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Attacking Iran: US options

Sol Salbe writes: This morning’s in-tray had multiple copies of a new warning of imminent Israeli bombing campaign in Iran. This time from an obscure group of intelligence veterans. OK it is the Middle East so anything is conceivably possible, but this is a highly unlikely scenario so long as the Pentagon and US administration are totally opposed to the idea. Gwynne Dyer, whose writings I have followed for about three decades and who has the runs on the board, provides the main reason why they are so adamant in opposing the war: Short of a nuclear attack that would kill 5 million Iranians, the US cannot win. It is simple as that.

Attacking Iran: US options
By Gwynne Dyer

When Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the highest-ranking American officer, was asked recently on NBC’s Meet The Press show whether the United States has a military plan for an attack on Iran, he replied simply: “We do.”

General staffs are supposed to plan for even the most unlikely future contingencies. Right down to the 1930s, for example, the United States maintained and annually updated plans for the invasion of Canada — and the Canadian military made plans to pre-empt the invasion. But what the planning process will have revealed, in this case, is that there is no way for the United States to win a nonnuclear war with Iran.

The US could “win” by dropping hundreds of nuclear weapons on Iran’s military bases, nuclear facilities and industrial centers (i.e. cities) and killing five to 10 million people, but short of that, nothing works. On this we have the word of Richard Clarke, counterterrorism adviser in the White House under three administrations.

In the early 1990s, Clarke revealed in an interview with the New York Times four years ago, the Clinton administration had seriously considered a bombing campaign against Iran, but the military professionals told them not to do it.

“After a long debate, the highest levels of the military could not forecast a way in which things would end favorably for the United States,” he said. The Pentagon’s planners have war-gamed an attack on Iran several times in the past 15 years, and they just can’t make it come out as a US victory.

It’s not the fear of Iranian nuclear weapons that makes the US Joint Chiefs of Staff so reluctant to get involved in a war with Iran. Those weapons don’t exist, and the whole justification for the war would be to make sure that they never do.

The problem is that there’s nothing the US can do to Iran, short of nuking the place, that would really force Tehran to kneel and beg for mercy.

It can bomb Iran’s nuclear sites and military installations to its heart’s content, but everything it destroys can be rebuilt in a few years. And there is no way that the United States could actually invade Iran.

There are some 80 million people in Iran, and although many of them don’t like the present regime they are almost all fervent patriots who would resist a foreign invasion. Iran is a mountainous country, and very big: Four times the size of Iraq. The Iranian Army currently numbers about 450,000 men, slightly smaller than the US Army — but unlike the US Army, it does not have its troops scattered across literally dozens of countries.

If the White House were to propose anything larger than minor military incursions along Iran’s south coast, senior American generals would resign in protest. Without the option of a land war, the only lever the United States would have on Iranian policy is the threat of yet more bombs — but if they aren’t nuclear, then they aren’t very persuasive. Whereas Iran would have lots of options for bringing pressure on the United States.

Just stopping Iran’s own oil exports would drive the oil price sky-high in a tight market: Iran accounts for around seven percent of internationally traded oil. But it could also block another 40 percent of global oil exports just by sinking tankers coming from Iraq, and the Arab Gulf states with its lethal Noor anti-ship missiles.

The Noor anti-ship missile is a locally built version of the Chinese YJ-82. It has a 200-km. (140-mile) range, enough to cover all the major choke points in the Gulf. It flies at twice the speed of sound just meters above the sea’s surface, and it has a tiny radar profile. Its single-shot kill probability has been put as high as 98 percent.

Iran’s mountainous coastline extends along the whole northern side of the Gulf, and these missiles have easily concealed mobile launchers. They would sink tankers with ease, and in a few days insurance rates for tankers planning to enter the Gulf would become prohibitive, effectively shutting down the region’s oil exports completely.

Meanwhile Iran would start supplying modern surface-to-air missiles to the Taleban in Afghanistan, and that would soon shut down the US military effort there. (It was the arrival of US-supplied Stinger missiles in Afghanistan in the late 1980s that drove Russian helicopters from the sky and ultimately doomed the whole Soviet intervention there.)

Iranian ballistic missiles would strike US bases on the southern side of the Gulf, and Iran’s Hezbollah allies in Beirut would start dropping missiles on Israel. The United States would have no options for escalation other than the nuclear one, and pressure on it to stop the war would mount by the day as the world’s industries and transport ground to a halt.

The end would be an embarrassing retreat by the United States, and the definitive establishment of Iran as the dominant power of the Gulf region.

