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MAY 18, 2012 12:02PM

Consequence Analysis Unilateral U.S. Airstrike On Iran

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 "War is a matter of life and death of the state; it must be pondered deeply." Sun Tzu.

It's pretty obvious that there's a lot of tension over what to do next with Iran and it's nuclear program.

It's worth prefacing the analysis that follows by stating that, first, the author thinks that the Iranian nuclear program is indeed a nuclear weapons program, if more than likely for now of a "bomb in the basment type."

What that "bomb in a basement type" means is that Iran wishes to have the appearance of possibly having a nuclear weapon, without all the opprobrium that comes with that, while though it prepares a "breakout" strategy to mate such weapons to the Shahab 3 missile in the long run, if and only if that seems wise to do.

That doesn't mean Iran would attack Israel or the U.S. with nuclear weapons, just that at a minimum, it would like to alter the balance of power by acquiring that capability, not a trivial thing to do.

 The bomb in the basement strategy is not dissimilar to our use of "calculated ambiguity" in nuclear deterrence threats. Many for example see Japan's possession of more than 1,000 kilograms of plutonium in that light, in which there would exist an impenetrable (culture) Japanese military intelligence unit that could detonate a simple weapon on short notice, should Japan ever be abandoned by the United States; just in case.

Other than that, nothing.

If China for example should threaten them absent U.S. nuclear deterrent protection, you would want to be able to have some test too, if of course that is the case, it's just that many think it is the case, if it's not polite to say much about it.

Moreover, the more Iran is perceived as having a nuclear weapon, the more free it is to pursue desired foreign policy objectives. It hasn't done that yet, but at some point would be able to say, "Maybe you don't want to attack Hizballah and find out the consequences." In escalation from that, detonating a weapon would be the signal that the threat was actual, not hypothetical, although doing so could trigger a nuclear war.

As to Israeli concerns about Iran's program, it is also possible that Iran could want to someday detonate a nuclear weapon on Israeli territory, and hope it couldn't be attributed to it.

However, to take such a step would be the biggest gamble in military history, because there is no way to know if Israel wouldn't just assume it was Iran, and then efface it from the Earth. That scenario therefore might be a little overbought by Israeli and other security analysts, as then one would have to believe that the Iranians were totally crazy, instead of semi-crazy.

They have already run high risks, however, to this point, and moreover, have cast the identity of their whole regime in hostility to America and Israel in order to rationalize what has become a fairly corrupt and incompetent rule of the clerics.

That's also easy to say from a safe distance, "Don't worry about the possibility of asymmetric threats of nuclear use, "as to not worry too much about the unattributable/asymmetric threat.

If the Israelis feel that's not something they can live with, the author would understand that, if these are the consequences below that lead one to consider a unilateral American strike, and its consequences.

As to the consequences of an Israeli strike, because of distance, the Israelis will not be able to destroy Iran's ability to attack Western interests in the Persian Gulf. The strike itself is a doable stretch for the Israeli Defense Forces. It's also not risk free, as to putting a sizable portion of the IDF Air Forces on a probably known path over Arab territory, or even Turkish territory, if, Israel's nuclear deterrent presumably provides some protection against any "air defense bait and switch."

In any event, if Iran launches counter-attacks at Western interests in the Persian Gulf in response to an Israeli strike, then we are in that conflict.

One might be safe in assuming Iran would respond negatively to having its nuclear program bombarded by Israel using American made weapons, , hence the argument for considering a unilateral American strike, which would be understood as something of a proxy for Israel, but also more than that.

The reason it would be understood as more than that is that any doubts about American intentions to use force in the dispute as it escalated would of course be over; and then you have the consequences to consider.

If the hypothetical raids were large enough, it is likely that they would succeed in taking down Iran's ability to interfere with naval shipping in the Persian Gulf, although probably not without substantial loss of American lives, and especially Iranian combatant and non-combatant lives.

The reason for caring about the latter, beyond basic human concerns, is the reaction of the Muslim world.

To attack an Islamic country, even one that is a Shia outcast in many ways, is not a trivial matter, especially given the presence of American troops in Afghanistan.

One could predict with a high level of probability that American soldiers would die in Afghanistan because of a strike on Iran, if we can't be driven in disorder from the country and/or defeated militarily, as we have too much firepower. In the worst case, i.e. asked to leave, and then denied egress through Russia, China, or Pakistan, we can evacuate through Iran, just devastating the country as we proceed if need be to deter partisan attacks. That's truly the worst case, and not very likely.

On the other hand, Russian and Chinese objections to any American raid on Iran have to be taken very seriously.

