Saturday, January 14, 2006

A War By Any Other Name

VDH discusses our options on Iran. Of course, all our options must consider that the worst thing that can happen is to let the nutballs in Iran have nuclear weapons.

Certainly, if you are not worked up over this and prefer to focus on imagined administration crimes or shade-grown coffee or whatever, your calculations will be different.

Still, it is difficult to conclude that anything other than military options will save us from Iran having nuclear weapons in the very near future. And our military option isn't particularly neat and clean:

Experts warn that we are not talking about a Clintonian one-day cruise-missile hit, or even something akin to General Zinni’s 1998 extended Operation Desert Fox campaign. Rather, the challenges call for something far more sustained and comprehensive — perhaps a week or two of bombing at every imaginable facility, many of them hidden in suburbs or populated areas. Commando raids might need to augment air sorties, especially for mountain redoubts deep in solid rock.

I had assumed something on the order of Desert Fox. Apparently not. It will take more than I thought despite what I assumed are far greater military capabilities since Desert Fox. Given this need for a long campaign, there is no way in the world the Israelis can pull this off short of using nukes. They simply don't have the capability even if we wanted to subcontract the dirty work to them.

Oh, Israel will try, I think, since a chance at setting back the nuclear aspirations of the mullahs at least buys time to teach the horse to sing. It isn't as if the mullahs aren't already angry with Israel and determined to kill as many of them as they can. This alone will compel us to act, I think. Israel will try but unless they get lucky will fail to significantly delay the Iranians and just risk annoying the Arab world and complicating our presence in the Middle East.

So we must do the job. And the situation is worse than Hanson relates, I think. Even a Desert Fox-scale campaign could be directed solely at Iran's nuclear facilities. But once the campaign goes on weeks we must consider how Iran will fight back.

Iran could interdict the Strait of Hormuz; strike US forces in Iraq or Afghanistan; invade Iraq; fire missiles at Israel--possibly chemical or biological; strike Saudi and Kuwaiti oil facilities; and cut off their own oil exports.

So in an effort to stop Iran from widening the war on their initiative in ways that could harm us or our allies, we have to widen the war right off the bat.

Right off the bat, we will need to hit air defense sites and airfields to knock out fighter aircraft in order to prevent the Iranians from shooting down our aircraft after we lose the element of surprise in the first hour. Remember, this will be a sustained campaign and not a drive by. The Iranians will try to fight back.

We will need to hit the Iranian navy and the Pasdaran naval elements. If we are lucky, we can convince the regular navy to sit in port and declare their neutrality. But if we suspect anything but pure passivity, we will have to sink their assets. We will also need to escort tankers through the Gulf.

We will need to disable airfields and surface-to-surface missile sites to prevent their use in strikes against neighboring states against either our forces or other assets.

We will need to strike any artillery units near the Iraq border.

We will need to strike Pasdaran (especially the Basij) and Iranian intelligence sites before they can disperse.

We will need to strike command and control facilities.

We will need to strike leadership targets.

We will need to watch regular units of the army and Pasdaran and hit them if they leave their bases.

We will need some of our ground units in Iraq massed in brigades (and one in Kuwait) to be able to react to any Iranian conventional attacks across the border. The Brits will need to be ready, too.

We and our allies will need to blockade Iran completely. Remember that Iran imports refined oil products. I noted this long ago but I'm not up to searching for the old post,

We and our allies will need to release every oil reserve stocks we have at maximum rates.

And after the campaign is over, we will need to watch Iran closely and be prepared to launch follow-up strikes against any nuclear targets we missed the first time.

And then we will need to seriously work on figuring out how to overthrow the regime since the gloves will be off and the Iranians will look for how to strike back.

This looks an awful lot like a war and not just a clean airstrike. Which is why my preference is to support internal forces for regime change. Lots, if not most, Iranians hate their government. But my first preference may not be possible. Either from our inability or from the lack of a determined internal opposition ready to fight for their future.

But when the alternative to what I've described is letting Iran go nuclear, a war by any other name is downright ideal.

UPDATE: This article seems to broadly support my view that we could do the job and that Israel might be able to do the job. If by "job" you mean set back Iran's nuclear program for some finite amount of time. Time we will hopefully use better than the last three years when we let the Euro-3 play diplomacy games.