Pale Rider on Iraq/Iran and the MSR

0820jord I have been writing about the vulnerability of this supply line for several years.  You could deliver the goods through Aqaba in Jordan, but this would require the construction of the terminal and marshaling facilities necessary to a modern LOC/MSR operation.  Air delivery?  Not enough tonnage would be possible except for support of tactical operations.

200,000 troops in an invasion of Iran from Iraq?

1-  We don’t have the disposable force, and neither do any of our likely "allies."

2-  The Maliki government and its friends are well disposed towards Iran.  Sadr is less so, but only "less so."

3-  Take a look at the size of the forces that engaged on the Iraq side in their war against Iran.  They were huge.  I had the opportunity to watch a lot of the combat in that war and it was ferocious.

Stupid comments about how poorly the Iraqis fought in that war will not be posted.  I know better.

Other than that, "Pale Rider " sounds like a professional to me.  pl


"Some people say that the Supply Lines up from Kuwait are the Americans’ Achilles heel in any possible war with Iran. To what extent could this operation in Basra be seen as an American attempt to secure their supply lines in view of a forthcoming attack on Iran? If I could, I’d like to weigh in on that. The supply lines that run from Camp Doha in Kuwait into Iraq are pretty tenuous, as all supply lines are. We would have to detail some significant forces to keep them open if the elements in Basra that are opposing us decided to try to shut them down. You’d need helicopter flights to escort them through, in most cases. We already rely on airlifting supplies–that could be further strained as well. If they shut down the truck transports or limited them, we’d have to boost the airlift. If we boost the airlift, they would react with shoulder fired SAMs where they could. US troops are so dispersed in Iraq that it really makes any linkage to an attack on Iran non-existent, at least to me. They’re fighting as brigades that are broken down into battalions and companies that are spread thin, sometimes down to the platoon level or smaller, not divisions. The majority of their gear is fitted for COIN not ground assault. Much of it is worn out. It does OK for limited COIN right now, but three to six weeks of ground combat against even moderate Iranian Army elements? A ground assault into Iran would have to be organized around the division and corps formations that aren’t really in place in Iraq. There’s a structure in place to occupy Iraq but there isn’t one that can just break off and become MNF-Iran. Forget about the troops in Afghanistan–you could yank every one of them out and put them in Iraq and it wouldn’t make much of a dent in what you would need. They would have to bring in thousands of staff just to form up that headquarters. For the US Army to form up and send more than a few thousand men into battle, we would need a unit like the 3rd ACR out front and two to five divisions moving in behind it–as in 1st CAV and 4th ID in the III Corps. Even that would be a small force for invading Iran. A more realistically-sized invasion force (as close to 200,000 troops as possible is my guess) would have to be comprised of at least 8 of the 10 active divisions, two air cav brigades, 2-5 National Guard divisions, and at least 25,000 Marin es. You might get to 200K with that, but I wouldn’t bet on it. We’d need all the other elements as well–overhead and logistical. ALL of that is severely over-tasked and tied down in Iraq. The process of pulling each Army brigade (or getting the Marine units into an attack mode) would mean pulling everyone and their gear out of the garrison or post they’e in now; supplying them for an attack, and then moving them hundreds of miles with HETs and everything else into jump-off points near Iran. There would be no element of surprise and the formed-up vanguard of an American attack into Iran would sit for days, waiting to get itself in place, and would be vulnerable to the elements as well. The reason we jumped in March five years ago was to avoid the oncoming hot season. Petraeus would literally have to start this week in order to get even 50-60,000 troops in place to attack Iran.  Pale Rider"

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37 Responses to Pale Rider on Iraq/Iran and the MSR

  1. The problem with logistics analysis in the context of Iran in any permutation or combination totally ignores the fact that Iran did withstand Iraqi efforts in their 8 year war. Admittedly it devasted an Iranian generation of males but cohesion is still there in Iran. All the war games I know about that involved a red team like Iran demonstrated that almost three years would be necessary and a total restructing of conventional capability to do what–occupy Iran (a really huge mountainous country) or as in Iraq just knock off the leadership cadre–don’t we know better now? Still the USAF and US Navy still need to show off new toys and concepts from time to time. I read GATES as finally standing up for common sense but who knows? I think Basra’s real implications are oil and shipping and not military logistic protection of Kuwaiti supply line to central and even northern Iraq.

  2. Walter Lang says:

    I invite general comment on WR Cummings’ comment on relative priorities in this situation. pl

  3. Charles I says:

    Now that the USM has well and truly joined in the current civil war(s) – on the losing side, I think – the only realistic question facing the USM regarding its supply lines is whether they be secured well/long enough for its’ inevitable withdrawal.
    I am not a soldier or professional. It just seems so obviously over to me, in so many contexts, that except for waiting for Bush’s successor to do the withdrawal,a ground invasion of Iran from Iraq is the last thing to worry about.
    Just as an aside, when considering Bush and Iran, which everybody says there is no way to prevent clashing should the Commander-in-Chief give the order, surely to god by now that order would result in command level service resignations and or impeachment? Is there no free will to found, but I digress.

