“Considering a War With Iran” SOAS

Sc_patch2 One of our readers asked me to look at this paper.  Having done so my opinion is that the authors  need to develop a healthy sense of skepticism when confronted with bureaucratic statements of intent with regard to desired capability.

The premise of the paper is that the US possesses the ability to attack 10,000 Iranian targets from a great distance on a nearly simultaneous basis.  The authors believe this because the US Strategic Command (old SAC) has as its goal to achieve such a capability and a clutch of think tanks are holding meetings about it.

Just after the first Gulf War a senior civilian colleague approached me to express outrage that the "smart" weapons in use had Pk (probability of kill) rates lower in fact than those promised by the manufacturers.  She was surprised when I told her that highly complex equipment (gadgets) never performed as advertised and that they usually broke down just when needed. 

The point is that these two academic authors actually believe the "air power" baloney.  They think that a renewed attempt to apply the principle of "shock and awe" will result in complete devastation of Iran, Iranian inability to respond and a very short war.

Douhet, Trenchard and Mitchell would be pleased with their gullibility.

In fact such a strike would be merely the opening battle in yet another long war fought against a major piece of the Islamic World.

The current IO campaign against Iran makes it seem more and more plausible that such an onslaught will be attempted.  pl


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60 Responses to “Considering a War With Iran” SOAS

  1. Nicholas Weaver says:

    Whats so unfrigginbelievably stupid, putting the Foxtrot in Charlie-Foxtrot, is that any random person with an active imagination or first-year West Point cadet could detail all the ways Iran could and would make our lives totally miserable if we were foolish enough to start bombing.
    Iran is a vile, repressive state run by loathsome people, but they got us by the short-and-curlies right now.

  2. Just like risk pricing models for highly complex structured finance, eh mate?

  3. Colonel Lang
    I have been an avid reader of your blog and I am not going to pretend that I am someone who has any great depth of knowledge of military tactics especially in the ME region.
    I am impressed though with the knowledge many of your readers espouse.
    However I have spent a great deal of time in that region including being contracted to the US Navy SUPSALV during the Gulf War as a Master Salvor for the company I was working with at the time.
    My last visit in the Persian Gulf was last July during a ship collision. It was an interesting visit to say the least.
    Though I have to be honest with you. I just do not get it.
    “The current IO campaign against Iran makes it seem more and more plausible that such an onslaught will be attempted.”
    What am i missing here? The Shia in Baghdad as very much aligned with Tehran. The MOIS and the QUDS Force have been operational in that theater for sometime now.
    There is a sectarian fight going on between the Sunni and Shia and if that is not bad enough we are contemplating doing what? Bombing Iran?
    Let see if this old seaweed picker gets this. We have some 160,000 service members in theater, with the ratio of support to trigger pullers (last I heard Army 5 to 1 and Marines 3 to 1) we have what? Some 17,000 actual triggers pullers caught in the middle of a quazi civil war?
    And we are going to attack Iran and potentially turn what ever Shia support we have against us, placing our guys and gals really in harms way?
    Why? Has everyone in DC last there minds?
    I am really having a very hard time understanding this strategy. Can you really break it down for me? Or is my thinking off the wall?

  4. walrus says:

    Sadly Col. Lang, I’ve read the article and I have to agree with you.
    I also believe an attack is going to happen sooner rather than later after reading the “Fact Sheet” (sic) about the Iraq war and reading the text of the President’s speech to the American Legion a few days ago on the Whitehouse website.
    My guess is also that the Air Force are the great cheerleaders for an attack on Iran. There are rumblings one can hear at places like Smallwarsjournal.com from Airforce Officers who are miffed at their comparative irrelevance in Counterinsurgency matters. Likewise I would expect they would also be miffed at the way the military budget pie is being divided these days. An attack on Iran, mainly from the air, would salve their fragile egos a little.
    I also believe that Bush, in his total wooden headed folly, will interpret the slow progress in Iraq to be a result of deliberate action by Iran. The “Fact Sheet” calls on Iran to stop helping the Shia militias “at once”.
    This suggests to me that the final wooden headed folly has been committed – interpreting negative information (Can’t show that Iran’s Government are supporting the attacks on U.S. Forces) as positive (Ergo, Iran’s Government are using proxies to hide their involvement).
    My guess is that the Petraeus status report will pave the way for the issue of an ultimatum to Iran, and like most ultimatums issued in the twentieth century, will be carefully crafted to insure there is no possibility that Iran will comply.
    The wild cards in such a situation are Russia and China.
    God help us all.

  5. frank durkee says:

    The paper brings to mind the report of an exercise run before the ’03 invasion. It focused on an atttack, as I recall, on the Iranian areas along the Persian Gulf. the “enemy” forces were led by a retired Marin Corps General who managed to maintain effective command and control and to inflict significant damage on the allied naval forces through a variety of ruses. thes, as I recall, included, using bycycles as the means of relaying orders and small boat swarms to inflict naval damage. His tactics were effective enough that the exercise was stopped. He was told to play differently and he walked. Obviously lessons were learned, by both sides as a result of the publicity.
    there is probably little question that we could inflict massive damage to the iranian infrastructure and thus to the society. whether that would produce the results we anticipate is entirely a different question. perhaps yes and perhaps no. My own sense is that it would tend to create a significant alliance against us among some Islamic states, Russia, China and other states. I doubt that any of the supporters of bombing iran are soing ‘worst case analysis’.
    If we do bomb Iran without Congressional debate and approval it is clear to me that we will have lost our Republic, perhaps irremedially.