China is now Iran's biggest investor and trading partner. Both China and Russia use Iran not only in energy markets, but also more fundamentally in order to lever against American dominance in the international system.

North Korea does the same thing, in which, and this is politically incorrect to say, Jewish influence in the United States is so patently obvious overseas, that to strike at Jews is perceived as damaging American power.

An annecdote will tell the tale.

When at SAIS, one of my first conversations was with a Frenchman, from the Ecole, not a redneck like Le Pen, to put it mildly.

He said to me, and from the Ecole Polytechnique:

"Why do you let the Jews run everything?"

Now, being from Alabama, and being the one usually suspected of being the at best closet racist, I tried to dissuade him of that idea, mainly in terms of what is the case, and which African-American Thomas Sowell pointed out, which is that ethnic groups have differential levels of success economically on average because of their culture in no small measure, and that this is always true.

Some groups do better than average, like Northeast Asians in America or Chinese in Malaysia, and some do worse than average; here in America, the Jews have done pretty well, to put it mildly.

Thus, to strike at Jewish interests is perceived in some quarters overseas as the obvious way to strike at America, in terms of its power elite's interests.

That doesn't mean you just salute what comes up the flagpole because its kosher so to speak, but, don't assume that just because someone is messing with Israel doesn't mean it's not really about you too.

In the end, if Russia and China want to fight a Great Power War, they can find a way to do so, and if they did that by encouraging Iran, well, we didn't cause that problem, and so destroying their nuclear sites unilaterally might make sense, or might make Iran back down right now.

On the other hand, since that is doing a favor in many ways for both Arabs and Israels, and since running such risks as it is is not trivial, it would seem obvious that encouraging a moderation in demands in the Palestinian situation, on both sides, might be the best way to both repay risks run, and most importantly avoid war in the first place by giving Russia, China, and especially Iran something to show for the whole exercise, potentially important, since pride and its wounding often drives war.



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This one's convoluted. I suppose the first question I'd ask is:

What does Iran want?

The most logical answer I've heard so far is that they want high oil prices and they can get there by escalating tensions up to a point.

The second thing they want is increased influence in the Middle East, in part because of fundamentalist evangelism. That's what I think the whole anti-Israel thing is really all about. It's not about really caring about Palestinians because, frankly, no one does; they've been pawns since 1948. The issue when it comes to Palestinians has never been what's done to them; the issue has always been who's doing it. However, the Arab governments have been using Israel as an excuse to distract their domestic populations from repression, corruption, and generally lousy government but, having used this excuse for so long, it's taken on a life of its own and can't be readily abandonned, even when convenient for the governments in question. So, if Iran wants to encourage home-grown fundamentalist movements in various Arab countries, a prospect which terrifies Arab governments, becoming the anti-Israel leader gives them street cred. There aren't too many reasons for Iran to host holocaust revisionist conferences other than to take on this role because, after all, why bother when the Jews and the Germans agree as to the events and their scope?

I don't think there are Arab populations that really fear Iran but there are certainly governments that do, starting with the Saudis.

If the Iranians or anyone else were really worried about Palestinians, they'd have two choices, neither of which they're following:
1. Pull refugees out and resettle them.
2. Offer Israel enough of a carrot to settle this. Settling this defuses a tremendous amount. The stick approach with Israel flat-out doesn't work; in fact, it always makes matters worse, for all sorts of reasons.

I suppose it's possible that the Iranian government really does have that deep-seated a hatred for Israel, but that would be beyond rational. If that's the case, I'm not sure having the situation escalate can be avoided.