  4. wiseguy says:

    the speed of the Basra incursion (indicated by the omission of Kurdish forces), the decision to avoid Sadr city, and the lack of any reasonable civilian PR, we can discount policial considerations. If we are trying to secure our supply lines then getting Maliki to do it is a really negative indicator. In his speech Maliki stated that he would route the criminal elements and specifically mentioned national treasure. ISTM that Maliki is running short of oil-sourced cash to grease his operation asince Basra has not been forwarding enough to Baghdad. Could be an end game move. If Maliki falls are there any other pro-occupation groups?

  5. Arun says:

    Juan Cole on, Feb 24:
    “The problem for Iraq is that whereas Baghdad or even Mosul can be subjected to a vigorous military campaign without that causing the country to collapse, I am not sanguine that Basra can survive a frontal assault and still remain Iraq’s import-export entrepot. And, if Basra is depopulated or sent into a spiral of violence similar to the Sunni Arab areas of the north, it will not hold Iraq harmless.”

  6. DeLudendwarf says:

    Colonel Lang:
    Be nice to put up a topographic map of Iran, to illustrate one of Mr. Cumming’s points. Hopefully the map would also show the road networks.
    Off to a board game party in Basye, Virginia, where an aging German gentleman, H. Guderian, will debut his latest board game, Cloud Cookoo Land.
    It’s like Liar’s Poker. You can win wars with divisions that do not exist or are tied down elsewhere. Just got to bluff and believe. It’s a novel concept, transformational, even.
    As he has provided a detailed map, I should be able to find his home, named Alpine Redoubt, easily.

  7. Charles I says:

    Surely Basra is mostly about Basra, whatever the conceits and logistical requirements of an aerial strike on Iran. I’m no soldier, but how can there be a ground assault of Ira?. I’m sure a helluva strike package has been ginned up deliverable in a variety of configurations from a variety of angles – or, geez, I sure hope that’s how they plan. I read that if Shrubby wants to go, he can dial it up. Every service wants their oar in the water I guess targeting is not the problem. I posted elsewhere that hopefully that would lead to resignations/impeachment, as dim a hope as that may be. I also posted that the only thing on the ground the USM should be thinking about down south is how to get the hell out as best they can with as much as they can, the 100 year fantasy team excepted. Are we a seriously discussing a ground invasion of Iran from Iraq?
    I think Basra is currently all about local politics – or lack of same, and a scramble amongst Shia factions for resources of all kinds. al-Malaki and the U.S. fear Sadr electoral success and irksome democratic legitimacy, a la Hamas. Southern Shia see no political progress. The end of ethnic cleansing consolidating the sectarian division of Baghdad under the auspices of the Surge naturally turns minds to other pressing divisions – and opportunities.
    After doing so well on a local level to quiet things down, it inevitable that that progress will now be thrown away attempting anything greater. This must be the penultimate stab at maintaining the fiction of governance and progress Bush must cling to on the precipice of irrelevance and disaster. Even a doable air campaign against Iran is going to engender a greater disaster or an order I find difficult to contemplate. One that can have no good outcome, however calculated to consider temporary tactical supply line security planning.
    I think the Sadrists, and all parties are hardier than al-Malaki imagines. A 72 hour ultimatum has morphed into buy out offers on a 10 day plan. Shia factions at the center of Basra were reported to be co-operating to hold their ground.
    They will continue to compete amongst themselves and co-operate when prudent until the distortion in Iraqi politics that is America is no longer physically occupying the battlespace of the newly liberated Iraq. Then the main event(s) will unfold, as the other post-Ottoman states around them unravel, Iran, bombed or not, playing a leading role courtesy the singularly inept efforts of the 43 presidency.

  8. LJ says:

    RE: Cummings comment and Pale Rider — Both seem to argue against the Basra operation as seen in the context of some future Iranian attack. Their seem quite strong to me unless the attack would be purely an air attack. In that case, might Iran seek to call out sympathetic Shites to engage in harassment and sabatoge? See Operation Cassandra> by William S. Lind for his scenario. I just can’t see there being any chance of a significant ground operation into Iran. But an air operation might still have dire consequences which the Basra operation might be intended to mitigate.

  9. I think Basra’s real implications are oil and shipping and not military logistic protection of Kuwaiti supply line to central and even northern Iraq.
    I interpret oil and shipping to be some of Maliki’s priorities. There are news reports that we didn’t really know about this offensive until it got cranked up? That seems strange but I’ve given up trying to figure out what is plausible and what isn’t. Seems true, though, since it appears the Bush Admin was caught a little off guard and events have been so liquid. So supply lines may be one of our priorities while political power, oil and shipping are Maliki’s priorities. He may be thinking we’ll take care of the supply line ourselves and he needn’t worry about it.
    Cheney may want to show off some new toys like these in Iran as a last jab in the eye before his next heart attack takes him out for good:
    I wouldn’t put it past him, and no invasion necessary.

  10. LJ says:

    If the Basra operation were to be seen as a part of some larger operation against Iran, the only way this seems to be credible would be if the operation would be an air via the air. Securing the supply lines would have to be in the event of Iran seeking to unleash the Shias in a holy way against the occupier. William S. Lind speaks to this in his Operation Cassandra.

