March 6, 2006

Iran Strategies 4: the Econostrike

Hatched by Dafydd

This is actually the fourth entry in the Big Lizards strategic series, Iran Strategies. The first three (in order of posting) were:

  1. Iran Strategies 1: the Guillotine Gambit
  2. Iran Strategies 2: Beachhead Bingo, and
  3. Iran Strategies 3: Re-examining the "Default Assault"

(Yes, I know it's confusing that 1 and 2 come before 0; deal with it!)

As you might guess from the title, this strategic suggestion focuses on Iran's economy. I think of it as sort of "super economic sanctions." Like Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and most other oil-producing Middle-Eastern states, Iran's primary economy is oil export. As the CIA's World Factbook notes,

Iran's economy is marked by a bloated, inefficient state sector, over reliance on the oil sector, and statist policies that create major distortions throughout. Most economic activity is controlled by the state. Private sector activity is typically small-scale - workshops, farming, and services. President KHATAMI has continued to follow the market reform plans of former President RAFSANJANI, with limited progress. Relatively high oil prices in recent years have enabled Iran to amass some $40 billion in foreign exchange reserves, but have not eased economic hardships such as high unemployment and inflation. The proportion of the economy devoted to the development of weapons of mass destruction remains a contentious issue with leading Western nations.

This suggests a soft spot that we should be able to hit with our eyes closed: Iran runs on oil exports; oil exports need a port out of which to ex-; and ports are big, fragile, easily disrupted things. IS3 would function best when combined with IS0, the default strike on the WMD sites: we remove their nuclear development centers and also deny them the resources to reconstitute them anytime soon.

There is no need to hit the oil wells themselves -- which is good, as that could create an ecological catastrophe not only for Iran but for every state in the region. It is enough, I suspect, to lob a few cruise missiles into the port facilities on the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea. The object here is not to wipe them out; if there is a revolution that ousts the mullahs, the young people of Iran will need those to recover and fuel (literally) a nascent democracy. Rather, the idea is to render them inoperable for the moment -- and then keep hitting the ports whenever Iran comes close to reopening them.

But that is not enough; we also need to take care of that large "$40 billion in foreign exchange reserves" which Iran could use to purchase necessary food, reconstruction services, and other infrastructure repair and improvements... to "tide them over" until they can restore oil export operations. And that means a "blockade" at both ends.

We can use the Navy to blockade their Persian Gulf ports; but we have no forces on the Caspian, obviously, since it is landlocked. Alas, we need to more or less close Iran's northern shore; it doesn't need to be 100% sealed, just enough to prevent Russia from transshipping materials via the Caspian Sea.

This would be the hardest "backdoor" to close, mostly because of the geopolitical consequences. Fortunately, there is currently no operational pipeline between Iran and Russia; we don't need to create the world's largest oil spill (again!) Any major shipment into Iran must come by cargo vessel (which needs a port) or by rail.

There are two major Iranian ports on the Caspian Sea: Neka (Nekka) and Bandar Anzali. We would likely have already targeted Neka as part of IS0, since it is a suspected nuclear weapons research facility. But the major Iranian port on the Caspian Sea is Bandar Anzali, off in the northwestern corner of Iran, hard up against Azerbaijan. Anzali would have to be on the target list.

This is not a "blockade," of course, but an attack. However, if our strikes were surgical, we could prevent port ops that might include oil export without hurting the fishing industry there... thus (one hopes) not enraging the citizens of Iran any more than would result from any attack at all.

I don't think we need to worry too much about the roads and rail that cross Iran's borders. Iran is surrounded by Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan -- and of course Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, which last three would be right out, of course. Iran has reasonably good relations with its northwestern neighbors, but none except Turkey has the industrial capacity to supply Iran with what it needs to sustain a technological society... and we have been courting Turkey assiduously, via Condoleezza Rice and several other officials, to get them to go along with air strikes on Iran (and Syria) -- or at least sit still for them.

