Wednesday, March 08, 2006
US/Iran: The Second Inning
Some Second-Guesses on US Steps
My first guess is that we are making the asumption that we have a year to make a move on Iran militarily, if needed. That is about the time Iran needs to manufacture their first bomb, some think. So any action would take place most likely after the November elections. That gives some time for diplomacy, if you can believe that diplomacy will have any effect at all. But world opinion expects it, despite three comically unsuccessful years of it by the Europeans. The UN must get their two cents in as well, but I do not expect them to be very harsh about Iran's nuclear facilities or sanctions that work only to make the people miserable and not the leaders.
I believe that we have already determined at high levels that Iran will not stop their progress toward nuclear weapons and delivery missiles whatever inducements they are offered. Thus we are in the process of quietly repositioning ourselves to confront Iran some time in January or Febuary, 2007, or at the latest early in 2008. There just might be a shell game with troop rotations in and out of Iraq over the next months, or a year or so, resulting in a net buildup of armored forces, especially in Kuwait, but not easy for anyone to detect and count.
Perhaps two or three full divisions will be added, on the pretext of training exercises with Iraqi forces, or some other cover story. We would need the added forces in the event that we struck Iran in any way. Their immediate reaction might be to attack us in Iraq. to hit Israel, and to call for a renewed and higher level of jihad in the US and worldwide
The obvious first attempt to stop the Iranian nuclear buildup is a thorough-going air campaign targeting suspected nuclear facilities and using conventional weapons. This might be coupled with closing off Iranian ports and thus shutting down their oil exports completely. The pipelines under construction to Russia and the 'stans would be attacked as well. There would be minimal civilian casualties in these steps, and potentially a maximum impact on Iran's weapons program and their economy.
At this point we have hit Iran hard, but we have most likely not taken out their entire nuke capability. If we stop at this point, what we have achieved, perhaps, is a few year's delay in their program. This pushes the decision-point further ahead without reducing the ultimate risk of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. In fact, I believe that such action would solidify the Iranian public against the West, and give other Islamic jihadist groups and states more ammunition in the clash of West versus Islam. We could expect substantial retaliation by embedded Iramian jihadists in the West. This, of course, would happen anyway if we take any action at all.
So, by buying a few years of delay, we have most likely unleashed ever more terrorist attacks worldwide, and have only set the Iranian nuclear capability back a bit, at some undefined cost in casualties to the attacking force, and to the Iranian public. This does not seem like a winning proposition to me.
Why do we want more time? To force Iran to realize the power lined up against it's nuclear strategy? They fully realize that now. For diplomacy to work? That hardly seems very probable after an attack. To prepare to invade Iran with a coalition? Possibly, but a realistic assessment would show that the US would have to furnish the bulk of the attack forces in any event.
The Coalition-building is a sham cover to cater to world opinion, as if the world needs to be coddled that the West is "doing the right thing". In fact, coalition forces are not a good thing. They are hard to integrate into our fighting tempo and command, control and communications capabilities, they are many times less committed to the proposition of invasion, and tend to draw back when the going gets rough. Examples of this are readliy found in the Iraqi situation.
My guess is that we do need time to resupply, refit and retrain our forces, to build up a substantial coalition-driven occupation force ready to go when we invade with our main fighting force, and to nail down the existence of nuclear weapons in Iran. Here, Iran may be very helpful if they explode a test weapon.
That would signal our attack, and provide proof positive of Iran's capability. Lacking that signal, we have only the intelligence products of the Western powers to guide us. There have been significant findings already, perhaps sufficient to be able to pick our own time for attacking, and to simply ignore "world opinion" as being uninformed, unenlightened, highly biased, and anti-US in the first place.
My conclusion is that we will invade Iran, probably no later than January 2008, with perhaps 250,000 to 350,000 troops, and we will defeat the Iranian Army in a matter of weeks. The occupation force will go in immediately behind the main force, in numbers like 500,000 to 650,000 troops from all major powers, to ensure no insurrection starts as occurred in Iraq. This will put over a million troops on the ground in Iran.
We will institute martial law, a strict curfew, and disarmament of all factions in the country. We will not pretend to be "liberators" this time, but rather occupiers until we can ensure a democratic government strong enough to persist. We will not simply disband the Iranian Army, but rather, we will use them in the process in the best way we can.