  6. Robert says:

    I am no big defender of Iran, but are the leaders of Iran any more “vile and loathsome” than say the leaders of Saudia Arabia, Egypt, pick any central Asian state, China…many of whom our are allies?
    Everybody keeps talking about why we should NOT attack Iran. Can someone please tell me why we should attack Iran? Oh yeah, and for meddling in Iraq…well if that is causis belli, then we should attack Saudia Arabia.

  7. George says:

    Hello Rob,
    No, you’re not being stupid. The USA recovered from the Great Depression of the 1930’s by obtaining unbridled access to Saudi oil (as well as home sources) after WWII. The dollar’s current value is tied inextricably to the sum total of all policies since then. I myself have a hard time seeing the “inherent” value we have increasingly been attaching to a non-renewable resource.
    It’s not rocket science, but it allows rocket science to exist. It’s not great humour, but it describes human folly. Plus it’s not a given that the oil will be ours.

  8. Stormcrow says:

    Has everyone in DC lost their minds?


  9. Poicephalus says:

    to your list of Charlatans…sorry, proponents of exclusive Air Power, allow me to suggest a palliative (since no cure is apparently available); General Joseph Stilwell.
    In Tuchman’s biography, the contrtemps between him and Chenault over the primacy of offensive air assets, form one of the most interesting parts of the narrative.
    He would know this is wrong (mainly because the underlying assumptions can charitably be described as batshit insane) and that it sure ain’t no way to plan or fight a war.
    But, I guess it keeps the Rand Corp. types in moccasins.

  10. John Shreffler says:

    In response to your question, “Why? Has everyone in DC last there minds?” the answer is just 2 of them: Cheney and Bush. Everything else you say about the illogic of it all is spot on. A bad remake of Fort Apache is upon us.

  11. George says:

    Hello Rob,
    No, you’re not being stupid. The USA recovered from the Great Depression of the 1930’s by obtaining unbridled access to Saudi oil (as well as home sources) after WWII. The dollar’s current value is tied inextricably to the sum total of all policies since then. I myself have a hard time seeing the “inherent” value we have increasingly been attaching to a non-renewable resource.
    It’s not rocket science, but it allows rocket science to exist. It’s not great humour, but it describes human folly. Plus it’s not a given that the oil will be ours.

  12. Home says:

    Rob: And we are going to attack Iran and potentially turn what ever Shia support we have against us, placing our guys and gals really in harms way?
    Re: Shia support
    If I may, what Shias support the US?
    I think that a sort of `Who’s Who in Iraq’ is a great desideratum.
    I think that if the histories of
    al-Maliki, al-Hakim, Bayn Jabr, et al become more public it would become extremely clear why the US is fuct and has been fuct since it deposed SH in 2003.
    With the help of Iran and Syria, Al-Maliki has spent the last twenty plus years of his life trying to Islamicize Iraq and now the US is expecting him to plunge daggers in the backs of his former hosts and sponsors?
    Check out this exchange btw al-Maliki and Sect Cheney:
    Bush warns Iraq on chemical arms U.S. fears use of weapons against rebels. Chicago Tribune. March 10, 1991 [snip]
    Jawad al-Maliki of the Dawa Party said in Damascus, Syria, that mustard gas was used against protesters in al-Haleh, al-Kifil, Najaf and some areas of Basra, in southeastern Iraq.
    Precisely what is going on inside Iraq is difficult to determine since Western reporters have been expelled.
    Most information is coming from refugees and opposition leaders in Iran and Syria.
    Defense Secretary Dick Cheney described the situation as “volatile” but said it appears Hussein will be able to keep the unrest in check for
    The Iraqi leader is using his loyal Republican Guard to quell the rebellion.

  13. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    The US may find itself hurtling towards an extremely dangerous and rare historical circumstance. By that I mean the following: to protect America, our best and perhaps only hope is for the USM to stand up to the Bush administration and refuse to attack Iran in a pre-emptive strike. In other words, to borrow from an earlier heading: attacking Iran — last hurrah of a special relationship.
    Such a path is narrow and fraught with risks. Maybe General Zinni and other members of the military will go public again and voice their opposition in no uncertain terms. Surely, this go-round, if someone calls General Zinni a “traitor”, some people in the Pentagon will rally around the general.
    For the record, Sun Tzu sayeth: “if fighting will not result in victory, then you must not fight, even at the ruler’s bidding.”
    The consensus, at least outside the think tank crowd, is that launching a pre-emptive strike against Iran will not lead to an ultimate victory for the US and the world. Far from it. Total disaster.

  14. bh says:

    It appears that King Abdullah of Saudia Arabia and Dick Cheney have finally decided on their Iraq strategy. Arm a Sunni neo-Baath movement allied with Saudi Arabia, actively rally US politicians against the Shiite central government, and begin the war with Iran.
    Cheney seems to have invented his own version of Galbraith’s division of Iraq. He also seems to have come to the same conclusion as the British in the 1920s that only by giving the Sunnis power can an invader hope to secure the country.
    The major new arms deal with Saudi Arabia allows for forward positioning of lots of hardware for the long war against the Shia.
    So what will Russia do when Cheney attacks Iran?

