Saturday, April 29, 2006

Tehran Spring?

OK, bear with me. I'm speculating--a lot. But are we getting ready to hit Iran?

Start with the fact that the President has recently affirmed the principle of preemptive action and that Iran under the mullahs is a threat to us that we must stop one way or the other.

There are apparent signs of preparing for a fight in the CENTCOM region with the Trenton expeditionary strike group deployed and the French De Gaulle scheduled to be in the region in May. In light of bellicose French statements about using nukes and their position with us on the nuclear issue, this seems significant.

Plus, until April our forces were holding back on combat missions. I thought it was to let Iraqis take over security forces and possibly to pressure the Iraqi political parties to compromise, but could we have also wanted to pull our units together so they can prepare for conventional operations in support of a regime change effort led by Iranians? And/or in conjunction with a campaign to disarm Iran of nuclear technology?

Add the fact that it would be helpful to have an Iraqi elected government in place prior to action against Iran to minimize the impact of an Iranian charge that Iraqis are puppets of America.

Add that Iran doesn't hide that even UN Security Council resolutions won't stop them and that I think our allies will go with us after we let them try a few years of soft power negotiations.

Also, we've started to move against militias (though it was just a shot and not a thorough effort) after I earlier speculated that a real clean up of Sadr's boys would precede an attack on Iran.

Consider also that aside from the Marines in Anbar who will not be pulled away from this area, the Army has the very high tech 4th ID (Mechanized) Division with all four brigades in Iraq and 101st AB (Airmobile) also has all four of its line brigades in Iraq. These are the types of units I'd want to hit Iran from the west if conventional forces are part of the attack mix. Could 3 or 4 brigades now in Iraq be freed up by Iraqi units for use in Iran? And remember we have a heavy brigade in Kuwait. And Marines at sea and units in Afghanistan.

Domestic political considerations also intrude. Many say there is no way we'd attack in an election year but why is this considered a hard rule? A May assault leaves plenty of time for things to settle down before the elections in the fall. And given that conventional wisdom says the Democrats could retake the House, would the President really be able to strike after the fall if the Republicans lose the House? When the Left is having cyber-wet dreams about finally running committees to investigate every policy disagreement they have and elevate them to crimes? Talk of attacks in a year or two years ignores that the Left may not allow the party they are in do anything but obstruct efforts to deal with Iran if they have some power.

Assuming action is distant also ignore the maxim of appearing far when near. I'd want the mullahs to think they have time and not telegraph our punch as we did for Iraq. Plus talk of years assumes we have confidence that Iran is years away from nuclear weapons. Have we learned nothing from our intelligence failures over the last fifty years? And even if we have years, will waiting years make the military option too difficult to carry out?

Of course, I know I'm proposing connections between dots that may be unconnected. This is of course the problem with looking back and picking out facts that only with the knowledge of what actually happened can they be said to "predict" the action if only we had been paying attention. No conspiracies, just life.

But if we strike in May, I won't be surprised.

UPDATE: Still, I keep in mind that the press may not be missing all these dots in its reporting. This article says that based on the IAEA report just issued that we are pushing the diplomatic route:

The eight-page report provided official evidence that the United States, Britain and France have sought to launch a push for possible sanctions against Iran. But Russia and China, also permanent members of the Security Council, have repeatedly expressed skepticism with that approach.

President Bush said after the report's release that "the world is united and concerned" about Iran's "desire to have not only a nuclear weapon but the capacity to make a nuclear weapon or the knowledge to make a nuclear weapon." He said he hoped for a diplomatic solution.

As this diplomatic route is actually being reported, I can't rule it out. I can't rule out that we are dragging our allies along hoping for the best at each step and hoping we won't have to consider harsher methods. It is possible that we will take these steps all the way to war, over a couple years, without any deep plan and just muddling through. I just don't know.

ANOTHER UPDATE: And consider that NATO is freeing up US forces in Afghanistan and that our troops won't leave at once. They could be available for an eastern front. Though as I write here, late spring may make more sense (especially since we are deep in May as I write this).