  11. Color-coded Wonder says:

    Dear Col. Lang:
    As the author of the remark that is the basis of this post of “Pale Rider”, let me point out that I took it for granted that an ‘attack on Iran’ would be limited to air strikes. I find this discussion of the impossibility of a ground attack useful, but I didn’t think of such a ground attack as in the works. What I thought might be the case is an attempt to secure the Supply Lines prior to an air attack on Iran. It now occurs to me that the American goal might be even broader–to secure their southern flank. But things don’t seem to be going as well as they might.
    With respect,
    Color-coded Wonder

  12. Babak Makkinejad says:

    A US war against Iran is a strategic escalation to nowhere.
    It will not end in US victory; there are other states besides Iran that will make sure of that.
    It will be yet another opportunity to bleed United States white (no pun inteneded).

  13. VietnamVet says:

    The USA cannot invade Iran. The necessary Abrams Tanks and Bradley Vehicles are all worn out and dispersed through Iraq. There are no armored divisions prepositioned in Kuwait to conquer Iranian oil fields. Even if dusty armored forces are pulled out Iraqi FOBs, leaving the grunts unguarded, and gathered together in the desert on the Iranian frontier; the first town the vehicles transverse will be like “Black Hawk Down” gone really bad.
    Even, corporate media reports that a conventional aerial attack alone on Iranian buried and dispersed nuclear sites will be ineffective. An Israeli air attack and American escalation can have only one outcome; the Death of Millions. The only effective weapons left to the USA to attack Iran are nuclear bombs.

  14. Color-coded Wonder says:

    Dear Col. Lang:
    Two additional thoughts if I may.
    1) Time Magazine is reporting the official statement of an American officer in Iraq to the effect that the Maliki attack was coordinated from the beginning with the Americans (as I took obviously to be the case), with the potential for American backup always there. Hence it is reasonable to suppose that the Americans, and judging from President Bush’s rapid endorsement of Maliki’s attack, all the way up the to WH, have a plan which extends beyond ‘fixing’ the forthcoming provincial elections through the barrel of a gun.
    2. I am struck by photos in the media which show, for example, a Shia militiaman who can’t be much older than 14 or 15 wearing of all things standard US issue body armor (London Times Online). Even the Time magazine article shows a militiaman wearing what appears to be body armor. The kid is also shown wearing bandoliers over his body armor, but the shells to my unprofessional eye seem to be for a machine gun and not for the AK-47 the kid is brandishing. I am also struck by the ‘scoped’ rifles the militia men are shown carrying. We seem to be way beyond the “rag-tag guys with AK-47’s” in this battle.
    With respect,
    Color-coded Wonder

  15. frank durkee says:

    Does anyone have any relatively ‘hard’ information on the stories of police and Iraqui Army forces deserting, fleeing or joining the opposition?
    I read ‘assertions’ but little beyond that.

  16. Curious says:

    map of Iran-Iraq border/Basra
    Current larger political landscape around Iran: (we are slowly loosing the middle east. So the condition required for large scale attack is not there. Diplomatic support, cost, oil supply stability, airspace right, various support.)
    Economic gains of friendship
    But everything in the Russian policy is not about politics and history, either. Ultimately, Moscow places emphasis on the expansion of economic interests. The “peace dividend” of Russia’s growing friendship with the Islamic world is already not inconsiderable in economic terms. In January, for instance, Russia won an US$800 million tender to construct a 520-kilometer railway line in Saudi Arabia. The Russian arms export monopoly, Rosoboronexport, is on record that Russia was discussing supply of T-90 tanks and armored vehicles to Saudi Arabia worth $1 billion.
    Again, Russia delivered to Egypt upgraded S-125 Pechora-2M and Tor M-1 air defense systems despite US control over Cairo’s military-technical policy. On Tuesday, Russia signed a path-breaking agreement with Egypt allowing Russian companies to build nuclear power plants in Egypt and envisaging Russia providing training for Egyptian nuclear technicians and supplying nuclear fuel.
    Evidently, Cairo expects that cooperation with Russia will be more advantageous since the US imposes strict conditions, including regular inspections and control. The US has been pressuring Egypt to place its nuclear program under American control, even as a tender is expected to be floated later this year for Egypt’s first nuclear power plant estimated to cost about $2 billion.
    As of right now, without major diplomatic skill we are going to lose the entire region slowly. Nevermind if there is war with Iran. That will flip region public opinion overnight. Even if Iran turning on their nuke plan. (I think they wisely wait as a bargain ploy. All they need now is to flick the switch. But they need nuclear weapons, not nuclear reactor.)
    Land war with Iran?
    not possible under any circumstances without turning the country inside out, draft, war economy mod, and loosing Taiwan, Korea, central asia/afghan, and Pakistan.
    Current oil price is at $100-110, last Basra explosion send the oil price up $2-3. Even a small conflict with Iran takes several months of $150-250 oil price, easy. Nevermind massive land war. Unless somebody reconfigure national energy need first. It won’t happen. Even Mexico army can drive up the border and win after this an iranian land war.
    If I were a psyhchotic general still bent on attacking Iran… well.
    Since it is not possible to reconfigure Iraq occupation force into a land war formation without the Iranian themselves reacting quickly, then the only way to do it to start the Iranian invasion right from Iraq.
    It is possible to invade Iran, but everything has to be done in less than 3 months and no error. And somebody has to think what to do with $250/barrel oil price while stabilizing occupied Iran. (not to mention the bombing will be massive and kill millions of Iranians and the $600-800B war bill.)
    basic strategy:
    rebuilt Iraq infrastructure for massive and continuous air land war to attack iran. (reconfigure occupation force into land battle while the first day of bombing start.)
    Everything has to be done before Iran is able to react. (less than 3 weeks) Avoid lengthy mechanized land war. Everything is airlifted.
    The most this can do is destroy the current regime and its functioning army while the larger population still trying to figure out what happens. That’s about it.
    1. disabled all Iran airports, ports. Iran arm force should be left with semi functioning army only. (no major navy power, no aerial capability)
    2. set up air base in 2 center “dry salt lakes” in the middle. I seriously doubt Iran has the capability to defend that. EZ job.
    3. from there Tehran airport and QOM airport. (of course, QOM will be gone. and so is major military installation near Tehran.)
    4. cut out all information pipe in and out of Iran. (phone, net, international passage, etc)
    The entrance point will be the 2 dry lakes. Then force the Iranian to move and do land war in highway 9.
    of course any smart general would just Ignore all these shenanigans inside Iran and proceed to attack all oil facilities around Iran.
    That’s it.
    You got destroyed Iran, destroyed world oil facilities, about 2-4 millions dead iranians in all major industrial cities. about 50 nuclear heads an half of Iran major cities are radioactive.
    US casualty, about 20K. And we are forever be the bad guy of the world. Israel is gone, we have no more energy nor money to defend them.
    At least the general get to test all their nifty toys against russian radars right in the middle of Iran.