  15. Cold War Zoomie says:

    One acronym fits:

  16. sglover says:

    “Why? Has everyone in DC last there minds?”
    Well, did invading Iraq make any sense? There’s your precedent for bombing Iran.
    And God, I hope I’m wrong….

  17. bstr says:

    You will never go broke by betting on the lack of interest in facts held by your President. bstr

  18. Jose says:

    Why are we taking an article in “The Weekly Standard” seriously?
    Hasn’t that magazine been discredited enough?
    Is the author related to the Kagans of the “Project for the New American Century”?
    If she is, just look how good the PNAC is going…lol

  19. VietnamVet says:

    Thanks for your comments on “Considering a war with Iran”. The paper is of interest if for no other reason than making one think about the unthinkable and the delusional ideology advocating the attack
    A conventional bombing campaign may well succeed in destroying Iranian military, media and infrastructure. The USA may still command the high seas.
    But to gain what? 12% of OPEC oil will be taken off the market. Oil shipping will be disrupted for months. The global economy will freeze. Islamic radicals will cement their control in a broad swath of “failed states” from Lebanon straight through to Afghanistan.
    An air attack on Iran would signal that the USA is out of control. America would lose support of the world and like all earlier Imperial Regimes based on force, collapse.
    A nuclear attack on Iran killing millions would assure the Apocalypse in my lifetime.

  20. Babak Makkinejad says:

    The Lounsbury:
    I take strong exception to your characterization: “”Iran is a vile, repressive state run by loathsome people” – And I suppose US is the New Jerusalem, the City on the Hill, run by saints that are right there doing Christ’s work.

  21. Montag says:

    The Klingons have a saying that, “Only a fool fights in a burning house.” Iraq is the burning house and Bush’s solution is to pick a fight with the neighbors?
    It does make sense in a way, though. Ever since the occupation of Afghanistan the Busheviks have been going after the enemies of Al Qaeda by putting a lot of different nuts in the same bag and calling them all the same kind of nuts. It’s kind of like the Mexican Hat Dance, where the object is to dance everywhere BUT on the hat.
    Remember that only six months after 9/11 Bush said that he was no longer concerned about Bin Laden and that he no longer poses a serious threat! As Hank Hill would say, “That boy ain’t right.”

  22. Cold War Zoomie says:

    I’ve got this inkling that someone isn’t impressed with air power and high tech gizmos.

  23. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I was saved several times by intrepid USAF guys (AC-47)
    I was damned near killed a couple of times by other guys. One was an f-4 pilot who made a CAS pass from behind us and his 20 mm. casings came down at what 200+ knots?
    On the good side it broke up what was in front. pl

  24. GSD says:

    The ideas expressed by those advocating a massive strike are in effect a carbon copy of the ideas expressed about Iraq in the run up to the war.
    It is always supposing the best case scenarios.
    We know how poorly it worked in Iraq. Knowing the same depraved and myopic strategists are working on this third and final front must give a lot of people at least a modicum of pause.
    If the US attacks Iran, the American people will be the ones shocked and awed.

  25. JohnH says:

    Do you hear any Democrats besides Kucinich raising red flags? No, they’re all shareholders in the enterprise. Either they’re firm believers in Bush’s agenda (whatever that is) or they don’t want to get blindsided by a wave of hyper-patriotism before the next election. Either way, they are total scum and thoroughly deserve their 14% approval rating. And they should never be allowed to ever live down their complicity in the Iran venture, when it turns sour.

  26. Thank you all for answering my post (typos included). Like I said I am no military authority, but I just needed to have someone flag me to see if I was running aground or on course.
    Yes its not rocket science and yes if we do attack Iran they do have the capability to inflict some losses especially in the Gulf. Three Carrier battle Groups make nice targets. If one plays the odds the Iranians will get at least one ship and its crew.
    On my last visit to the region the squawk on the Gulf was indeed preparing for some kind of assault. Yeah it will keep me and others in my biz employed but thats not the way we want to be employed.
    Its one thing if we were at war with Iran its another to start one at this point.
    I have no doubt that we can inflict the greater damage but its not worth the cost of another American life or United States Ship.
    Just not worth it. This is one fight that we are very late in the game playing with….
    I can only hope that the American people will not stand for it, though I have my doubts.

  27. Edward Merkle says:

    “So what will Russia do when Cheney attacks Iran?”
    Supply Iran.
    “But to gain what? 12% of OPEC oil will be taken off the market.”
    So let’s look at the result for oil investors after the Iraq invasion:
    “Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest publicly quoted oil and gas firm, yesterday said it made $25bn (£13bn) in 2004, the highest profits in the company’s history.”
    “The record profits were achieved on the back of the surge in oil and gas prices last year due to high demand and instability in some of the biggest producing nations.”
    And then there’s the “Ex-President’s Club” The Carlyle Group, read it and try to hold your cynicism in check:

