The issue of possible war against Iran has ceased to be a purely theoretical discussion topic, although many parties will seriously question that US will attack Iran and even occupy it, for the said experience from occupation of Iraq and unresolved problem of presence in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, almost all concerned parties share agreement that the situation of Iran’s relations with the USA, West and Israel has reached a blind end and very much may mature into a war. Besides, the confronting parting themselves are rather continuous in the movement towards war. Observers from outside are not capable to conceive what caused such situation and how it will develop in reality.
Core issues pertaining to Iran’s confrontation with West are still open. We may emphasize the following: first – why would USA and Europe at all need a war with Iran? Second- why do Western countries tolerate Pakistan or Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons and why cannot Iran possess such weapons? Third – how sever will be impacts from that war on global economy and, especially, regions neighboring on Iran? Can we expect catastrophic growth in oil prices and is Iran realistically capable to paralyze the global economy by blockade or Strait of Hormuz? Forth – how capable is Iran’s army and how is consolidated its society; is the country at all capable to withstand long-term war? Fifth – is Iran capable to organize attach on the US and its allies in other countries, is Tehran capable to transform the war into a global conflict, or at least a conflict expanding over neighboring countries? Sixth – may be consider that last events in the Muslim and Arabic world are interconnected, for example Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Egypt and Iran? Seventh – why did Iran, the recent leader of Islamist world in its opposition to West, suddenly found itself in certain isolation, why did it lose the support from the Muslim streets and supervised organizations in various countries?
It is generally clear that Iran’s present regime does not satisfy US. It began in late 70-s, 1979, to be exact when Reza Pahlavi, the Shaq of Iran was deposed. Said Shaq was a devoted ally of the US. We, however, know that Washington is critical in regards to several other countries, such as Syria and North Korea. America had problems with Pakistan, likewise recently, when Pakistan ceased to deliver cargo to the US expeditionary forces in Afghanistan. If we consider the problem from the standpoint of compliance with western democratic values, then we should mind that many Muslim countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, which countries’ regimes are allies to the US, are rather remote from those values.
Easier would be to just answer the question as to why Western countries are so against Iran’s possible possession of nuclear weapons. And the reason is in Iran’s absolutely different approach to that issue, compared to North Korea and Pakistan and, moreover, Israel. Iran is a country that, in principle, may choose to perform a realistic nuclear bombing. All countries that are in possession of nuclear weapons, maintain those weapons only for the cases of absolute and inevitable emergency, while Iran numerously declared rather tough statements addressed to Israel. So, naturally, once Tehran comes into possession of an atomic bomb, then it may theoretically use it or threaten to use it for pressure.
Of course, we may make references to Iran leadership’s numerous promises of no intention to design and create nuclear weapons, so to address the above concerns. And Iran’s tough statements addressed to Israel never communicated that Iran would bomb Tel-Aviv.
In response to those tough statements, Israel may, in a rather substantiated manner, declare that the present leadership of Iran simply denies Israel’s right to exist. Besides, Hezbollah guerillas attached Israel with rockets and missiles made in Iran. Given that, Israel expresses the position that it may not allow the creation of nuclear weapons in the country that could once use it against unknown party.
Even if Iran does not use its nuclear weapon in practice, the fact of its existence itself shall be to a serious detriment of Israel. Taking in account, growing expansion of bourgeois philosophy in Israel, the nuclear sword of Damocles will force the majority of Israel population to migrate, which tendency will simply put the end to the idea behind the creation of the country itself. The times of tough pioneers of the middle of the past century are gone and present middle class will prefer immigration to continuous fear.
Israel and West generally do not trust Iran’s assurances of no intention to build a nuclear bomb. Although there is no proof to that, it appears obvious that the Falcons of the leadership of Iran foresaw that and, at the same time, would not object to possess a nuclear bomb. Most likely, those Falcons commenced a rather risky game based on consideration that USA would just choose not another big-scale war, after operations in Iraq and numerous unresolved problems in Afghanistan. That particular game gave birth to more new discussions concerning new types of weapons produced in Iran. It is a psychological war addressed to the US, in order to encourage the administration of the US to believe that assault against Iran will cost America too many casualties.
As for the conflict with Israel, the latter country’s air assault will not be of lethal effect to Iran. Tehran, most likely deems potential risks justified, because if one day Iran announces possession of a nuclear bomb, US will most likely dare not to attack it.