Clearly, Turkey is looking more towards the West than Iran:

In the event that talks fail, Turkey is the only country in Iran's vicinity on which the US has prepositioned tactical nuclear weapons (an estimated 90) that it could deploy against Iranian facilities.

The veritable who's who of US and Israeli officials who processed through Turkey in recent weeks for consultations may be a reflection of this.

First came US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, followed by Federal Bureau of Investigation chief Robert Mueller. Porter Goss, the new head of the Central Intelligence Agency, also visited, just days before the arrival of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization secretary general, Jaap De Hoop Scheffer.

Finally, Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff Dan Halutz held discussions with the head of the Turkish military, General Hilmi Ozkok, and Turkish President Ahmed Necdet Sezer. The leading left-nationalist daily, the Cumhuriyet, reported that talks centered on how to deal with Iran.

I doubt that Iran can count on any aid or help from Turkey, in defiance of an American blockade and attack.

The most serious potential consequences are (a) Russia's reaction, and (b) the world oil market reaction. If the Saudis and other Arabian OPEC countries decide to side with their Persian Islamic "brothers" in Iran and embargo oil to the U.S., that could be very hard. We have reconstituted our strategic petroleum reserves, thanks to George W. Bush (President Clinton had substantially depleted them artificially holding down the price of crude); but that would only last us two to three years. I doubt an embargo could last that long -- but it would cause widespread economic instability and dislocation within the U.S.

But if OPEC remains with us, they could pump and export enough extra oil to make up for Iran. The price need not even rise, as there is excess capacity, or "slack," in the world oil market (OPEC artificially limits oil production to maintain high prices).

The reaction of Russia is definitely dicier. Iran and Russia have been cooperating on a number of projects lately, and the ex-Soviets have shown themselves, when push comes to kick, to be closer to Iran than the United States. Still, I'm not sure what they could do to us. They've got problems of their own in Chechnya and Ukraine; they have a lot of economic deals with the West; and they're still in dire need of industrial modernization. I cannot imagine they want to stick their noses into a shootin' war with the United States -- especially not on behalf of a bunch of Moslem extremists!

As I said, I think IS3 should be undertaken along with the strike on the nuke sites, IS0; under those circumstances, Russia would probably scream and yell in the Security Council... but they really have no power actually to do anything, and they know that.

Clearly, IS3 would be an escalation even over IS0; but it would sure hamper Iran's ability to rebuild its nuclear program following American air and missile strikes. For this reason, it should at least be considered as a "value add-on." It's worth discussing, if anyone here wants to discuss it.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 6, 2006, at the time of 4:52 AM

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The following hissed in response by: MTF

The only point of common ground between the Turks and the Iranians concern the Kurds. Other than a fear of an independant Kurdistan trying to carve up Turkish lands, the two countries are longtime traditional foes. The Russians are also Turkish enemies, competing for Balkan influence and control of access to the Med. Over the years they have also tried to meddle their way into Persian politics and their clumsy interference is especially dangerous in todays environment.

Iran has a history of being western-oriented and even relatively culturally liberal in outlook, though you wouldn't know it from the regime governing the country today. Michael J. Totten has several interesting recent articles up concerning his sojurn in Kurdish Iraq and he makes this point several times throughout the pieces. I think the problem is that Iran is ruled by thugs with a certains popular appeal among the least educated and most insular of the population.

The Kurds are our closest allies on the ground in both Iraq and in Iran, and have been fighting the Iranian mullahs for 25 years: they might also be our best source of advice on the subject of beating back the nuclear threat.

In any event, the administration may well be in a prep phase for a ground war in Iran. Check out todays Washington Times front page article on the transfer of AC-130 gunships to Iraq, a weapon well suited for saturation fire against massed troops but hardly useful against the scattered confrontations against Al Qaeda and the Baathists.

The above hissed in response by: MTF [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 6, 2006 7:51 AM

The following hissed in response by: MTF

Powerline says Iran gets an early start on the coming war.