  28. kim says:

    at some point it might be a good thing for someone to consider the peeople.
    i used to chat with iranian people. all i chatted with expressed positive, friendly feeling toward the american people. this matched what i was reading in world newspapers, about the “westernization tendencies” (best i can come up with at the moment, ok?) of the iranian people, especially the younger ones. you know, western type dress, western type music, western type obsession with communication gadgets and the open communication and social life that follows from that obsession.
    even in oppressive states, the people are powerful, ’cause there are an awful lot of them. we saw that in the soviet union and its satellite states. just takes a little time sometimes.
    ok, so what i’m saying is, american government, by word and deed, encouraged the iranian people to elect their current president. attacking iran would encourage them to actually strongly support him, and also to support the ayatollahs.
    my unsupported, but confidently held guess: with real diplomacy (including re the mess in iraq) the iranian people will evolve iran beyond the islamic republic within ten years.
    or maybe i’m just an uninformed goofball, in which case i should run for some public office or other.
    but, really, i think that we the people should remember that the names in the news are not the only players, and there are different games.

  29. Montag says:

    Nazi Armaments Minister Albert Speer learned the true value of the promises by Air Power enthusiasts when he instigated the formation of a special bomber squadron to bomb Soviet production plants. After the first bombing raid on a plant he was looking at the aerial photographs of the damage with some Luftwaffe officers and the general consensus was that the plant was permanently kaput. Then he brought in the German manager of a similar plant that had been repeatedly bombed by the Allies. The man proceeded to circle vital areas of the plant that had escaped serious damage. His assessment? “Back in production in two weeks.”

  30. jonst says:

    I believe we, the US, are at a Ft Sumpter moment. It is not my intention to pass judgment on what happened that day in SC. Rather, to say; we are at a crossroads of that magnitude. If we are lulled/propagandized into attacking Iran we will not come out it as the same nation we are now. So, who in DC is going to stand up to Bush? It is going to be any interesting Fall to say the least.

  31. Cold War Zoomie says:

    Col Lang-
    Your experience seems to be a common theme with CAS.
    For my fellow commenters…
    The article below is interesting. It showcases how dangerous Close Air Support is while also proving, merely by its existence (it was published right before we invaded Iraq), how flawed the “shock and awe” mentality was going into Iraq.
    Global Security Article

  32. Makkinjad
    I take strong exception to your characterization: “”Iran is a vile, repressive state run by loathsome people”
    What the bloody hell are you on about? I didn’t write that. Read more carefully.
    And I suppose US is the New Jerusalem, the City on the Hill, run by saints that are right there doing Christ’s work.
    Leaving aside that what you’re objecting to was written by someone else, let me point out that the Iranian regime’s repressiveness can exist at the same time as say American idiocy or provincialism. Not an either or proposition.

  33. Binh says:

    Col, you write: “The current IO campaign against Iran makes it seem more and more plausible that such an onslaught will be attempted.”
    Sorry if this is a stupid question: what’s IO?
    Also, people may have missed this, but the Senate has already signed off on the “Iran is killing our troops with EFPs” story the Cheney administration will cite as causus belli:

  34. A recent book (2006) entitled “House of War” by James Carroll looks at strategic bombing as well as nuclear strike policy from the Truman era to the Present. Its worth recalling the differences between strategic attack and tactical attack. What would an attack on Iran really be “strategic” or “tactical.” There is substantial evidence published and publically available that the Iranians have not just been posturing but working hard since 1979. See Mark Bowen’s fine book “Guests of the Ayatollah” for background. They have invested heavily and contracted extensively to build key underground facilities, prompted in part by fear of another Iraqi war and WMD. The Germans have helped enormously in this effort.
    Suggest that if the US Air Force and Navy want to demonstrate their complete irrelvancy to diplomacy, energy availability even to DOD, and the globalized world, they attack Iran pushed by President Bush. Rumsfeld knew the world had changed but the military did not. In a way his support of the Iraqui invasion and occupation demonstrates his concerns. He failed at reform and now the flag rank officers having won that battle continue to waste the valuable lives of Junior Officers, and capable long-service enlisted lives in futility. We need a capable military that can think and fight in a globalized world. Do we have the brain power we need to protect US security over the next 50 years. The Iranians have read “Fire in The East” by Paul Bracken (1969) also and what will be the impact of a sunken US city (carrier) or the tactical nuking of a deployed military city like Quatar?
    Time for bluff and posturing is over and now we really need good poker players because we are up against the best and the hole card of cheap energy and ready access is 25 years in the past. What is Congress thinking about? What are the defense chieftans thinking about? What are the American people thinking about? If there are allies, what are they thinking? The American tradition is coalitions not unilateralism. Why is that?
    Been successful perhaps?