The game is a risky venture but the possible success shall bring Tehran numerous dividends. Iran will definitely become of hegemony in the region and the Muslim world. If that happens, Iraq, Afghanistan (once coalition expeditionary forces leave the country), Lebanon, Bahrain, Syria and, possibly, Yemen. Saudi Arabia will begin to shake, as local Shiites from Eastern Province will enjoy active support from Iran and them Bahrain and Oman. US troops will have to urgently withdraw from region, because the potential nuclear bomb will presume the threat of numerous human casualties. Besides, Americans would, most likely, not wish to use their own nuclear missiles and bring the region into a total chaos.
Given the above, it appears that possession of a nuclear bomb would become the apex of Iranian glory, because it would make the country invincible to all external enemies, capable to become a regional hegemony and expand its influence onwards. That is why Falcons in the leadership of Iran act in a rapid pace, racing with the time and opponents. We must, in this instance, emphasize some ideological peculiarities of the Iran society. At one hand, local Shiites are fully assured of their righteousness and are ready to victimize their lives for higher cause, like they demonstrated on many occasions, during psychological attacks on minefields during the past war between Iraq and Iran. On the other side, local Shiites historically developed a specific property, themselves call Taqliya, a purely Shiite manner and code of behavior that formed under several centuries of repressions from various Sunnite dynasties. A Shiite may and must conceal his true religion and lie to enemies, if such enemies repress such Shiite on religious dogmatic grounds or threaten the interests. So, whenever Iran leadership claims it does not wish to have a nuclear bomb, that particular statement appears to be next to nothing. Only Iranians know if they dissemble or not. And it appears that West and Israel no longer question that Iran wishes to possess a nuclear bomb and is ready to commit efforts and resources necessary for that.
Consequently, USA and Israel may choose to think that war against Iran will be the least of all evils. Neither of said countries will want to face the risk of appearance of nuclear Iran with all subsequent problems. That is why, they, actually, have no other choice.
Controlled Chaos Strategy
There is one more important aspect that does with the US present policy in regards to Middle East, in which region the level of public administration centralization is very high. Until recently, there were four countries with the discussed types of regimes in the region – Iran, Iraq, Libya and Syria. Iraq, Libya and Syria were remnants from the Cold War and locally adapted models of USSR. Ideologically, they were in pursuit of the Arabic Socialism with the dominating public property. Organizationally, regimes in those countries were based on maximum possible concentration of power in the hands of central bureaucratic apparatus. Until recently, such centralization of the power was justified as necessity to overcome ethnic, religious and tribal confrontation in the countries.
Military activists were the force driving modernization in those countries. Militarization became state goal and locomotive for general strengthening of the public administration machine. Iraq and Libya took advantage of enormous oil revenues and performed accelerated militarization and then became generally active in the international arena. Syria did not possess minerals and continuous cash-flow, but as a country neighboring on Israel, Syria enjoyed support from USSR and some of the rich Arabic countries. Syria had a capable and powerful army and powerful bureaucracy.
As for Iran’s present theocratic regime, it came into power after a national revolution, which revolution, in its turn, was triggered by reforms performed in the reign of Shaq Reza Pahlavi. Those reforms were called White Revolution. They touched upon various spheres of life, in Iran, caused several cardinal changes and led to massive discontent. Left handed political parties, from Tude Communists to such organizations as Mujaheddin e-Khalq and Fedain e-Khalq were not happy about reforms and their extent and demanded socialist course of development. Shiite clergy did not appreciate the secular character in the country administration and western influence in the society. Broad masses of rural population who had to relocate to urban communities, in the course of country modernization, did not tolerate social inequality.
After revolution, clergy took over the power and formed an Islamic republic with high extent of the concentration of power, strong bureaucracy and significant revenues from oil. The new republic immediately identified its ideological goals. It was simultaneous struggle with West and USSR and ambition to become the leader of the Islamic world and restore the former glory in opposition with West. The new powerful state rested on the platform of Shiite doctrine and Persian identity. The latter circumstance did automatically trigger certain problems with Arabs and Sunnites, but until recently those problems were not critical.
