, you make two good points. One, a US attack will strengthen the hands of the Iranian theocrats as their public will rally in support of the government (the theocrats will remind their people of our last intervention and taking out Mossadegh) and two, the collapse of the Soviet economy had a lot to do with the historically low real prices of commodities. Today as commodities prices in real terms have revived the Russian economy is booming with trade surpluses, increasing dollar reserves and Putin in direct control of the vast oil & gas reserves.
    The outcomes of an attack on Iran are so unpredictable that in reality no such attack will take place and everyone knows that including Iran. Another reality is that there is a strong correlation between increasing commodities prices and geopolitical tensions. If the Peak Oil folks are correct and the supply of light crude peaks in Saudi Arabia in the next few years (which is very likely since 90% of Saudi light crude comes from 5 wells that have been pumping for the past 40 years) we can expect even further tensions. I believe the neocon strategy of using military force first and in a unilateral manner will backfire. The US needs to borrow $2 billion/day from China, Russia and the PetroSheikhs. And this number is rising. At some point it will be in China’s and Russia’s strategic interest to oppose our hegemonic adventures and they’ll use the economic weapon first as financially we are a banana republic with $51 trillion liabilities. We trade paper (dollars) for resources, goods and services. I don’t think many analysts fully appreciate the financial and economic dimension which is our real Achilles heel.

  12. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I do not share your bleak assessment of the economic vulnerabilities of US.

  13. zanzibar says:

    Babak, you are not alone in being sanguine. In fact it is the consensus opinion. And Dick Cheney is on record stating that deficts don’t matter. None of this matters until it matters. My assessment of the US financial situation is today considered a contrary opinion. I am however convinced that trading paper for resources and goods is not sustainable and the deficit rate of the past few years when the contingent liabilities are included cannot be closed with even all wages going to tax payments. I am willing to go out on a limb to predict that on the current path the US will face a financial crisis in the next 2 decades.

  14. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I am not sanguine. US has to make extremely difficult decisions in many areas in the coming years.
    I agree that paper is not wealth. England chose that route in late 190th Century and they damned near lost WWII.
    I was only thinking that US had 12 million men under arms in WWII and its economy was much less developed at that time than it is now.

  15. Charlie Green says:

    You actually said: “The outcomes of an attack on Iran are so unpredictable that in reality no such attack will take place and everyone knows that including Iran.”
    Please send me, COD, a shipment of whatever you’re using! Actually saying this implies you think rational decision-making is involved. Believing it is something more . . ..

  16. Green Zone Cafe says:

    Interesting discussion, kudos to Babak and Zanzibar.
    I find it hard to believe that such an attack would take place in the short term. It would destroy any prospect of US influence or presence in Iraq. The US armed forces do not have the capability to sustain a useful presence here in the face of unconventional warfare by Iran in Iraq (think Mahdi army/Badr Corps/maybe regular Iraqi forces – advised and supplied by Iranian special forces and intelligence) and Afghanistan and direct action missions by thousands of Iranian military. It could be very ugly.
    The conflagration started would either end in humiliation or require a full mobilization to pull the US’s ass out of the fire and restore US influence by force. Babak points out that the Chinese and Russians might not stand by for that.
    I could be wrong about them not really planning to attack though; based on the foolishness I’ve seen the last three years, I probably am wrong. Hope springs eternal that rationality will return.

  17. jonst says:

    As a fifty something year old all I can say is “man, I’m sure glad we did not employ the same strategy, capabilities, (and damn speculative ones at that) determine policy/reaction. We stuck with probabilities. Because if we employed what we are employing now, none of us would be around to enjoy the Col’s great blog. Or much else. Friggin madness and fear rules.

  18. Norbert Schulz says:

    Found an interesting article on Iran and the US options there on Amconmag.
    IMO it makes a couple of good points.

  19. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I concur with your assesment of the precarious nature of our widely dispersed positions in Iraq and the vulnerability of our lines of communication. pl

  20. Green Zone Cafe says:

    Colonel, the airport road is a little better, but there are still RPG, small arms fire attacks and IEDs on it.
    That’s only ten kilometers. Would not like to run all the way down south on Route 1.
    West of Abu Ghraib, you don’t travel overland.
    The situation is precarious enough as it is!

  21. taters says:

    Dear Col. Lang,
    Thanks for another gem, as usual. When I read your quote – “Nothing is ever simple in war. Weapons systems never function perfectly as designed. Weather, fear, the opposition, etc. all create a situation in which many, many variable are in play in any combat operation,” – its hard not to think of Desert One. Of course there’s others, like the weather at Agincourt…
    Green Zone – Thanks for the updates, may God keep you safe.

  22. Norbert Schulz says:

    I have thought about Iran and the bomb and I have made up my mind that the Iranians might indeed be up to making a bomb. If they don’t have an actual program, they might want to have the option, just to be safe. According to the IAEA no one can prove anything, but they know Iran is up to something. But nobody can make a convincing case for war right now.
    What I find utterly frustrating, is that the U.S. turned down the Iranian offer for normalisation to the U.S. right after 9/11. It was incompatible with the hawks views, and a couple days later they became charter members of the Axis of Evil. Needless waste of a good chance (that was before Ahmedinejad, when Iran was cooperating with the U.S. on Afghanistan and against Al Quaeda). And they still try to talk, and nobody in D.C. is listening. And nobody is pressuring them to.
    As for threat for the U.S. and the region, I don’t buy that. Not even that Iran is a threat for Israel. If neccesary, the U.S. could put Israel under the nuclear umbrella. Iran has a return adress, and the Mullahs will like to keep a people to rule over, Ahmedinejad’s eschatology nonwithstanding.
    A nuclear Iran would be very unpleasant, but not the end of the world.
    I just read today that the Whitehouse insists on keeping the nulear option in the military planning for Iran, to the utter horror of the Pentagon seniors. Jack Straw was wonderfully blunt about the nuke option, calling it ‘nuts’.
    But then, all the sensible people didn’t exactly have an influence on Dear Leader, VP Cheney and their goons during the planning for the invasion of Iraq.

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