  35. João Carlos says:

    Juan Cole don’t have good news from the iranian’s front. If the information he provide is correct, we will have some interesting times after the labour day. You know, there is an ancient chinese curse: “that you have interesting times”.
    Maybe be time for general Pat Lang start some posts about what can happen if the Iran War start. For example?
    1. how much time they can mantain closed the strait?
    2. their sunburn and other weapons are a problem for US fleet? They can really sink any ship?
    3. their land-land missiles, they will burn Saudi oil production or they will use them for burn US bases?
    4. the iraq shia, we know they are fragmented polliticall and that the Mahdi and the Badr are fighting over the power at the souht, but can they join for defend Iran?
    5. Iran have some kind of missile defence system for hit the bombers, can they defend themselves efficiently aginst the US air force?
    6. Iran can send their Revolutionay Guards for fight the US soldiers at iraq?
    7. Are we going down a fall inside a casket?
    8. It is time for panic?
    9. Bush just made Putin, well, in portuguese is “puto da vida”, you know, that missile defence system at east europe, so… what the chinese and the russian will do?
    João Carlos
    sorry the bad english

  36. linda says:

    ugh, i’ve been wondering for a while what your opinion was on this possibility. this really isn’t what i’d hoped to read.
    it is unfrigginbelieveable that this is even under consideration — from the intitial ramp-up when the teevee chattermonkeys made the concept of the use of ‘tactical nukes’ an acceptable part of the discussion, to the cowardice of the democrats who removed language requiring congressional support for an attack from the appropriations bill.
    it’s amazing to me that the ‘rationale’ for such a strike is to prevent iran’s nuclear ambitions. if that’s your deepest fears, by all means attack iran, and watch your nightmares be realized within days in pakistan.
    i’ve wondered for a long while if cheney isn’t actually an agent of the iranians, since every damned thing he’s done has been to their benefit.

  37. Nicholas Weaver says:

    IO: Information Operations.
    Aka Propaganda.

  38. Curious says:

    The war with Iran is on, it seems. All the usual domestic political move is being executed.
    in the next 2 months, all usual TV channel will talk nothing but attacking Iran.
    Iran logical option:
    – Make US logistic line as long as possible,
    -destroy all oil supply point,
    -create a condition where burn rate is high and expensive. (destroy all small support ships, nearby military bases, create chaos in major gulf city to suck up gas because of population movement, etc.)
    – Make the entire persian gulf into whack a mole, search and hunt arena.
    It’s use it or lose it for all Iranian “visible” military installation.
    1. Destroy Suez canal
    2. Destroy Kuwait (port, oil facility, create chaos so Kuwait cannot provide support)
    3. destroy Iraq’s only seaport. (create situation where troop in Iraq will need even more supplies)
    4. destroy all oil port in the gulf (Saudi, Yemen, Qatar, economic war.)
    5. They will attack all large fuel depots in gulf region) This is the easiest and most obvious move.
    6. All major city in gulf coast is a target, create population panic to soak up gas and drive up price.
    7. after that it’s persian gulf war (tanker and pipeline war.)
    Result, oil price will go up approaching $150 within a month, near $200 after 3 month. More if there is domestic supply damage.
    The first US bombing will last about 3 weeks (the length of domestic political support)
    After that the real war begins. If Iran survives the initial 3 weeks bombing, all hell breaks lose.
    It’s battle of attrition after that.
    The craziest guy wins.

  39. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    1.The constitutional issue:
    The power to declare war was vested in Congress under the Constitution.
    Congress duly declared war in WWI and WWII. Since then, we have been in a constitutional crisis per War Powers: Korea, Vietnam, Iraq…and Iran next.
    The traditional Republican perspective of “Mr. Republican”, US Senator Bob Taft:
    “If in the great field of foreign policy the President has the arbitrary and unlimited powers he now claims, then there is an end to freedom in the United States and not only in the foreign field but in the great realm of domestic activity which necessarily follows any foreign commitments…a document was submitted to Congress…this document contains the most unbridled claims for the authority of the President that I have ever seen in cold print. In effect, the document asserts that whenever in his opinion American foreign policy requires he may send troops to any point whatsoever in the world, no matter what the war in which the action may involve us….That certainly is a complete misrepresentation of the discussion of these constitutional powers which has taken place since the foundation of the nation.” (US Senator Robert Taft, A Foreign Policy for Americans, NY: Doubleday, 1951, pp. 24-25).
    So just what has happened to the Republican Party since the Taft and Eisenhower Era?
    2. We get to Nixon with George Shultz lurking at OMB and all the rest. For which see,
    Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. The Imperial Presidency (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1973).
    Congress attempts to remedy the Imperial side with the War Powers Act the effect of which was a millisecond if that.
    Congress rubber stamps Iraq War but is too morally corrupt and cowardly to actually declare war. There were NO serious hearings in ANY Congressional committee in EITHER the House or Senate…just rubber stamp for those who recall that era with precision. Three quarters of the Senate and three quarters of the House vote to “authorize” President to use force.
    Same for Iran as we see today.
    3. Bearing in mind the federal, state, and local emergency response to the Katrina event, what if Iran, adopting an asymmetric strategy, runs simultaneous attacks against say 3 or so major American cities….they won’t use the nukes they don’t have but they could be creative nonetheless….anthrax, easy to cook up could be a favorite, who knows?..lots of scenarios…but merely responding in Iraq or Lebanon, while likely, is still not really bringing war to their enemy’s homeland. It would seem prudent to assume they would retain some residual capability for such asymmetric action against the US homeland despite Beltway delusions about some apocalyptic destruction of “Babylon’s”
    4. The other major powers stand aside and let the US continue with its strategic blunders and with its downward spiral. When the dust settles, they can reassess the situation and make the necessary adjustments to protect their national interests.
    I agree with the Pogo Theory.