All four discussed countries of the Islamic world constituted a big problem for the US and Western world, in general, mainly because they strived to conduct their own active and rather aggressive external policies and had all material and organizational resources for that. Taking in account the fact that relationships with the Islamic world are extremely important to West, militarization of Iraq, Syria, Libya and Iran, with the high concentration of state power in one body, constituted serious complications for West. That is why, for West, the dismantling of the Tehran, Damask, Baghdad and Tripoli military and bureaucratic machines and transition of those countries to the free market appeared as the most realistic way to resolve the problem. Because with the free market relations, the major part of cash-flow generated by a country, including oil revenues, shall be allocated for domestic consumption, including corruption and there will be no funds left for militarization and external aggression.
Iraq was the first target. If we follow the above logic, it will appear senseless to argue on whether US sustained a fiasco in that country. Because, US definitely implemented all their intentions in Iraq. Present Iraq is no longer a threat, likewise was under Saddam Hussein’s leadership. Iraq no longer possesses powerful army and uniform bureaucracy, to be able to pose threat. Besides, ongoing clashes among Sunnites, Shiites and Kurds make it absolutely impossible for the country to follow some uniform course of action. We must also point out, in regards to that, that statements that US conquered Iraq for oil eventually appeared incorrect. Oil is still produced by Iraq’s two major public companies – Northern and Southern and lion’s share of oil revenues stays inside Iraq, for domestic consumption. Newly entered oil contracts offer very favorable terms and conditions for Iraq. Foreign companies produce oil and collect their fixed payments, amounts in the area of USD5 for 1 bbls, while ownership of the produced oil rests with Iraq. In other words, state revenues are in direct dependence upon global oil prices, which practice is different from Kazakhstan reality, where state revenues are collected mostly indirectly, by means of taxation.
Such manner of behavior, brought significant dividends to the US policy in the discussed regions of the world. It is obvious that now elites in Iraq, and Shiites, first of all, as they control the present government, have something to lose. That is why, if tomorrow an armed conflict between USA and Iran takes place, then the new political establishment of Iraq will face the choice to either act on the side of their Shiite brothers in Iran or maintain neutrality. Most apparently, Iraq Shiites will prefer the second option, for they clearly understand that Sunnites and Kurds, as well as oppositional Shiites will avail themselves of an opportunity to depose present elites, for example, for the sake of acquisition of the power to distribute oil revenues.
Libya’s collapse, second after Iraq, would seem impossible just a year ago. With all Gaddafi’s readiness to perform tough action, the protest energy generated in early 2011 in Tunisia and Egypt turned out to be far more stronger and Western coalition provided its very timely assistance. Although present Libya, is a scene of rivalry among local tribes, it is obvious that with the loss of the former military and bureaucratic machines, Libya will lose the capacity to pose threat to West and neighbors.
In connection to the above paragraph, we must point out the common practice among critics of West’s policies in regards to Iraq and Libya, to refer to such argument that those two countries are at chaos now and suffer from lack of order, compared to the times of Hussein and Gaddafi. And those critics will raise a natural question whether all those efforts were worth the final outcome. There is no absolute answer to that question. But one fact remains obvious: West successfully achieved its goal of deposition of centralized military and bureaucratic machines in those countries. Afterwards, they dismissed the Iraq army and Iraq’s ruling political party Baas. All other risks, in the eyes of Western states, are inferior to global considerations.
Now, we are observing the quaking of Syria, which country should find it rather difficult to withstand pressure from inside and outside. Bashar Assad, the young president of Syria clearly lacks the decisiveness of his Father and former President of Syria Hafez Assad, for which feature of character, he failed to settle the conflict down promptly. Thirty years ago, Hafez Assad did not hesitate to perform the military bashing of the town of Hama, in which events some 30 thousand civilians were killed. In Homs and all over Syria, serious armed conflicts have been taking place on daily basis, in the past 6 months. It is obvious that Damask’s confirmed inability to establish order in the country became the reason of subsequent pressure from outside.
It is obvious that contradictions between the Alawi religious minority of Syria (10-15% of the population), the mother community for Assad, his elite military detachments and political establishment, and the Sunnite majority reached their apex. So if Syria goes for elections now, likewise demanded by the Arab League, Sunnite majority will win. Assad and his Alawis environment cannot let it happen, but, at the same time, they are no longer capable to take the situation under control. They lost the time and, most probably, will leave.
