February 10, 2007

Iran Strategies 7: Is the Game Afoot?

Hatched by Dafydd

The left-wing U.K. Guardian newspaper -- formerly the Manchester Guardian -- is banging pots and pans, warning that U.S. plans to attack Iran are "well advanced;" and that even if we don't attack, our military posture could cause us to drift into "accidental war."

Please, let it be true!

Our previous posts in this series examining our options anent Iran are:

  1. Iran Strategies 1: the Guillotine Gambit
  2. Iran Strategies 2: Beachhead Bingo
  3. Iran Strategies 3: Re-examining the "Default Assault"
  4. Iran Strategies 4: the Econostrike
  5. Iran Strategies 5: the Joint-Stike Attack
  6. Iran Strategies 6: Preparing For the "Herman Option?"

The last link above is the most important, as it details the strategy whose components we appear to have emplaced already (as soon as the carrier battle group of the USS John Stennis arrives in the Persian Gulf).

Let's serious consider the Guardian's factual claims, while not succumbing to their existential angst over the dreadful idea that we might actually strike back at an enemy that has attacked us repeatedly and has been threatening us with death and destruction since the Iranian revolution.

The Guardian is desperately trying awaken us, Paul Revere-like, to the terrible danger that President Bush may order a strike against Iran. But to me, at least, the screeching has the opposite impact: I rest easier in my sleep, knowing we may go to war against Iran sooner, when they are weak, rather than later, when they are strong:

US preparations for an air strike against Iran are at an advanced stage, in spite of repeated public denials by the Bush administration, according to informed sources in Washington.

The present military build-up in the Gulf would allow the US to mount an attack by the spring. But the sources said that if there was an attack, it was more likely next year, just before Mr Bush leaves office.

Certainly we have casus belli; there now appears to be no dissent among the intelligence agencies that Iran is at the very least supplying Shiite death squads in Iraq "the most lethal weapon" in their arsenal... and that Iran knows this explosive, manufactured in Iran and sold or given to the Shiite militias, is killing American troops:

The most lethal weapon directed against American troops in Iraq is an explosive-packed cylinder that United States intelligence asserts is being supplied by Iran.

The assertion of an Iranian role in supplying the device to Shiite militias reflects broad agreement among American intelligence agencies, although officials acknowledge that the picture is not entirely complete....

In interviews, civilian and military officials from a broad range of government agencies provided specific details to support what until now has been a more generally worded claim, in a new National Intelligence Estimate, that Iran is providing “lethal support” to Shiite militants in Iraq.

But I don't think many people even dispute Iran's role helping the anti-democracy forces in Iraq; I'm more interested in what we're going to do about it... so back to the Guardian!

The paper (which is very leftist, anti-American, anti-Iraq War, and even more stridently anti-war against Iran) claims that there is a split within the Bush administration, with the Pentagon and the State Department opposed to any attack on Iran, while the vice president and the "neo-conservatives" supporting just such an attack.

But this distinction seems particularly facile in light of their similar description of the recent strategic change of course in Iraq, which they portray thus:

One of the main driving forces behind war, apart from the vice-president's office, is the AEI [American Enterprise Institute], headquarters of the neo-conservatives. A member of the AEI coined the slogan "axis of evil" that originally lumped Iran in with Iraq and North Korea. Its influence on the White House appeared to be in decline last year amid endless bad news from Iraq, for which it had been a cheerleader. But in the face of opposition from Congress, the Pentagon and state department, Mr Bush opted last month for an AEI plan to send more troops to Iraq. Will he support calls from within the AEI for a strike on Iran?

As readers of Big Lizards (or any other decently competent center-right blog) already know, the new strategy is not simply "to send more troops to Iraq" but a complete change of course. And the Pentagon was not uniformly against the inaptly named "surge;" some top generals were against it, others were for it.

The actual plan was substantially based upon the new official Army counterinsurgency manual that written by then-Lt.Gen. David Petraeus while he served as commanding general of Fort Leavenworth -- which manual itself was based upon strategies and tactics that Petraeus developed fighting in Mosul, when he commanded the 101st Airborne Division in Iraq.

Petraeus, who takes over from Gen. George Casey as Commander of Multi-National Force - Iraq, and Adm. William Fallon, who takes command of Central Command from Gen. John Abizaid, represent one faction within the Pentagon; Casey and Abizaid represent another; and there are other factions as well (including, I suppose, a very small faction that just wants to declare defeat and go home). But to say "the Pentagon" opposed the strategic change of course is as simplistic as saying "Congress" did; in both bodies, some opposed while others supported the president's decision.

Thus, I don't take it very seriously when the same newspaper says that...

The state department and the Pentagon are opposed [to striking Iran], as are Democratic congressmen and the overwhelming majority of Republicans.