  40. David W says:

    I doubt that Hugo Chavez would look kindly on a US attack on Iran, and obviously, he’s ‘off the reservation’ as far as US influence is concerned. In the best case scenario, Venezuela makes billions more off its oil, further solidifying its position of influence in Central America, killing off the previous generations of attempted US influence in the region.
    Ironically, the Cheney/Bush regime is pursuing a Dinosaur strategy to the bitter end.

  41. dan says:

    The Iranians don’t have to “close” the Straits of Hormuz for there to be severe consequences, and it is doubtful that they would even bother trying that hard to do so. That doesn’t mean that they won’t play some games that force the US into doing it for them, thereby shooting itself square in the forehead.
    Given that some 14mpbd plus of oil transits the Straits on a daily basis, it only takes a minor disruption ( say 10-20% ) for crude prices to go skyrocketing upwards. This level of disruption extending beyond a week is going to result in the US administration being involved in some very interesting shouting matches with its “friends”, and every US congressperson and senator fielding irate calls from their non-energy/non-defense financial contributors about how they can forget any campaign monies this cycle if they don’t stop the madness. The Iranian goal, in this theatre, would be to extend disruption for as long as possible and to goad the USN/USAF into making mistakes.
    At any rate, the Iranians have MUCH better, more achievable, options at their disposal anyway – the Kuwaiti pipeline/loading infrastructure, for example, is well within range of their missiles/special forces and, as an added bonus, may even be considered lawful targets due to the inability of Kuwait to claim neutrality ( given its pivotal status to the US military in the region ) in a US-Iran conflict.
    The simple fact of a shooting war in the area is going to deter commercial shipping – particularly as Lloyds will likely invoke war risks exemptions to marine insurance policies. Minimal requirements to get around this will be naval escorts from competent neutral third parties – I wonder how long it would take the Indian and Russian navies to turn up?
    Considering that Iran controls a number of islands ( Abu Musa, Sirri, Keshm, Jazireh etc ) in very close proximity to the shipping lanes, they constitute a “threat” that will have to be neutralised, particularly as the Iranians thought it might be a good idea to locate some anti-ship/anti-aircraft missile batteries at these locations. It’s also worth noting that Keshm is a large island, a couple of KM from the Iranian coast, and its area is similar to that of Lebanon South of the Litani. I don’t know how “militarised” it is – but its utility for maritime interdiction operations is obvious.
    Countering the threat is the killer problem as it is hard to see the USN/marines being able to take the islands and/or deal with Iranian retaliation along the length of their Persian Gulf littoral without effectively turning key pieces of maritime real estate into a shooting gallery for, at the very least, a few days ( and that’s assuming the usual heroic narrative of rapid US military success ).
    In reality, the party closing the Straits will be the US navy/airforce, not the Iranians – which is an awkward position for Washington to be in, as it emphasises the moral recklessness of what they’re doing.

  42. Babak Makkinejad says:

    The Lounsbury:
    I apologize for mis-directing my missive at you – the target was Nicholas Weaver.

  43. Correction: Paul Bracken’s book “Fire In The East” is dated 1999 not 1969.

  44. pw says:

    I have no doubt that the US can accurately service 10,000 odd DMPIs in an impressively short period of time. Thing is, so what ? If the Iranians disperse, camouflage and decoy even half as well as the Serbs did they will still have more then enough hardware intact to raise all sorts of merry hell.
    What will happen though is that the average Iranian civilian will suffer. A lot. For that is what happens when infrastructure – fixed targets, ones that can be found and pre-targeted – are hit. And – funny old thing – they will blame the US for this, not the current regime.
    The result will be an adequately equipped and very motivated Iranian force that wishes nothing more than to kill the Americans just over the border from them. Unless of course they’ve already infiltrated Iraq (some of the 1 million or so pilgrims perhaps ?) and are poised to cut the supply lines as soon as the first bombs fall.
    And another question for you – how many of the “Iraqi” Army will die on behalf of the US when all they see on the news is endless footage of civilians slaughtered by faceless cowards (*) flying out of sight of the ground just over the border ?
    (*) Not my view – but I’m damn sure it will be the average Middle East viewer’s opinion.
    Then again, the endless discussions of high tech old school naval warfare vs swarms in the littoral will get some juicy data points. We might not like the results though.
    And what do Iran’s other oil customers do if the US shuts their supplies down by bombing Iranian oil plants ? India won’t be happy, China has a large amount of leverage over US financial interests – and remind me again what the Japanese reaction was the last time the US interfered with their access to oil ?
    Finally, the US does not look credible as a real threat to the Iranian regime (leaving nukes aside). All they can do is bomb, and bombs will do nothing but unite the Iranians against the US. Kill enough Iranians and they will be ready for a long, long war (as Saddam found out). The US though does not appear to be. Will the US people support significant tax increases to fund genuine increases in troop numbers just as the economy gets worse ? From this side of the pond, it doesn’t look like it but I’d be happy for any US nationals to tell me I’m wrong.

  45. Ian says:

    Hezbollah demonstrated that well fortified troops can survive and keep fighting despite a protracted bombing campaign by a modern, American equipped air force. Presumably their Iranian patrons have a similar skill set, with the added advantage of having some good SAMs. If Hezbollah’s lobbing missiles at Israel could not be stopped, it seems likely that Iran’s capability to fire anti-ship missiles into the Gulf likewise can’t be bombed away.
    I don’t know how to assess how effective a swarm of the latest generation of missiles would be against the American navy, but I can’t imagine the Gulf will be a fun place to captain an oil tanker if worst comes to worst.
    If the administration hopes to bomb Iran’s civilian infrastructure with the aim of toppling the government, well, good luck with that. As ever, strategic bombing will prove both ineffective and monstrous.
    It’s a pity that your country is currently ruled by madmen.