Amazing is how sophisticatedly was Syria taken into a tight ring and directed into the situation when any decision made by the regime in Damask will be to its own detriment. That is why, the core query now is not whether that regime will collapse, but when will it happen.
In sought for answers to above query, some interesting facts may be revealed. Particularly, two countries of the four discussed above already lost their former public constitution and Syria is at the edge of that. The only country left is Iran, which country faced a tremendously complicated reality in early 2012. It is clear that European Union’s 23 January 2012 refusal to buy Iran oil was a serious damage to Iran’s economy. With present oil prices taken in account, one might conclude that Iran lost Euro24 billion a year, as a minimum. Decisions made in February, namely limitations on transactions with Iran’s central bank and SWIFT international money transfers only added into the direction of the country to the brink of economic catastrophe.
It is obvious that global trade is firmly tied to either US Dollars or Euros. That is why, any party willing to make or collect payments in USD and Euro must fix those currencies in accounts in some central or private banks. Because US emit dollars in circulation, there must be electronic records of sums possesses by such parties, so any information pertaining to transactions in USD should be, theoretically, available from US. It is a routine procedure, likewise is SWIFT, practiced by many banks. Whenever you or some party else fail to confirm the existence of your USD or Euro, as should be confirmed by the party emitting banknotes into global circulation, you will, basically, lose ability to buy from global markets. In other words, US or Europe, at any given moment, will withdraw you from the system of global trade, which measure was taken in regards to Iran.
From now on Iran is not only unable to sell oil to European Union and has to incur in tremendous losses, but may also face the situation when it will in no capacity to sell oil to India, South Korea and China. To be more accurate, we will formulate it as follows: theoretically, Iran may sell its oil and collect payments in Chinese Yuans, Indian Rupees or Korean Wons, but Iran’s regional suppliers will not accept those currencies. Rupees and Yuans, generally, are not hard currencies and their legitimacy outside China is rather limited.
In autumn 2011, there were informational reports concerning conflicts of interests between Iran and China and India. The latter two countries owed Iran significant amounts, some sources claimed they totaled USD15 billion, but China and India could not evade partial sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council in relation to Iran nuclear program. At the time of events, sanctions affected nine Iran banks and then it already was a problem for Tehran. Now, the sanctions affect the central bank of Iran, which situation is completely different.
At present, Iran can count only on Japanese Yens, but Japan is not capable to cover Iran’s total demand in hard currency for international trade. Besides, Japan has its own allied relationships with the USA, and will not interfere with the US policy in relation to Iran.
Theoretically, Iran may establish clearing arrangements with China and India, thus, for example organizing mutual deliveries of goods and commodities and account those traffics in Yuans. Should one of the parties face the deficit, the gap shall be filled in by means of, probably, additional deliveries of Iran oil or Chinese goods and commodities. Such procedure is burdensome and long lasting, because Iran will have to buy all necessary goods and commodities from India and China, and that will sharply impact logistics and prices. This is not to mention that some of Iran’s needs, for example engine petrol (to 60% of domestic consumption) and foodstuffs will become luxury. One thing is to carry cereals or engine petrol from your neighbors, but China, is too far.
So, Iran is realistically facing the brink of economic collapse, especially now, at the edge of parliamentary elections of May 2012. And again, we have to admit the scale of pressure and the logical continuity of West’s actions that eventually brought Iran into a tight corner. Even Iran Falcons are no longer capable to tactically step back. That would means loss of face and power, because the present pressure from outside is the only factor that justifies the domestic cruelty in regards to some parts of society and local elites. The latter elites are inclusive of such influential activists of clergy as, for example, Rafsanjani, Kerubi and Khatami, which individuals should be fully aware of the risk of total collapse of centralized Iran with the domination of Persian nationals, if the war happens.
One very thin nuance is associated with the position taken by Arab countries, which countries recently took rather open anti-Iran and anti-Syria positions. Sunnite monarchies of the Gulf of Persia always kept themselves alert to Iran’s policy. Periodically, Arab states and Iran faced conflicts of interests. On one side, those conflicts were derivatives from the historic confrontation between Sunnites and Shiites. On the other side, Iran’s radical anti-West policy was always aimed at common Muslims, people in the streets and Tehran intended to become the informal leader of those streets. Given that informational campaign, countries of the Gulf of Persia with their rich oil reserves and traditionally good relations with West, felt themselves not so confident, especially for many Shiites historically domiciled in the strategic parts of the region, for example in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, an area rich in oil.