In terms of your European friend asking you why you allow Jews to run everything, there's a lot guys like that clearly don't get about the US. For one thing, they don't understand the current role of the Christian Right when it comes to Israel. Related to that, they don't understand Islam's reputation with a lot of the general public here. There are millions and millions of Americans, possibly the majority, who think that Al Qaida represents True Islam. Of course that contention is nonsense, but it's still held and, as long as it is, a lot of Israel's support isn't going to come from Jews at all. It's not that the Christian Right loves Jews, but Jews aren't evangelical and so don't pose a threat, whereas Islam is evangelical and an awful lot of civilian-targeted violence in the last few decades has come from Middle Eastern Muslims, so American fundamentalist Christians view Israel as a friendly Western bulwark against the Terrorist Hordes. This is doubly true since 9/11.
My point about the Frenchman, and not to pick on France, was this: as a factual matter, many people overseas see a lot of Jewish influence in the U.S., and so therefore to strike at Israel is an indirect way of striking at America, and North Korea is the proof of this occurring.
What interest do Syria and North Korea really have in common? American power limits what they can do, giving them a common interest in mimimizing that power, and so that is why North Korea used an indirect approach to transfer a nuclear reactor to them, not just for the money, but also for the leverage.
The Chinese do the same thing with supporting Iran for the Middle East as a whole, not anti-Israel, as most Chinese are fairly ... agnostic to a monotheist point of view, but to create an alternate focus of power to U.S. dominance.
High oil prices are one thing, but I think this is about who's the big dog, as to Iranian motivations, and we block that, along with Israel. Palestinians are useful to them as to a way of playing with Israel so to speak, but not only that; Jerusalem as the third most holy site is a real issue for them, and the Arabs too. The Saud, when that was lost in '67, by all accounts felt strongly they had let Ibn Saud down, since they are "the Custodians." Concur on Christian Right, not necessarily therefore friend.
As to dispute resolution, if Iran backs out of nuclear program, some bones on the Palestinians would be face saving for a religious regime in my view, and for the Saud too who would be willing to pay money for some legal fiction to get them some fictional control to worship at the Al Aqsa Mosque in my view.
The Iranians would be willing to do that I think, even though the Iranians are Shia and Palestinians Sunni; still Muslim. They still can go to their people and say,"We stood up to the big bad wolf, and in the interests of fellow Muslims gave away a route that the Imam said was a bad one anyway, but in return, one can walk under Muslim (with a lot of Israeli security lurking all over the place, especially the entrance, obviously), control into the Al Aqsa Mosque, and the Palestinians now have a state that is a Luxembourg of the Middle East (with Israeli and maybe NATO with Americans observers in the passes into Jordan River Valley.)
IDF will never concur to not control Palestinian airspace, not heavy weapons save for a notional tank force, lots of inspectors and, especially the Jordan River. You do that as the trade, or waste Iran I think is coming down the pike from somewhere, Israel or us. That trade is facesaving,as no one likes only sticks.
Saddam actually made a good point as to why. When the first war was getting ready to start, people in the media asked him, "You do understand the force arrayed against you was designed to fight the Soviet Union in WWIII, and so you are going to get your ass kicked, right. Capeche? (Loose translation, but the facts were obvious as to outcome)
And then Saddam said something very close to this, universally true I think:
He said,'You may have your advanced weapons, and you may well crush us. (here's the key next) Life without pride would not be worth living."
Life without pride would not be worth living. That has to be finessed in any negotiation I think.
You've ended with a point I've made before, but not here (on your blog, I have on OS):

People value the scarce resource.

For Jews, that's justice. Also safety.

For Arabs, that's respect. Think about all those excessive projects in Dubai, which are in many ways indicate a mentality very similar to that in Las Vegas when it was mob controlled. Recent Arab economic successes (with the possible exception of, oddly enough, very recent West Bank successes) have mostly been due to oil and, unfortunately in these terms, Israel has been in extremely stark contrast to that, like military humiliation wasn't enough humiliation. So, I understand Saddam's point.

Unfortunately, the Arabs and Israelis are completely tin-eared when it comes to each other's buttons. Jews are used to being vilified but no one thinks we're incapable, which is particularly true of the Israelis. They're notorious for not caring about etiquette in general - I know "thank you" in Hebrew but I've been told that it's not vocabulary they typically bother with. I don't think they can make any sense out of respect being important like it is to Arabs because they have no sense of what it's like for it to be scarce.

On the other side of the coin, Arabs don't really understand what it's like to live assuming that people always want to kill you for who you are, many of whom are willing to go to absurd lengths to do so. They talk about pushing a population into the sea or eliminating a regime (in this case, not just Arabs but Persians) and they don't grasp what it's like to have experienced those sorts of things, repeatedly; Israel was specifically about ending that. Also, Arabs and Muslims are huge populations over a really large area; Jews and Israelis are a tiny people located (in the Middle East) essentially on a postage stamp. That involves a claustrophobia the Arabs can't relate to.
As I said before, a unilateral US strike on Iran before the November elections is patently absurd. After the elections Obama would first try the diplomatic comprehensive Middle East peace negotiation route, and only after that was exhausted would there be any contemplation of the use of force.