  17. arbogast says:

    The Israeli experience south of the Litani is germane.
    The ground component was a disaster. The Israeli Army went back to shooting civilians in Gaza as quickly as it could.
    The air component, Rice’s birth pains of a new Middle East, was much smoother, but had no effect except to further alienate everyone in the Middle East against Israel. Some of Israel’s staunchest allies such as Egypt condemned it.
    The American Army in Iraq has morphed into the Israeli Army in Gaza: civilian population “control” attempting to use mercenary surrogates (comparable to Fatah). It is not surprising that they would be incapable of mounting a real military operation against Iran.
    Will Bush/Cheney bomb Iran before they leave office?
    That is the question.

  18. chimneyswift says:

    Well, since everybody’s already talking “Cassandra,” how bout…
    This is the nightmare scenario! This is the thing that was totally predictable from the get-go and now we get to deal with massive implsion and turmoil.
    I still think of Chalabi, sometimes. There’s a lot that Iran stands to benefit from “our guys.”
    As for the MSR, I think it’s very true that the vast majority of Americans haven’t fully considered how bad trying to do Iraq with airplanes would be, whether staying in or trying to leave.
    At times I contemplate the works of Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Cheney in staggered silence.

  19. Andy says:

    William Cumming gets it right, but he is far too charitable. The idea of this Basra operation as a prelude to a US ground invasion of Iran is laughable. Pale Rider and others in this thread have only touched on problems with this scenario.
    In any war with Iran the greatest threat to supply is not some militia interdicting the MSR to Baghdad, but the Iranian capability to control and interdict shipping from the northern Arabian Sea all the way up to the Shatt. Any operation against Iran must take this into account and necessitate the destruction of the Iranian Navy, most of the Air Force, the coastal air defenses (likely the entire air defense system, such as it is) as well as Iranian coastal defense missiles (which are mobile) and artillery systems and the elimination of forces on, or even capture of, Abu Musa, Farsi and the Tunb islands and numerous oil platforms. All this is achievable by US forces but the timeframe is highly variable and uncertain. Iran has been planning and equipping for such a war for more than a decade and they are not stupid enough to underestimate US capabilities as Saddam was in both Desert Storm and OIF and they will plan accordingly.
    And this really exposes what a strategic liability Iraq is in any operation against Iran. Even a limited strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities is likely to escalate quickly into the scenario above which would put operations in Iraq at risk to say nothing of the free flow of gulf oil.
    In this vein, some have mentioned William Lind’s “Cassandra” operation. Unfortunately, as is often the case with Lind, his analysis is full of false assumptions and wishful analysis. Here’s what some real experts have to say about Lind’s scenario. As just a taste, there are two things the US Air Force excels at – gaining air supremacy Air Interdiction or AI. Iranian formations would probably be destroyed within sight of the Iranian border if not in their marshaling areas.
    Finally, I guess I’m not as concerned for our supply lines in Iraq as even Col. Lang is. An outside chance might see a sufficient force mustered and coordinated that might achieve surprise and interdict the route for a few days or maybe a week at the very most, but forces would be dispatched in short order that would open the routes back up. Remember that during OIF Saddam turned many of the cities in the south into strongholds filled with a variety of units – mostly Fedeyeen – and significant stores of weapons and ammo. During the invasion, the US simply bypassed all the cities and left a few screening forces to cover the supply routes for the forces pushing north. Thousands of Iraqi forces died, mostly Fedeyeen, died attempting to cut these lines which where defended by relatively modest forces.
    In my estimation the threat to our supply lines in the south is not that 150,000 troops would be “cut-off” for any period of time, or starved, or routed, but that even a temporary interdiction would be a political and possibly strategic victory. Any force opposed to the US does not actually have to cut lines of supply – only make them appear vulnerable. I don’t much like analogies to Vietnam, but one might draw parallels in such a strategy to Tet.
    However, if one is concerned about the long-term interdiction of supply lines, then the real action is further east in Afghanistan. It’s not a coincidence that the US is heavily engaged in negotiating with our “friend” Putin/Medvedev for a supply route into Afghanistan from the north, or that Uzbekistan is suddenly a bit more friendly, or that attacks against our supply convoys coming through Pakistan are increasingly common and deadly, or that our “friend” Musharraf probably won’t last the year, or that we no longer bother with any charade that our attacks into “Pakistani” territory are not unilateral. Many have wondered at Bush’s tolerance of Musharraf’s dictatorship and his weak support for operations against AQ and the Taliban, but the real reason is that our operations in Afghanistan are impossible without a land supply route into Afghanistan. Given the geography, infrastructure and political realities, only two options exist – Pakistan or Russia via Uzbekistan or, less likely, Tajikistan. The question that remains is what will the US have to give Putin to make him our BFF and open up an enduring supply-line to Afghanistan for NATO and US forces?