Iran showed rather decisive behavior and by middle of 2000-s, regime in Tehran supported many Shiite and even radical Sunnite groups all over the Muslim world. Iran was suspected of financial support of Shiite guerillas in Iraq and Afghanistan, HAMAS in Palestine, Zaydiyah activists in Yemen, Shiites in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and Islamists of Somali. Theoretically, Iran could become the regional hegemony, for example if all coalition troops left Iraq and Afghanistan at a time, both countries would automatically fall into the orbit of Iran’s influence. It would a regional Persian Shiite hegemony, something that would never go in line with the plans of the Sunnite and Arabic leaders of the Gulf of Persia.
The above leaders, however, had to act in a restrained manner, because their image and standing in the Muslim world were rather low, after invasion in Iraq in early 2000-s. Some of the WikiLeaks materials communicated that Arab leaders persistently encouraged US administration towards the war against Iran. To them, the potential Persian Shiite hegemony was unacceptable.
The sequence of events in early 2011, later called Arab Spring, changed the situation. Americans supported protesters in Tunisia and Egypt, not their former favorites – Presidents Mubarak and Ben Ali. Later, Americans contributed into the collapse of Gaddafi in Libya. European, American and some Arab, for example Qatar military experts played a significant role in the undermining of Gaddafi’s power, but they did so in such a sophisticated manner, that they gained popularity among common Muslims in the streets. In line with that, US withdrew all their forces from Iraq (late 2011), thus finally replacing the main irritator of all Arabs. Actually, some 30 thousand private military contractors stayed, but that event is another story. And then, Americans announced withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. Finally, we must point out the truce between HAMAS and FATH in Palestine and Israel’s agreement to release one thousand Palestinians in exchange to Corporal Shalid.
In furtherance to above events, the situation acquired a slightly different coloring. Washington and its European allies position themselves as supporters of democratic transformations of the Arab world and their refusal to support Mubarak and Ben Ali was evaluated by the Arab world as a progressive measure. Besides, US and Europe are rather relaxed in relation to moderate and not so moderate Islamists, as well as radical Salafits of Egypt present in Egypt and Tunisia leaderships.
Many protesters in Syria appeal for repetition of Libyan scenario, presuming deployment of expeditionary forces from outside. Those forces are joint troops of the Arab League, as was proposed by the Qatar Emir in January, but it is clear that prior to deployment of troops to Syria, its air space must be cleared from air traffic and only West and USA are able to ensure that.
Apparently, Islamic world shifted its attitude to West and USA towards better. Even radical Islamists reduced their anti-American propaganda. Of course that may be a temporary behavior, but Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt and An-Nahda of Tunisia should be fully aware of the fact that it was West and USA that did not let national armies of Egypt and Tunisia to perform the cruel suppression of unrests of spring 2011, thus paving the way for their active involvement in political life.
That, in virtue, is a compromise of interests. Americans and West supported revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, even though they realized the risk of appearance of Islamists in leaderships of the countries. It is obvious that West and USA were in pursuit of creation of domestic competitive environments, where several parties, including Islamists, secular parties and army would balance each others. That system is more convenient to West, compared to what was in Egypt and Tunisia in the times of Presidents Mubarak and Ben Ali. And that system envisages certain potentials for Islamists, too. Besides, history offers Turkish experience, which Islamist government now presses on Syria and encourages it to perform democratic transformations.
In that situation, old Arab monarchies, especially those from the Gulf of Persia began their activity and demonstrated pro-Western position. They did so during events in Libya, and proceed to do so now in Syria. Iran will be next on their agenda. And in doing so, they will be ready to play more active role, for example send their aviation and special forces, likewise in the course of Libyan unrests.
It is seen well, that those monarchies enjoy the full support from West. Rather illustrative, in that instance, is Bahrain, where local Sunnite dynasty cruelly suppressed local Shiites, with the support from the troops from Saudi Arabia. Although, Bahrain has the same situation, as Syria. But in the first case, one religious minority (Sunnites) keeps Shiite majority away from power and public administration. In the second case, reality is just visa versa. And the difference is that protests in Bahrain were not covered in local Arab and Western Mass Media, for example Al Jazeera of Qatar and Al Arabia of Saudi Arabia, as well as CNN and BBC. In line with that, Arab neighbors cut the financial support of Bahrain Shiites by Iran, but seem to render various supports to such extensively protesting Sunnites of Syria.