And you keep ignoring the salient fact that the Iranian regime will PROFIT from an Israeli strike. The strike will shore up their domestic support and also they become the darling victims of the nefarious Israelis, and they will have tremendous support from all over the world. Don't you understand that the Iranian regime welcomes an Israeli strike? Don't you understand that Israel will strike soon because it destroys the Obama presidency, ensuring a super Israeli-friendly Romney Republican administration, and Bibi would rather act sooner than later, because once it's's done, nothing can reverse it, and the Saudis want it done, and nobody gives a fuck about the Palestinians. One month till the know I'm right...hugs
The Persians are filthy, swarthy animals and must be exterminated. What more needs to be said?
Donny, I just wrote a post in your honor, huggy cakes...winky pat..tee hee hee
Since all responsible well informed experts including some of the high echelon Israeli military people express opinions that Iran is neither preparing for nor actually executing plans to construct nuclear armaments and the actual participation in Iran in atomic activity is to create fuel for nuclear power reactors which is entirely legal under the terms of international agreement it becomes worthwhile to consider what the real motivations in manufacturing this crisis may be. All leaders with dictatorial motivations find it very worthwhile to create huge fears and panics in order to control their populations to keep themselves in power and destroy rational thinking. Netanyahu is adept at this ploy and it seems to serve him and the reactionary political forces in Israel extremely well. Jews have been persecuted for centuries for idiocies prevalent in other religions and are particularly susceptible to this ploy and it seems to be working. Whether Obama is also motivated by the possibility of controlling the massive oil resources in Iran is a distinct possibility considering the disastrous episode in subverting Ira politics which placed the Shah in power in favor of British Petroleum. Most sane people see an actual attack on Iran as too dangerous for the world economy to actually take place so the whole thing may be merely something to stir up irrational panics and take attention away from the inexorable destruction of any decent solution for the Palestinians while Israel robs their land and brutalizes their people.
I think there was a man who became known at Bowling Green named Ulysses who would make that call, knowing that it is a Maryland world, like at Antietam, where you wanted the one that got fired for drinking too much, and not the one with all the neatness of George who fired him to make the call on:
"You realize that this is the last reserve of the Union Army General? Shall we engage?" He said no, and Grant had to take a gamble two years later at Cold Harbor, and weep over the 7,000 men he sent to their deaths in 20 minutes, their names pinned to their backs the night before, because they knew the next day their bodies would carpet the Earth, but there, in obedience to American law and God's Will did they lie, like at Thermopylae, if less well-known.
I think someone who is like Ulysses is going to say:
"They had our terms. Our terms were reasonable, and so our cause is just. They refused reasonable terms for the peace of the world, and so, if God is merciful, our losses will be small. So that's affirmative on engage and destroy the enemy. Bury the reactors, and any who interfere with freedom of the seas, and may God Bless the United States of America."
Time will tell, but that's how I see it, unless they come to terms, if Israel runs risks for us the less generous they are with the Palestinians. Showtime is right here coming up Jejeune, that's my take, if I liked the Russian walkers this morning and agree with them about Volodya and Dima being good leaders for the future of Russia, and am sorry for her loss at Chernobyl, but think that this will turn out very differently, or, Iran will swerve.
The problem with an Israeli strike Baltimore is that they can't smash Iran's responses in the Gulf on shipping. Iran will come to terms, or bad things are going to happen. It's really rather simple now, and Augustus made terms with them that they could live with, as there was a peace of 100 years afterwards, and only the Arabs won from the Byzantines war with the Sassanians, as that led straight to Qaddissiya.
Donny, Ms. Fifth Element is right. All Israel has to do is get the ball rolling for Christ's sake. It is US RESPONSIBILITY for maintaining security of shipping in the Straits after that. Look, in early June Israel will be making a final assessment of the present and projected state of the Iranian uranium enrichment program. If Israel's national technical means of intelligence and HUMINT indicate, as I'm sure they will do, that, despite any paper promises Iran has recently made, the program is continuing, and the Iranian nation is willing to 'eat grass' to continue enrichment, then the strike will be on, probably in the latter half of June. Even if Israel postpones by a few weeks, under US pleading to give the sanctions a little more time to work, the strike will happen in early-mid July. Iran will NOT swerve. Of that I'm more certain than the inevitability of the Israeli strike/ It's in the cards baby...wink
This remains my prediction if they don't swerve AC, because 3richardson17dre are confident in Ohio:
I think someone who is like Ulysses Grant is going to say if they don't swerve, with Obama's concurrence of course:
"They had our terms. Our terms were reasonable, and so our cause is just. They refused reasonable terms for the peace of the world, and so, if God is merciful, our losses will be small. So, XO, that's affirmative on engage and destroy the enemy. Bury the reactors, and any who interfere with freedom of the seas, and may God Bless the United States of America."
Cruella Daville wins otherwise.