  20. arbogast says:

    I guess that my first comment can really be summed up by saying that when your military is being used primarily as a police force in an unfriendly, foreign civilian setting, your empire is in decline.
    And, if things move as fast as they do in the modern world, it’s in rapid decline.
    That is what makes the economic news as context to the military news so horribly threatening to the US.

  21. b says:

    My understanding is that the supply route through Aqabar is already in use. The Navy has a floating dock system, INLS, that can be used instead of fixed piers. The capacity problem isn’t the harbour. There is also an alternative with Eilat.
    The problem is not the supply route unless the folks in Anbar get nasty again (quite possible as they are nationalists like Sadr.)
    But a land attack on Iran requires much more and Curious’ plan above sounds like a Stalingrad campaign to me.
    No, not by land. Bombing is possible but then Petraeus’ army in Iraq is in deep doodoo.
    The current fighting in Iraq is about something else.
    – Cheney wanted the election law done
    – Maliki had to formaly give in on that but tricked the U.S.
    – Maliki generated chaos in the South so the U.S. would have to step in
    – Chaos in the South -> no provincial election possible -> the loot stays with Maliki/ISCI

  22. I don’t doubt that Maliki had some degree of coordination w/US. But, I don’t think this was about anything beyond Iraq itself. It plays at home as Bush saying it shows Iraqis are “standing up for themselves” but that it’s a “process” that will take a while. Gives Schmuck Talk some cover going into the general election, kind of like the reverse of LBJ canceling the bombing at the end of October 1968.

  23. Cloned Poster says:

    You got to contain your gag reflex when reading this shit from the Daily Mail, but the money shot is here.

    Already at the Basra air base, I can reveal, the British subsidiary of U.S. construction giant KBR is building four huge dining facilities – known to the American army as DFACs. These are capable of feeding 4,000 men and suggest that the U.S. Army is contemplating a massive deployment to southern Iraq – including a major presence inside Basra itself.

  24. arbogast says:

    I reiterate, the US military has morphed, or been forced to morph, into the Israeli military. Here it is the Israeli Air Force flying support for Fatah in Gaza:
    US planes bombed alleged Mahdi Army positions both in Basra and in Sadr City in Baghdad (as well as in Kadhimiya). Kadhimiya is a major Shiite shrine neighborhood in northwest Baghdad, and the spectacle of the US bombing it is very unlikely to win Washington any friends among Iraqi Shiites.
    Despite the US intervention, government troops were unable to pierce Mahdi Army defenses or over-run their positions.

    I think the very, very key point here is that we are losing. This so-called war is being lost. It is a defeat. A trillion dollar, 4,000+ dead defeat. And Bush is purposely dragging it out so that he can blame the defeat on the next President.

  25. Dave of Maryland says:

    Somebody please tell me:
    If we launch a massive air campaign against Iran, what is to keep them from counter-attacking with the massive numbers of surface to surface, surface to ship missiles – which they have, widely dispersed & well-hardened – against US airbases & US Naval ships?
    What magic do we have that will turn away a dozen missiles, fired in a 120 degree arc, targeted on a single warship, with a 5 minute flight-to-target time?
    The proposed attack on Iran is either suicidal, or it’s going to employ a massive number nuclear ICBMs. Since the Iranians know this, the attack is a bluff. Its only purpose is to influence US domestic policy. What other conclusion is possible?

  26. arbogast says:

    If one is going to discuss logistics, I think one has to discuss money. After all, if we doubled the pay of the Armed Forces, we would presumably have more troops and more supplies.
    So why don’t we have unlimited funds, and why is it that most libertarians argue against the war in great part because the US can’t afford it?
    Alan Abelson is an ancient fixture in the front pages of Barron’s. I was reading his column when I was a kid, a long time ago. He is a wise old guy. And he is not given to wild statements.
    And this is what he has to say,
    AlbertEdwards of Societe Generale insists the problem, “is simply that an economic bubble, financed by ridiculously loose monetary policy, is unraveling.”
    An analysis that has much to commend it and one, we strongly suspect, you’ll never find in Alan Greenspan’s best seller. (We confess we haven’t read it, but then we don’t get to read much fiction anymore.)

