Saturday, February 25, 2006

Double Check

Strategypage notes a checklist of warning signs that would indicate we will soon attack Iran:

February 22, 2006: Before any major military operation, there are always tell tale signs. With all the talk about Israel or the United States bombing Iran's nuclear weapons program, it would be wise to check for the signs before taking the pundit prattle too seriously.

1. - The U.S. Navy stages a "surge exercise" and moves six carrier battle groups into the Indian Ocean.

2. - A "regularly scheduled exercise" moves Patriot Missile Batteies to Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. These exercises happen from time to time, but if they happen when other things are happening.

3. -- Movement of B-52 and B1B bombers to the island of Diego Garcia (in the Indian Ocean).

4. -- Deployment of F117 stealth bombers and F-22 fighters to anywhere in the Persian Gulf.

5. -- Deployment of B-2 Stealth Bombers to Guam, where there are special facilities for maintaining these aircraft.

6. -- Lockdown of Whitman Air Force Base (where most B-2 bombers are stationed) in Missouri.

7. -- Increased delivery of Pizza to Pentagon

8. -Sudden loss of cell service near some air force bases (from which heavy bombers would depart). At the same time, there would be sightings of Middle Eastern looking guys around these bases, trying to get their cell phones to work, while being observed by what appears to be FBI agents.

9. Deployment of KC-135/KC-10 aerial tankers to Diego Garcia, Guam and the Persian Gulf.

10. America asks nations neighboring Iran for basing and over flight rights.

These warning signs are no secret, and intelligence officers regularly run down their check lists. As a result, nations will sometimes stage a false alert by deliberately performing many of the items on someone's check list, with no intention of following through.

Look, one of my weaknesses in looking at events is that I tend to assume we can do things a little more secretly than we really can.

But I am assuming that when we deal with Iran, we will have learned some lessons from telegraphing our punch so much against Iraq and will minimize our warning signs.

Given that we know these signs, what could we hide for a time period long enough to gain surprise?

First, just because we have surged carriers for Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom, and Iraqi Freedom does not mean we will need to do so for Iran. We now have air bases in Turkey, Iraq, Kuwait, the UAE, Oman, Afghanistan, and Central Asia. Given the power of precision weapons, I don't think we need aircraft carriers to put sufficient air power into action. Our surge ability already demonstrated will be better suited to deterring North Korea while we act.

Second, putting Patriots into Iraq is certainly necessary (don't we have them their already?), but Kuwait and Saudi Arabia could be shielded at least in part with sea-based assets, I bet. Surface combatants can more easily move around without drawing attention and smaller numbers of Patriots that might escape notice could fill in gaps.

Third, will we really need to move B-1s and B-52s to Diego Garcia before we strike? If we have sufficient shorter range assets, couldn't we place just the support assets on the base; and launch the bombers from their usual bases when the attack starts to hit Iran in a follow-up wave, recovering at Diego Garcia to rearm and refuel for further strikes? Remember, this isn't a one-shot strike. This will last weeks. So we don't need to telegraph our intentions by putting high profile aircraft in motion before the strike. Heck, declare a maintenance emergency for all our B-52s and say we are grounding them for inspections before we strike.

Fifth, the B-2s to Guam are probably more necessary for the first wave but depending on how many we need for the initial attack to supplement the aircraft in theater, maybe in isolation this wouldn't draw too much notice. Especially if we desensitize observers by deploying B-2s to Guam repeatedly without attacking. Have we been doing this?

Sixth, depending on whether we need the B-2s in Missouri for the first strike, do we need to do this before H-Hour?

Seventh, three words--peanut butter sandwiches. If we can't stop this and our Pentagon people aren't aware of this warning sign, we've got some serious problems.

Eighth, I'm not sure what we can do about this other than to manufacture another problem that strikes a wider area to mask the fact that we only want to affect the base area.

Ninth, again, this seems hard to hide but if assets close to Iran can handle the initial strikes, do we need to deploy so many ahead of time that we draw attention? Could the dual-purspose refueling/cargo planes be sent on widely dispersed cargo missions and then converge on needed bases right on the eve of the strikes?

Tenth, can't these be done ahead of time? And since Afghanistan, Turkey, Iraq, and the sea coast of Iran don't require overflight rights, who would we need to consult with to fly over? Even strikes from Indian soil could go around Pakistan if we had sufficient refueling capacity in India already.

Our enemies are looking for signs that we will strike. We know these signs. Can't we work around these signs or minimize them to obscure the pending blow?