  46. isl says:

    My prediction is that China would use its “nuclear option” (stop funding the US economy, dump T-Bills) as they would be quite unhappy with the US long-term interdiction of one of their main sources of oil. Absent Chinese/Asian funding, the US could either emergency raise taxes (not likely) by circa 50%, or kick off inflation – US Account Deficit is pushing a trillion ($856 billion in 2006!!) which can only be financed externally plus a domestic deficit of $600 billion plus (real, not on budget).
    Consider that oil is nearing $100 bbl based on supply and demand, and a decent Gulf hurricane easily would blow past $100. Thus, $200 bbl likely is low for the scenarios discussed above.
    Oil in the range $200-$500 is not in the interest of anyone in the world, and IMHO, would be final straw that would convince the rest of the world the US is too dangerous to tolerate – we would be left to get our economy in order on our own. Imagine economic shock therapy applied during a shooting war by the most unpopular administration in modern history.
    No one wins, but the US loses much more. Having a variable mortgage, my hope is that key foreign leaders can communicate via major CEOs not to take a lose-lose big approach to inside the bubble where the Bush admin resides.

  47. Moralist says:

    Attack Iran? Would this be a moral war or an evil war?Unleashed by men seeking to preserve a future they know nothing of? How many dead Iranians to make you Americans feel good about yourselves?
    Is there really no other way for your politicians to serve you than to attack a unified Nation which has a history which goes back Millenia and has made no move to attack you? Why not provide free health care in your ghettos instead of killing people who hold no ill will nor pose any threat?
    If you do attack without cause and use (Horror of horrors) nuclear weapons in a first-strike… would not Mankind be justified in holding the USA to be the most vile Nation ever to have existed?
    Which innocents would you target next to “secure resources” for your tiny elite?
    How should your “allies” respond?
    How will your allies respond?
    What will they think of you?
    What will you think of yourselves?
    Or will the truth be forever repressed… that if the Doctrine of Pre-Emptive Strike in the face of imminent threat has any validity ’twas Saddam who was most justified to exercise such and not GWB/USA as events have shown.
    Similarly for Iran. The Americans are now the bully boys and the killers .

  48. Charles says:

    10,000 targets from 200 bombers (plus cruise missiles) is possible if you simply assume that every bomb hits “a target.” With smart bomb technology, it’s theoretically possible, but experience shows that air war always overpromises and underperforms. Also, smart bombs are expensive, so dumb bombs continue to predominate.
    The main fault with Plesch&Martin is that there is reason to believe we have no reliable intelligence from within Iran. If correct, that means that all targeting has to be done by image analysis. Presumably the Iranians are not unaware of this, and are taking countermeasures. I would bet we end up bombing a lot of empty sites.
    There is also absolutely no reason to believe that so-called Robust Earth Penetrators are able to take out hardened sites. However, even using conventional weapons, we could succeed in spilling nuclear and toxic waste over civilian populations in a manner that would unify just about the entire world–especially key nations like Pakistan and Turkey– against us.
    Plesch and Martin note that this scenario was war gamed a few years ago.
    The US lost.
    The sheer stupidity of this plan makes it plausible that it will be used.

  49. TR Stone says:

    “The craziest guy wins.”
    OMG, is this what the 21st century has wrought!
    It makes one wish our guy was the crazy one-not the STUPID ONE!

  50. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Iran and Groupthink per Jim Lobe column:
    “On the heels of President George W. Bush’s latest threats against Iran for its “murderous activities” in Iraq, the Weekly Standard has obligingly published a 30-page report by Kimberly Kagan, spouse of Surge co-architect and American Enterprise Institute (AEI) fellow Frederick Kagan and director of an entity called The Institute for the Study of War, entitled “Iran’s Proxy War Against the United States and the Iraqi Government” ….
    K. Kagan, who has accompanied her husband on some of his guided tours of Iraq (and indeed helped escort Bill Kristol on his trip there last month), is, like her husband, a military historian who, according to her bio, has taught at the U.S. Military Academy….
    Kimberley’s doctorate from Yale University was in Ancient History, which must gladden the heart of her father-in-law, Yale classicist (and neo-conservative) who also specializes in military history, Donald Kagan, under whom I presume she studied. Of course, her brother-in-law is Robert Kagan, one of neo-conservatism’s leading thinkers. Which once again helps illustrate just how small and incestuous the neo-conservative elite is, what with the Kristol-Himmelfarbs, the Podhoretz-Decter-Abrams, the Kagans, the Gaffneys (Frank and Devon) siblings, and the Ledeens (Michael, Barbara, and Simone), to the most prominent. It’s no wonder that they are so susceptible to groupthink.”