More properly, as with the Iraq changes, some but not all members of the State Department and some but not all Pentagon officials likely oppose an Iran strike. About the only thing we can state with certainty is that the Guardian itself is opposed:

But Vincent Cannistraro, a Washington-based intelligence analyst, shared the sources' assessment that Pentagon planning was well under way. "Planning is going on, in spite of public disavowals by Gates. Targets have been selected. For a bombing campaign against nuclear sites, it is quite advanced. The military assets to carry this out are being put in place."

He added: "We are planning for war. It is incredibly dangerous."

I would say precisely the opposite: what's "incredibly dangerous" is not to plan for a war, but simply to blunder into one... or be dragged, kicking and screaming, by the enemy, as in 1941. Rather than sit around with mouths agape, waiting for Iran to launch the full-scale war, we must plot it very carefully. And if we decide that war is ultimately inevitable, then we should start it ourselves -- at a time and place of our choosing, not Ahmadinejad's.

Where the Guardian article gets really peculiar is when the journalists try to psychoanalyze President Bush, presumably hoping to tap into the traditional leftist meme that Republican "warmongers" are mentally disturbed as well as stupid:

Mr Bush is part of the American generation that refuses to forgive Iran for the 1979-81 hostage crisis. He leaves office in January 2009 and has said repeatedly that he does not want a legacy in which Iran has achieved superpower status in the region and come close to acquiring a nuclear weapon capability. The logic of this is that if diplomatic efforts fail to persuade Iran to stop uranium enrichment then the only alternative left is to turn to the military.

In fact, President Bush is of the generation that recognizes that Iran declared war on us in 1979 -- and they have been fighting that war as strongly as they can for the last 28 years. They certainly struck a horrific blow against us in Beirut in 1983, when they killed 241 American Marines, 58 French paratroopers, a Lebanese custodian, and the wife and four children of a Lebanese janitor (the infamous Beirut barracks terrorist bombing).

Iran's current bloody-handed actions in Iraq are further proof that they consider themselves at war against us, even if we haven't yet accepted that we are at war against them:

  • Sending arms and explosives to the anti-democratic forces, both Shia and Sunni;
  • Giving advanced military training to Shiite terrorists, in order to attack Americans and Iraqi government forces;
  • Supporting Muqtada Sadr during the period he was actually fighting against American troops in Najaf and in Sadr City;
  • Sending actual members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards into Iraq (Qods Force) to launch direct attacks on American and coalition forces;
  • And green-lighting Hezbollah to attack our ally Israel, unprovoked, to draw them into a war in Lebanon.

Iran has been threatening us with horrific retaliation if we do attack; but realistically, there is little they can do. Their most effective response would be to use mines to try to close the Strait of Hormuz, through which a huge percentage of the world's oil passes; but that is precisely what the "Herman Option" is designed to prevent. And in fact, two British minesweeping ships have already been dispatched to the Gulf, along with American submarines.

(Via the Discovery Channel show FutureWeapons, we also have some very new and strikingly good anti-mine technology available to us now; see Krakatoa.)

The Guardian article concludes on what must, for them, be a very sober note:

If it does come to war, [Josh Muravchik, a Middle East specialist at the AEI] said Iran would retaliate, but that on balance it would be worth it to stop a country that he said had "Death to America" as its official slogan.

"We have to gird our loins and prepare to absorb the counter-shock," he said.

Unlike the guardians of the Left -- including the Guardian -- I don't believe that "counter-shock" is going to be anywhere near as bad as we have suffered in Iraq, for the simple reason that we will not invade Iran; that is, we will not send troops to occupy the country and force regime change, as we did in Iraq. That part would be up to the Iranian people themselves, who by all accounts detest the ruling mullahs and hate how they are trying to push modern Persia back into the 7th century.

The strike will be primarily an airstrike against the nuclear targets, and also (if we implement the full Herman Option) against Iran's gasoline refineries and docks, shutting off their supply of fuel. Since we will not have tens of thousands of soldiers in Iran as convenient targets, it will be next to impossible for Iran to retaliate other than by terrorism... and I'm absolutely certain that if they had the capability to strike us via Hezbollah (or some other proxy), they would already have done so: Iran is not exactly scrupulous about international norms of behavior.

But if we wait until Iran is much stronger, especially if they have functioning nuclear weapons, then the specter of retaliation becomes vastly larger. It would be a strategic blunder of colossal enormity to dither until such an attack as the Herman Option becomes impossible, because we're too afraid that a Hezbollah nuclear suicide-boat attack will, e.g., sink one of the two carriers we have in the Gulf, the USS Eisenhower or the USS Stennis, killing 6,000 American sailors and Marines -- and projecting a $5 billion force-projection platform to the bottom of the sea.