    He’s calling Alan Greenspan a liar and he’s holding him responsible for the current economic crisis in the United States.
    What master did Greenspan serve? I would say that Americans should know the answer to that question. If he acted independently, fine, he should be tried high crimes and misdemeanors.

  27. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Per Col. Lang’s guidance in the thread:
    1. Energy security considerations may explain current ops with respect to Iraq proper and Basra pipeline-oil-shipping situation.
    Do we know just who sabotaged the pipeline the other day?
    2. Is it logical that now we are aiding the “pro-Iran” Shiite forces, and government of Iraq, in preparation for a ground attack on Iran?
    What would we expect these “pro-Iran” forces to do if the US launched some ground offensive against Iran? Give US troops flowers and sweets on the way? Or air offensive?
    [“Pro-Iran” here would be based on religious sentiment rather than racial-ethnic considerations? Which is “thicker” race or religion?]
    3. Wouldn’t a more likely US attack scenario be an air attack via STRATCOM rather than a CENTCOM ground/combined operation?
    4. Oil price: when I was in Saudi in 2002, I met with the top official/s dealing with hydrocarbons. At that time, I was told by them the optimal price band would be about 22-28 and this was the policy objective. A couple of years ago, I spoke with a top executive of a very major foreign oil company who told me that his company’s internal assessment of the then $65 a barrel price was that about $15 or so was speculative-hedge fund related. Hence, supply-demand fundamentals distorted by speculative investment flows. Now, we have just heard from OPEC leaders that the price band to be expected for a while is 80-110. This latter would take into account the changed status of the US dollar since 2002, speculation, and other factors I would imagine.
    5. Taking 2mbd as a conservative working number for current Iraqi production, we arrive at 730 million b/yr. Multiply this by $80 for a low and then $110 for a high and we arrive at a rough approximation of oil revenue for 2008.
    How rapidly can Iraqi oilfields and related infrastructure be updated to achieve higher annual production rates? Say under the best circumstances five years or so to get up to maybe 6 mbd? I imagine Cheney can advise now UAE-based Halliburton on these oilfield services opportunities when he goes into retirement next year. If Cheney has a fatal heart attack, then his lawyer daughter can take up the slack for the family as his taking her along in the recent trip suggests.
    6. One might argue that an indicator of major US action against Iran could be a massive Israeli operation in Gaza and WB. Back in 2002, the Israelis geared up action in the WB in the spring thereby triggering near hysterical pro-Israel support in Congress particularly centered around the annual late spring AIPAC extravaganza. So going into the summer, and coming back in the fall 2002, Congress was jazzed up against “terrorism” and the like…easy segue into approval of a war against the terrorist-loving rogue state of Iraq loaded with all that WMD and aluminum tubes and yellowcake…not to mention hydrocarbons.

  28. David Habakkuk says:

    The former Indian diplomat M.K. Bhadrakumar was reporting recently in Asia Times Online that Moscow is engaged in consultations with the governments of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan as regards the proposed land corridor to be made available to NATO.
    What do you think would be Putin/Medvedev’s price tag?
    Do you think it is worth paying?
    What is the alternative to paying it?
    Some comments from Bhadrakumar’s piece:
    ‘Washington faces an acute predicament insofar as Moscow won’t settle for selective engagement by NATO as a mere transit route but will incrementally broaden and deepen the engagement, and major European allies might welcome it. Moscow insists on the involvement of the CSTO and even SCO. On the other hand, Russia’s involvement could invigorate the NATO mission in Afghanistan and ensure that the mission is not predicated on the highly unpredictable factor of Pakistan’s partnership.
    ‘Will Washington bite? Putin, with his trademark fighting spirit of a black belt in karate, could well be counting that his presidency still has five or six weeks to go and that is a lot of time for making Russia NATO’s number one partner globally and ensuring a durable place for Russia within the common European home.’
    Also relevant, of course, is the agreement with Russia by which Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan will switch to the European price formula for gas. This seems to have done rather substantial damage to hopes of securing substantial additional gas supplies for Europe which are not under Russian control. The geopolitical implications of this hardly seem neglible.
    More recently, Bhadrakumar has posted an interesting piece entitled ‘Russia challenges US in the Islamic world’ on the Asia Times website. I would be interested to know what you and others with more expertise in the Islamic world than I think of his analysis.

  29. Jose says:

    Col., forgive my cynicism but invading Iran with just 200,000 troops would be a disaster worse than Iraq.
    The lack of ground forces to control the population would invite all sorts of insurgencies from Shia fundamentalist to ethnic minorities wishing to break away.
    I was under the impression that Iraq had taught us a lesson, perhaps made us more perceptive about the limits of a high-tech but smaller Army.
    From all reports the Army is slowly breaking down, losing NCO’s and branch qualified Captains.
    Iran would destroy whats left with 15-month COIN deployments which some are now saying will be increased to 18-months.
    Not exactly the kind of environment men and women under 30 wish to be in.
    The Air Force and Navy can be all gun-ho because they do not feel the pressures of occupation maybe they should ask the Marines.
    The Iranians are not dumb and I can guarantee you are looking at Hizzbollah’s war against Israel as a model of resistance.
    Also, the Chinese are not going to finance our war to control their oil supplies and Russian has a border with Iran to send in arms.