That was the outcome of every war-game the Pentagon played, and Mike Mullen knows it. So there is a plan for an attack on Iran, but he would probably rather resign than put it into action. It is all bluff. It always was.

— Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist.

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America about to learn a very hard lesson

We have enjoyed a century in which we could have, in foreign policy terms, both what is vital and what is desirable. For instance, I presume that with infinite men and money we can succeed in Afghanistan. But is it vital? I am sure it is desirable, but vital? Finally, we need to shore up our balance sheet and weaken that of our enemies, and the best way to do that in one move is with a much higher gasoline tax.

America is about to learn a very hard lesson: You can borrow your way to prosperity over the short run but not to geopolitical power over the long run. That requires a real and growing economic engine. And, for us, the short run is now over. There was a time when thinking seriously about American foreign policy did not require thinking seriously about economic policy. That time is also over.

An America in hock will have no hawks — or at least none that anyone will take seriously.

This piece is from the New York Times. The US has used borrowed money to fight wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This month US troops have ceased combat operations in Iraq, and very soon troops will be coming home from Afghanistan.

The US has played all its cards and lost.

From here on it is a steady decline and no more overseas adventures.

just google it...

Reading one of Ant Lowenstein's best, at his blog, about Julia Irwin's parting shot at Zionist influence in and over the Labor party.  Not sure how to link it, but it's thought provoking, even disturbing.

Am surprised Sol hasn't been back to comment on it, because it is such a singularly powerful and relevant piece.


Something else can be inferred from what you quote, Sol Salbe.  Almost all the demands for and threats of bombing Iranian nuclear facilities come from Zionists.  Or war-mongering writers for New York Rupe, the alien. One Zionist responded to an earlier comment on this site by writing that Israel would attack Iran before the United States did.

That is a mistaken hope.

A nuclear-armed Iran would surely never mount a nuclear attack on Israel.  The target is too small, and the two are at daggers drawn and there are proxies round the corner only because of Iran's solidarity with a distressed people, but that people would equally be victims of a nuclear attack on Israel.

On the other hand an Israeli attack on Iran would start a war. And then some great power might intervene simply to stop it, to bring the catastrophic war to an end. The rest of the world would not relish the property destruction, the sudden disappearance of oil from the market, the refugees etc. They would want the war stopped. And since the war could not be ended by attacking Iran it would be ended, quite quickly, in another way.

The probability, very high, is that if Israel attacked Iran there would be total war by the United States against Israel, which would cease to exist.

Therefore, Israel will not attack Iran.

Bin there dun that

And what is the genesis of this madness?

Obama has fouled up on issues like Morning Horizon, there is a nasty lingering recession in the US and he's not the saviour folk thought he was.

So what does a US president when he is in DS?

Start a war!


Paul Walter writes: Start a war!

The problem is, with whom? What country can he level with carpet bombing, make permanently radioactive, place under economic sanctions for a decade, enforced by continuous fighter patrols, killing most of the children, and then, ten years later, do it all again because of the urgent need of regime change?

You can only do that to a leader who is your friend, a friend of the West, has secularised his country and introduced a Western legal system, unique in the region, and is now making progress on the rationalization of the artificial and obstructive states and artificial, arbitrary borders that some intruder created by force and left lying around.

Afghan Racial and Language Carve-Up - Maps

I mentioned a distinct band of Persian or Tajik occupation of Afghanistan.  You can see the ethnography here and the quite conspicuous linguistic band here.


There is sharpening in the second image due to classification of whole districts by their majorities, sometimes, perhaps, slight.  The reality will be less distinct.

Still, the Pashto-speaking region indicates the location and size of the true Afghanistan, the country rather than the empire.

The Pashtun ruler of the late 19th century planted Pashtun enclaves in the Persian region to defeat moves for independence.  They can be located from records and observation, and, since they are only there as an instrument of empire, repatriated.


Yes, Iran's too strong.

So it's obvious, I think: make love, not war.  That is what countries do in that situation, and the sooner it's done the better.  It could provide an immediate and honourable solution to, and reversal of, the American defeat in Afghanistan.  The treacherous and disgraceful proposals to negotiate with the Taliban, make the whole country victims of the Pashtuns again, would be dropped.

The United States and the mullahs of Iran are old colleagues, worked shoulder to shoulder, though out of sight and sound of each other, to destroy the secular democracy of Iran.Fanatics associated withKhomeini murdered Mossadeq's predecessor and a well-backed Kermit Roosevelt got rid of Mossadeq, and turned Iran's consitutional monarchy back into an autocracy.  Eventually the westernising and secularising shah, no longer supported by the United States, was driven out. (With the slightest US encouragement he could have stayed.  His generals were backing him to the hilt, offering to bomb Qom.)