If we are ever going to strike, the time to do so is sooner rather than later. And I hope that we strike sooner than "just before Mr Bush leaves office," as the Guardian rather snidely predicts.

Just as it would be wildly irresponsible for Bush not to do something about Iran before he leaves office, it would be cowardly, I believe, to wait until just before leaving... thus saddling Bush's successor, Democrat or Republican, with the consequences of his decision, rather than accepting them himself.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 10, 2007, at the time of 7:44 PM

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The following hissed in response by: hunter

Iran has been at war with us for over 29 years. However I am afraid that W has joined in with the majority of Presidents since Reagan and decided that responding in kind to their war against us is not worth the domestic and international complications.
It is amazing how Islamic countries play off of our weaknesses so well. Iran, the PLO and Syria in particular seem able to commit the most horrific acts, or to support those who do, yet dissemble and distract, either with money or palying the victime card. The end result is they get away with acts of war and violence and terror that would get other countries bombed to oblivion.

The above hissed in response by: hunter [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 10, 2007 8:42 PM

The following hissed in response by: Tomy

The Stennis Carrier Battle Group has recently been in the Guam Operating area conducting over-land training exercises for a few days before heading to the Persian Gulf.

Looking at a map, there appears to be no good route from Guam to the Indian Ocean. Will the Stennis Group have to go around the south of Australia?

The above hissed in response by: Tomy [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 10, 2007 11:37 PM

The following hissed in response by: Mr. Michael

Check your map again, Tomy... there are plenty of passages available, including visits to the areas around Singapore, Jakarta, Tili, Daru... Heck, there's a passage a hundred miles wide at Daru, between Australia and New Guinea. I can't speak to how DEEP that crossing is.. :)

But there are plenty of places we can use to get even a Carrier Group to the Persian/Arabian Gulf.

The above hissed in response by: Mr. Michael [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 11, 2007 12:36 AM

The following hissed in response by: harrison

I'm with you on this one.

Fait accompli or not? Is there a secret consensus within the administration's ranks, or is the house divided on confronting Iran?

How would the public react? More importantly, how would the Democrats respond?

One can expect them to stir up isolationist sentiment in order to undercut support and funding even in the midst of a series of cumulative strikes at Iranian targets. If we want to display to Iran our capacity to inflict unacceptable damage on it, either we do it convincingly (and trust me, it takes more than detaining a few Iranian operatives) or we don't do it at all. A half-hearted response is probably worse than not trying.

Contrary to what some might say about Iran threatening to up the stakes, the truth is that if they really wanted to harm our interests, they would have already done so. The mullahs' recent rhetoric is merely bluster, flustered at the prospect of a strike at Iran actually being seriously considered by the administration.

The clock is ticking for Iran's economic collapse - closing the Straits of Hormuz would almost certainly cripple their export capabilities further, exacerbate the hostile investment environment and deter China, India and Russia from pouring more funds into Iran. Recent plans to include rationing for domestic consumption will only postpone the inevitable.

Striking just before Bush leaves office would certainly vindicate Hillary Clinton's accusation that the former is simply recklessly charging through foreign policy and leaving behind a "mess" (while somehow being blind to the even more apparent mess courtesy of her husband) - it would not bode well for the reputation of Republican leadership, to say the least.

The above hissed in response by: harrison [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 11, 2007 1:42 AM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye

It is hard to know how much of this war preparation is designed to scare the pants off the mullahs and how much is for real. Or perhaps it is both.

I have read polls,[for what that is worth] that state Americans would support a strike against Iran. A strike is one thing, invasion another.

In truth the Iranians have had it coming for a long time.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 11, 2007 2:42 AM

The following hissed in response by: Navyvet

The lack of knowledge among many journalists is appalling. Of course the U.S. has plans to attack Iran, just as the Pentagon has plans for attacking any potential enemy nation. For example, prior to World War II, the U.S. had "Plan Orange" in anticipation of war with Japan. To think that any nation would fail to have contingency plans for war with a potential (or, in Iran's case, avowed) enemy is the height of folly.

Of course, if war with Iran comes, this same MSM would be the first to accuse BushCo of failing to plan for such a conflict. Heads I win, tails you lose.

The above hissed in response by: Navyvet [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 11, 2007 6:31 AM

The following hissed in response by: dino


Dafydd, is that like dafy duck d-day or dafy diss duck? Whatever. Anyway, good to read some positive news on the end-of-the-world and not the usual hand-wringing that goes with it. Iran's been cruisin' for it for some time and now looks like its going to get it big time. My only question is, what's Bush's exit strategy, if any? Iran's flattened, then what? Iran could very well lose this war. But does that mean we win it? Whaddaya think, Daft?

The above hissed in response by: dino [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 18, 2007 8:03 PM

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