At present stage, all parties cannot afford sentimental attitudes. There is an open struggle ongoing and Arab monarchies support West in its crusade against Iran. For those monarchies, Iranian and Shiite domination is unacceptable and they are ready to take part in a war. Iran just has to give them a good reason.
The most complicated issue derives from the war itself: if it starts, when will it end. What does Iran expect from that war, likewise the coalition presently formed against Iran. It is clear, that none of the parties wants war, but they just have to keep themselves prepared.
Recently, many publications appeared that discuss and analyze military potentials of the parties. Skeptical observers draw attention to Iran’s capacity to attack US and allied forces in such effective way, that even their victory will appear Pyrrhic. There is no party that has illusions as to Iran’s anti-air and air forces’ capacity to oppose to US air assaults. At the same time, many observers discuss that Iran has many anti-vessel missiles of Chinese and indigenous make, as well as many mines that may block the Strait of Hormuz, which pass is less than 60 km wide in the narrowest place.
Skeptical observers expect that Iran will be capable to seriously assault US navy, by means of small missile boats and three submarines of the Paltus series, made in Russia. They also share opinion that Iran will successfully mobilize all pro-Iran groups and guerillas all over the region and encourage them to assault US military stations. The battlefield may, theoretically, expand to Afghanistan, Iraq, Gulf of Persia, and, probably, Palestine and Lebanon. Tehran possesses a substantial park of ballistic missiles. The most impressive is the Sheehad-3 system that Iran may use to hit Israel an d the majority of US bases in the region. Sheehad-3 was based on technology from North Korea, which technology, in its turn, was a derivative from the Soviet SCADs. Those missiles do not offer precision bombing.
Their main objection as to successful outcome of the US and allies’ operation against Iran is that the latter party possesses significant human resources taught to fight. Those are Armed Forces, some 350 thousand men, Corps of the Guards of Islamic Revolution (up to 150 thousand men) and the Basij militia (some 10 million men). US and its allies will need too many land troops for land operations, likewise was done in Iraq. To occupy Iran, coalition will need up to half one million of free soldiers, but they do not have such resources.
Given the above, one should be able to come to conclusion that war is of low probability and even should it commence, it will bring no results, because it will last for a long time and may lead to another collapse of the global economy, for full stoppage in oil suppliers from the globally strategic Gulf of Persia.
At the same time, US should have its own vision of the situation. Americans, obviously, realize all risks, associated with the potential war, including exposure of their bases in Afghanistan and Gulf of Persia to assaults. If Americans did not have plans how to handle all potential consequences, they would not agitate the situation around Iran. Besides, the deposition of Iran’s present ruling regime would finalize the resolution of practically all tactical and strategic problems US and their allies have to address in the Middle East. In other words, the game is worth the final prize.
We have no doubt that US always kept in their minds, the possibility of an armed assault on Iran. In connection with that, all actions taken by the US in the military and political spheres of the region demonstrate all properties of a strategic blockade of Iran.
First. Please note that compared to early 90-s, when NATO first assaulted Iraq, present US and allied expeditionary forces in the region constitute a powerful land and air group of forces. In early 90-s, it took NATO half a year to relocate war machines and equipment for half one million soldiers from US and Europe. Today, there are 100 thousand US soldiers in Afghanistan, up to 50 thousand in bases in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain. And the main asset – all heavy arms and war machines from Iraq, where US used to keep up to some 150 thousand soldiers, are in Kuwait, thus allowing to promptly deploy one more group. They will just have to deliver enough soldiers to Kuwait in planes.
In 1991, US aviation took off from airfields in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Diego Garcia and aircraft carriers. Today, USAF hold a powerful force in Afghanistan and Gulf of Persia. That allows usage of minimum aircraft carriers. There are two aircraft carriers in the Gulf of Persia today – Carl Vinson and Abraham Lincoln and one more is expected. In 1991, there were seven aircraft carriers in the region with all due supporting and backing troops and vessels.