So, reasonably, good friends.  So, because neither can defeat the other and each needs the other, good friends.

The United States has for years been carrying on a hopeless war in Afghanistan.  Not for any known reason.  The pretended reason, because they were protecting Osama bin Laden, seems to have been false.  Supposedly they (the Americans) are putting down a Taliban insurgency, but it's meaningless.  The Taliban, the "students", are in effect, today, the army of the Pashtun, but the president, Karzai, is a Pashtun.

The Pashtuns, the real Afghans, occupy only the fringe of the place called Afghanistan, but have behaved murderously to the rest.  Afghanistan is their empire, not their country, and the remainder of the population, the other regions, with majorities of other races, are their captives, often, particularly the Hazaras, treated with enormous brutality.

They are the government, the Karzai government and they are the insurgents, and the United States, if it negotiates with the Taliban, is conspiring with them to again make the whole population their victims, victims of the Pashtun.  Total confusion.

Afghanistan has a Persian country, Tajikistan, to its north-east, and a Persian country, Iran, to the west.

Between the two, running in a broad band right across Afghanistan, from Iran to Tajikistan, is a Persian population, lorded over by the Pashtuns whose homeland is to the south and east of that band.  North of the Persians, in a few places, there are Uzbeks.  In the middle of the Persian band, in the central mountains, their refuge, is that terribly oppressed people the Hazaras, Persian-speaking Mongols.

Afghanistan came into existence in the eighteen century when a Pashtun general in the service of the shah of Iran rebelled, and carved that region out of Iran.  Treachery.

The religion of the pre-Islamic Persians was Zoroastrianism.  Zoroaster, the prophet of the god, the author of the earliest Avesta, lived in what is now Afghanistan.  In other words, Afghanistan, the non-Pashtun part at least, has been throughout the ages an integral part of Iran.

"Afghan" is Persian for "Pashtun".  (The Hindi name is "Pathan".)  The Pashtuns say of themselves that they are descended from Afghana, son of Saul, king of Israel.  They are one or more of the ten lost tribes, so they say.  It is credible.  Hence the name, by common agreement, Persians and Pashtuns.  But hence the name applies exactly to the Pashtuns and their Taliban.  If doesn't properly belong to the other inhabitants.  Those others are not Afghans, they are Persians, they are not in the Taliban.  (The Taliban do include tiny numbers of Tajiks, i.e. Persians, but that statement is broadly correct.  The Taliban are Pashtun.)

So Afghanistan proper is a fringe of land adjoining Pakistan.  The rest is part of Persia, or, a small part, of Uzbekistan.

So you can see what I'm thinking.  The problem of Afganistan is easily and decently solved.  Enlist the assistance of your friends, Tajikistan and Iran, redraw the borders, confine the Pashtuns to the traditional Pashtun homeland. There, let them rule themselves, but there make them stay.  Let the Hazaras self-determine.  They'd probably choose Iran.

Thank God I'm not  a dreamer.

I was wrong

Be warned. I know nothing. I'm stupid. I'm just trying to understand. And all this is off the cuff. That's the trouble with blogs.

The illuminating event was when a friend of the United States, Saddam Hussein, a harsh ruler where opposition was concerned but one who had developed and secularised his country, introduced a Western-style justice system in place of Sharia, and given equality to women, attempted to modernise and stabilise Irak in one further respect, by incorporating the sheikdom of Kuwait, by redrawing the highly artificial state borders drawn by Britain, which shut Irak off from the Persian Gulf: by removing that bizarre obstacle.

The terrible process by which he and his people were destroyed by those he admired, and his country rendered permanently uninhabitable, is a monument.

It is a monumental moral victory for Islam against the West, and a monumental defeat for the notion of secularization.

Is it decisive in ending the civilisation of the West? I don't know.

The germ of the successor civilisation will perhaps be found in the SCO.

But I don't think they would want the Afghanistan problem that the United States created. It can't be handed over to them.

And my first imaginary solution is no good because it would condemn Tajikistan to Islamization.

More Illumination

"While accepting the Gulf Waters inheritance, Iraq on the other hand never recognized the British separation of its old southern province of Kuwait, as Saddam Hussein rudely reminded the world in 1990."

Manucher Farmanfarmaian, Blood & Oil, Random House, 1997, 2005.

The author was Iranian.

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