  51. Cold War Zoomie says:

    “I don’t know how to assess how effective a swarm of the latest generation of missiles would be against the American navy, but I can’t imagine the Gulf will be a fun place to captain an oil tanker if worst comes to worst.”
    We’ve already tangled with the Iranians while escorting oil tankers:
    Operation Earnest Will
    I can’t attest to the accuracy of the wikipedia entry. My memory is that we lost two helicopters to Iranian fire but wikpedia only mentions one with no explanation.
    We were monitoring the action from here:
    RAF Chicksands
    (If you’re wondering how we were monitoring firefights in the Persian Gulf from a small village in the UK, select the satellite view and look for the big circle on the left. That used to be an antenna that was dismantled in 1996.)
    Maybe there are some lessons to learn from back then for you folks who are much better at research and analysis than I am.

  52. Binh says:

    When Brzezinski said this back in Feb in testimony before Congress, I didn’t pay it much mind. Now it sounds prophetic:
    If the United States continues to be bogged down in a protracted bloody involvement in Iraq, the final destination on this downhill track is likely to be a head-on conflict with Iran and with much of the world of Islam at large. A plausible scenario for a military collision with Iran involves Iraqi failure to meet the benchmarks; followed by accusations of Iranian responsibility for the failure; then by some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the U.S. blamed on Iran; culminating in a “defensive” U.S. military action against Iran that plunges a lonely America into a spreading and deepening quagmire eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan…

  53. cebm says:

    Normally, I lurk and learn, but this has really scared me. In this insanity will come an attack of some sort on the US, followed by martial law. Let the good times roll. Fall of the Roman Empire. Damn.

  54. Arun says:

    This one with a pinch of salt.
    I have a friend who is an LSO on a carrier attack group that is planning and staging a strike group deployment into the Gulf of Hormuz. (LSO: Landing Signal Officer- she directs carrier aircraft while landing) She told me we are going to attack Iran. She said that all the Air Operation Planning and Asset Tasking are finished. That means that all the targets have been chosen, prioritized, and tasked to specific aircraft, bases, carriers, missile cruisers and so forth.
    I asked her why she is telling me this.
    Her answer was really amazing.

  55. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Pat Buchanan’s take:
    “What gives Bush his new cockiness? The total collapse of the antiwar coalition on Capitol Hill and the breaking of the Congress….”
    The Times (London) reports:
    “Alexis Debat, director of terrorism and national security at the Nixon Center, said last week that US military planners were not preparing for “pinprick strikes” against Iran’s nuclear facilities. “They’re about taking out the entire Iranian military,” he said….”
    Rev Guards:
    “Guards commander-in-chief Yahya Rahim Safavi was replaced by Mohammad Ali Jafari, who has been a commander in the Guards, Khamenei said in an order reported by state television. No reason was given for the move.”

  56. Charles I says:

    Hmmm back from the cottage, great to be ignorant for weeks on end, but I see another Charles in here, so henceforth, I shall be posting as Charles I, that is, Charles the First.

  57. Charles I says:

    And jonst, no-one is going to “stand up to” Bush.

  58. Leila says:

    Maybe I’m just a starry-eyed American true believer in the Constitution, but listen to this:
    Barbara Lee has sponsored HR 770, now in committee at House Foreign Affairs, which removes funding from any covert or military action against Iran to effect regime change barring “imminent danger.” 17 other reps. are co-sponsors.
    You could call your congressperson and two senators to ask what they are doing to stop this Iran project. You could urge them to support HR 770.
    John in comments above claims that only Kucinich (i.e. the nutcase) is doing anything against this war in Congress. John is wrong, and if he’d done some research he would have known it.
    I found out about this bill by calling Lee’s office this morning (she’s my rep.)
    If you really care about our political system and you believe this Iran plan is imminent and foolish, why don’t you make the phone calls? Write a letter?
    The people do have the power to force Congress to act. Congress does have the power to stop the President. It simply takes the political will.
    That means you. That means your telephone. That means your letter and 41 cent stamp.

  59. This is a most interesting blog discourse. Filled with emotionalism, patriotism, knowledge, concern and almost no sense of what the next decade holds in store for the US. The preconditions are all in alignment for major energy shortages even with out political disruption. The problem is that very few in the US government know exactly what the energy picture is. There is substantial evidence that reserves even in the majors have been overstated but it does seem that a conscensus (sic) is forming that by the time of the presidential election in 2016 the US energy picture will be desparate. It all is about resources and picking that date as an arbitrary deadline, the US will either have done almost nothing (the probability) or will have tried to dominate energy resources militaryly. The options are limited since most of the financial resources of the US have been wasted on military adventures from Viet Nam to Iraq. The real argument for withdrawal is that perhaps Iraq energy resources will come fully back on stream. The oil sanctions against Iraq after the Gulf War cost the US a great deal in money for just basic enforcement. What needs to be enforced is any physical threats from religions to other politics ot energy resources, if we can assume energy resources are fungible, which I doubt. Sorry but a simple federal law allowing exploration anywhere in the US is the only immediate step and without a major restruturing of US society to deal with the 2016 energy bankruptcy we are up the creek without a paddle. How does this fit Iran? Be thankful they are selling oil on the world market. The real national security now is all about energy not democracy expansion. Both Dems and Republicans can’t seem to get it. The Presidential candidate that first announces Iraq is about oil not democracy will win in 2008. You heard it here first.

  60. Borsejem says:

    But he was calming his respective time.

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