The above hissed in response by: MTF [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 6, 2006 3:38 PM

The following hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist

Believe it or not, but America is *WINNING* this War Against Terrorism and the “Supporters” of terrorism. Such a War required only some actual action to *WIN* to speak of Scheeesh!!!

Heck, the terrorists, with help from their supporters, have been fighting hard to win since they saw Bill Clinton was elected President...the first time.

Dafydd...i to go through such ‘Thangs (caused partially by the Democrat Party and *THEIR* a weak Republican Congress, but mainly my own fault); however, i think that we all need to step back, and remember that a lot has happened (in a very short time) since the Attacks of 911. Bill Clinton basically ignored the ’93 WTC Attack, Saddam’s support in the attempted assassination of Bush “41”, and anything that looked like terrorism. Bill focused on getting a simple “blowjob” during his term, and got one. What a “Legacy”, to speak of ignoring Terrorism threats and Nuclear threats, for *EIGHT* years, for one “blowjob”.

Well, Bill wasn’t the main problem, since ‘Da Office that he held for eight years required a lot of support from American voters. All those so-called “informed” voters voted for him at least once. Bill talked a lot though, during his eight years, but talk and silly “Ideological” games only emboldened the Enemies of Freedom.

In Prison...i would wait for Punks like North Korea, Iran, Iraq, the Taliban, and Osama to come to me for protection. No need for a “truce”...just some real protection. Protection costs a lot in Prison, and cannot always be trusted or depended on, even after paying for it. Fellow Inmates sought secure Protection from humble gentle me in Prison, because i was an ex-Cop who took not even a hint of a so-called “threat”.

W is fighting this Enemy in the right way, and in the right order, so i trust him. Heck, W is doing a great job, even at Home. Just look at the Oscars last night (i didn’t bother, until the “Best Picture” was due after 11 P.M.). Yes, i watched it for thirty minutes, just to see if the sheepherders won. BTW, since humans first started recording their own history, i can find nothing about two male sheepherders being placed together, in order to protect and watch over a herd of to speak of a well recorded human history of what happens when males are left with sheep.

The Arab/Muslim/Islam world is in trouble, and not because of sheep or oil. i get over 1,000 marriage proposals from Women in the Arab/Muslim/Islam world each day, and such proposals usually come in group offers of over ten (way over). i’m talking over 15,000 a day if such offers didn’t come in groups...very young groups...way to young.

America needs to fight off the Democrat Party, the Mainstream Media, and a few remaining Hollywood liberals. What i am trying to say that America needs to maintain its Course!!!!!!!!!!!!! W took action...enough said.

PS...El Rushbo, please try to keep up, since 75% of my humble brain is 'tied'. Shall i make it 99.9%, "just to make it fair"???

The above hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 6, 2006 4:24 PM

The following hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist


Since You replied twice before i did, and since Yore first reply is mere rhetoric or redundancy at best, humble me shall focus on that second reply of Yore's:

Powerline says Iran gets an early start on the coming war.

Provide a link, the next time, since i haven't went to Powerline tonight...please. Anyway, hold on, whilst i go and waste time searching Powerline for what you claim...

i'm bored...if "EXCLUSIVE: Iraq Weapons -- Made in Iran?" is Yours or Powerline's point. Anyway, if that is what you are suggesting, then i suggest that you read Powerline again, since i saw nothing of the sorts. Correct me if i am wrong.

Heck, after reading the ABC news crap, it seems that you can talk from yore arse, huh.

Powerline says Iran gets an early start on the coming war.

From what i can see, and have read here, MTF, Iran is about to get a rather serious arse-kicking from America's W.

Perhaps you just write rather poorly..."Government Schools" training, huh.

Show me...


The above hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 6, 2006 6:11 PM

The following hissed in response by: MTF

No, I can't blame government schools. Dyslexia is the problem. Sorry about the redundancy. We all have our issues.

The above hissed in response by: MTF [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 7, 2006 6:07 AM

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