  30. Grumpy says:

    This has been quite journey on this concept. As we walk, we begin to understand we are not looking at facts, but at imperfect perceptions. Let me make this absolutely clear, mine are just as imperfect as anyone else in this thread. As I look at this issue, my thoughts, in unconventional way come back to 9/11. What was the policy motto of that time? “We need ‘out of the box’ thinking.” I have two questions. What is the box? After we are out of it what do we do with it? If you listen to the Administration, they answer them. The box is HISTORY and we just disregard it or throw it away. How many times were we admonished, “to not look back and focus on the future”? This means we are condemned to repeat the same mistakes over and over and NEVER LEARN.

  31. jon says:

    Col., to your points:
    1. It seems the surge soaked up whatever available capacity the US had to mobilize troop strength. The “Surge’ is over because there are no more troops that can be deployed. To mobilize more personnel in theatre, readiness and rotation standards would have to be loosened. I would think that the policies were developed for very good reasons, long observation and experience.
    2. Maliki, Dawa and ISCI all have very deep ties to the Iranian government and Ayatollahs. Sadr, far less so. I don’t think Sadr’s theology is much different, and his religious station is far below, and beholden to, Sistani’s.
    Sadr seems to be trying to elevate himself to the position of Ayatollah through current religious studies. If he is invested, he will join the line of his forbearers who wielded enormous religious authority, in addition to their political command. This would elevate Sadr to the inner circle of Iraqi Shia religious authority, and might give him an effective veto and other leverage over the activities of ISCI and the Badr forces. He would still rank beneath Sistani, but would be vastly more revered than he currently is.
    3. Iraqis aren’t afraid to fight. Not even when it’s hopeless and they’re poorly commanded. At several points the Iranian’s (who were perhaps even more poorly commanded) were reduced to badly trained and armed human wave attacks and pressing children into service.
    The performance of the Fedayeen during the invasion phase of OIF also prove this. What a profligate waste. I can’t see how they delayed US armored columns at all, and they could have proved vastly more effective during the opening months of the insurgency.
    I’m not sure whether either sides losses compare to those of the US Civil War (WNA…), WWI and so on, but they were immense. When you see current Iranian movies, it’s quite common to see older male characters who display war injuries such as limps, missing arms, the unspoken inability to work, etc., whether this is state policy, the choice of the film maker, or the actor’s own injury. I think it sits heavily on both countries.
    In that light, the recent defections and unwillingness of Iranian Army and police forces to engage the mahdi Army are quite significant. Despite orders, and the opposition of their forces and politics, they perform poorly, abandon their posts and weapons, surrender and switch sides. It is more than finding themselves in an indefensible position.
    Iraqi forces, save those sourced from Dawa and Badr, might be willing to defend the Iraqi border from Iranian invasion, but I doubt any units would be willing to cross the border. Most of the Shiite population would probably consider any US attack on Iran to be an attack on Shia, and respond accordingly.
    As for the logistics and supply questions being raised, it seems that the port of Basra can be used judiciously up to the moment when the US makes any aggressive move against Iran. After hostilities commence, nothing will make it up the Shatt al-Arab.
    Opening other overland supply routes makes a great deal of sense. Though the wisdom of having to rely on even longer and more precarious routes, than those from Kuwait, is problematic.
    The Tigris waterway is long, winding, and uneasily shared by both countries. The episode of the British sailors about a year ago should be instructive. There is limited maneuvering clearance for military vessels, and they would be at extreme risk.
    The Persian Gulf is considered fairly constrained on its own for fleet maneuvers. What’s the turning radius of a carrier group? There aren’t that many concentrations of Iranian cities or facilities on their thousand miles of coastline. Nothing on the scale of Basra.
    A lot of the Gulf has an operational width of about 100 miles.
    And much of the coastline could shelter the speedboat swarms, and caches of missiles from shoulder fired on up to SCUD sized. As I recall, the US didn’t actually manage to identify or destroy Saddam’s SCUD launchers prior to use.
    While the US would certainly start hostilities by attempting to degrade Iranian offensive capability, as pointed out, the Iranian’s have focused on proliferating smaller, mobile and camouflaged missile emplacements. I don’t think that the Iranian’s are relying on having much of an operational air force if there is an US attack.
    The Um Qasr terminal complex would make a better logistical center, and the immediate port are, and the relatively short approach channel, should be more defensible. Of course, to move into the interior of Iraq, you then have to go by Basra and other populated places, so the supply lines would again be targets of opportunity.
    Has anyone kept tabs on the tanks that our invasion force used and their state of repair? They would be essential for any land invasion.
    Much as I wouldn’t like Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon, that would not be sufficient provocation for our own first strike use. An Iranian nuke is a pure hypothetical at this point. And even a nuclear strike might not find and destroy enough of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.
    Cheney’s and Bush’s behavior continues to be highly irresponsible, however. They’ve proven that they can’t be trusted to act in the country’s best interests on almost any subject. I believe that they are fully capable of risking our army in Iraq, any hope of reining in Iranian nuclear objectives, world security, or US position in the world, in pursuits of their own ill defined goals.
    They’re like a juvenile delinquent who would burn down his own house, just so his mother wouldn’t catch him smoking.

  32. Curious says:

    ok. I don’t think any serious military analysts will conclude land invasion of Iran is not a fool’s errand, worst than Iraq.
    There is no geography nor military advantage of doing that. It’s nothing more than destructive orgy. Nobody gets anything out of it.
    And I would argue if the Iranian is half as smart they will actually win that war. And I am not talking about surviving bombing, but actually take over everything all the way to Syria.
    Let’s agree that
    1. in order to Invade Iran, large section of Iraq has to be abandoned or essentially Iran, Iraq and surrounding area will become one battle zone. Everything in it is fair play.
    2. We have no root whatsoever. near zero population support.
    3. lousy logistic line.
    4. classic mechanized land battle won’t get us much, the big mountain in the middle is not helping. Not to mention the dry heat.
    5. Everybody can see our military is built for big slug fest. Hard, concentrated, and fast. Mike Tyson.
    6. we need oil. a lot of them.

  33. Cujo359 says:

    I’d honestly never considered the idea that the U.S. move into Basra could be a prelude to attacking Iran. The U.K. is leaving the area, and it clearly isn’t any more secure than the rest of Iraq. It’s either move in or let whoever would otherwise control the area control it.
    My guess is that Maliki’s motives are economic and political. As someone here observed, much of his government’s revenue comes from oil production, or should. Disrupting that oil production makes his government weaker. Iraq also benefits from having its own seaport.
    If reports of defections by Iraqi security forces aren’t exaggerated, this might be Maliki’s last stand.
    As for the possibility of invading Iran, I suspect that such an action would inevitably turn out as badly as Iraq has. We have no more troops than we did for invading and occupying Iraq, and Iran is almost half-again larger. While I find it interesting that folks like Pale Rider and other commenters here have thought about this in detail and come to the same conclusion, that fact alone should be enough to argue against such an invasion.

  34. Altoid says:

    A couple of points to throw in here.
    First, whether or not the cheney administration will decide to bomb Iran is, I think, essentially unknowable. They’ve never shown any concern for consequences so that wouldn’t stop them, and Iranian retaliation/defense is, IMHO, unlikely to be only conventional. It will show up where even our military planners don’t expect; this is what the Israeli failure in south Lebanon will have taught them. $250 oil, btw, is not scary to the cheneyites but rather something to look forward to. They’ll order the air assault if they decide to and no one outside that circle has any hope of influencing them.
    Second, if you look at the Basra thing from cheney’s point of view, there’s everything to gain and nothing to lose by unleashing Maliki. Unlikely, but he might actually suppress the Sadrites, which would put into effect the perpetual occupation deal we’ve already dictated.
    Or he might fail and need massive US assistance and cover to hang on. In that case, we can’t abandon a gallant ally, and that’s all the more reason we put into effect the perpetual occupation deal.
    Or he might collapse completely, in which case we move in even more completely with some obvious puppet, and guess what happens then.
    The vision of permanent bases garrisoned by large, mobile forces has been, IMHO, the one constant of this administration’s actions wrt Iraq. It’s the one highly likely result no matter how Maliki’s operation breaks. The mealhall contract is a sign there.
    Domestically, either success or failure helps McCain by upping the visibility of military action. That’s less important for them, but a factor.
    I don’t think Maliki came up with this idea himself. It’s probably been in the works for six months or so, at least from the Washington end. A showdown between him and Sadr has been thought inevitable, hasn’t it, so why wouldn’t cheney want to set it up to get what he wants from it? Make the commitments during the summer and by January the big investments will already have been contracted for.

  35. Montag says:

    Actually, the land area of Iraq is 168,000 square miles while Iran is 628,000. You could fit 3.75 Iraqs inside Iran. That’s a real Roach Motel for invading armies.

  36. Curious says:

    Actually, the land area of Iraq is 168,000 square miles while Iran is 628,000. You could fit 3.75 Iraqs inside Iran. That’s a real Roach Motel for invading armies.
    Posted by: Montag | 29 March 2008 at 09:17 PM
    It’s also mostly mountains, unlike Iraq which is flat. bringing mechanized division across Zagros alone will be costly. It’s natural defense line. They can see anybody coming days before.
    Same with any water landing. going in several hundred miles is meaningless strategically, but will be costly logistically. Last similar classic move was Israel vs. Syria, and Israel has Golan . But I think Iran will use geographical depth to max instead of tank right up. What’s so scary about hundred tanks and a division 100 miles inland? Not exactly downtown Tehran.
    This is a bit like invading Las Vegas by landing in San Diego. Paying for gas alone will kill anybody.
    Any serious invasion will do it right in the middle, because it will take the Iranians a day or two to pull back their big gears to fight in the middle.
    But this sort of stuff hasn’t been tried since WWII. The cost will bring down the nation.

  37. Lawyer Smith says:

    I don’t understand why any facts grounded in reality would stop a guy who campaigned on the premise that the US military wasn’t capable of fighting on two fronts and then – without changing the military in any significant way – opened up two fronts, from attacking Iran. Do you? If the Prez does order an attack on Iran oonly willful disobedience of the order will prevent the attack from happening. Resignations will just enable him, as they have the past five years, to place people who will carry out his orders in place, and it’s way too late for impeachment after an order’s been given. The time to impeach him was when he pulled Franks off the firing line in Afghanistan to make plans for Iraq. The time to stop him was with a vote in 2004. Too late now. Reality be D**ned, next stop Tehran!

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