Second. Americans may count on their Arab allies and their armies. Those allies just need a trigger to enter into the fight. Such triggers may be the following: Iran’s blockade of Strait of Hormuz, attack on some tanker, for example Saudi or Kuwait vessel, attack against US bases in Arab world and Iran’s assault on south Iraq. The latter circumstance is particularly interesting, because it may reflect Iran Army’s willingness to enter into a fire contact with US land troops in Kuwait.
The recent withdrawal of US troops from Iraq made them unavailable to Iran’s attacks. In case of war, US will most likely massively bombard a powerful Iran group of armies in the south province of Khuzestan, which province borders on Iraq. Such attach will seriously weaken said group of armies. That is why, the Iran command will, theoretically, attempt to re-locate the troops through a narrow bottleneck of the Iraq territory in the vicinity of Basra, so to assault and harm US force in Kuwait prior to significant damage caused by allied aviation. Important is that should Iran succeed to re-locate its troops and assault Kuwait, it will create serious obstacles to deployment of a counter-assault US force comprised of 15 thousand men that may be supported by 11 thousand Kuwait soldiers.
It is obvious that the Basra-Kuwait movement would be recklessness, but if Iran’s army just stays at the Iran-Iraq border, some two to three weeks of intensive bombings in the desert will score 50 to 60% of casualties among combat capable community. In 1991, for example, Iraq’s powerful force in the south of Iraq and Kuwait (up to half one million men) was rather demoralized after one month of air strikes. Besides, in the two weeks, following the possible commencement of war in Kuwait and areas geographically located close to Kuwait, US will assemble some 50 thousand soldiers in Saudi Arabia, as a minimum. Those soldiers will be equipped with all heavy weapons and war machines. Also, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia will mobilize some 20 to 30 thousand men. In one month, there will some 100 thousand Americans, in Kuwait.
Iran’s possible blitzkrieg, if, of course, commenced and implemented, will naturally provoke the growth of Arab nationalism, even among a part of Iraq Shiites and will result in the involvement of Arab states in the new war in the Gulf of Persia. Simultaneously, pro-Iran Shiites of Iraq will begin their war against local Sunnites and Kurds.
In connection with above we must report some rather oddly looking procurements of weapons and arms by some Arab states. For example, Qatar publically announced procurement of 4.9 thousand directed high precision bombs from US. Qatar’s air force is comprised from some dozen of Mistral striker planes made in France and those planes are not capable to use those bombs, for compatibility problems and weight. So, it would be logical to suppose that said procurement was Qatar contribution into the future campaign, while bombs will be dropped from other planes.
Third. Due to US efforts, Hezbollah of Lebanon and HAMAS of Palestine presently may be called neutralized. Particularly, US successfully cut or significantly reduced the flow of funds from Tehran, which funds were the foundation of both organizations; power. On the other hand, Hezbollah presently is a member of Lebanon governments, and, at the same time, some of its activists were accused of assassination of the former Lebanon Premier Hariri. As for HAMAS, in the last of the past year, it announced merger with Mahmud Abbas’ FATH, within the framework of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
It is obvious that if, for example, Hezbollah enters the struggle on the side of Iran, it will face armed confrontation from numerous Lebanon organizations, such as Sunnites, Maronite Christians and Druzes, which parties will avail themselves of an opportunity to eliminate the dangerous rival. Finally, there are troops from Europe stationed between Hezbollah and Israel’s border, since the last war between Israel and Lebanon and those troops shall not remain passive, if Shiite guerillas begin bombardments of the territory of Iraq.
Fourth. There are significant US troops stationed in Afghanistan provinces close to Iran-Afghanistan border. There is aviation in bases in Bahram, Shinndan and Kandahar and that wing may cause very serious damage to attacking Iranians. In many instances, landscape itself will facilitate US aviation’s activity, because terrains in Sistan, Baluchistan and Horasan provinces of Iran, as well as Gilmend of Afghanistan are deserted. Besides, if Iran’s army crosses the Afghanistan border for attack against US troops, local Pashtun Sunnites with their complicated relations with pro-Iran Hazarean Shiites and a part of Afghanistan Tajiks will mobilize, as well. Pashtuns will not miss their opportunity to weaken the rivals.
Fifth. It appears rather natural that Iraq’s broadly autonomous Kurdistan is an example to follows, in the eyes of the Kurds of Iran. Taking in account close ties between Kurds of Iran and Iraq and the tense relations between Iran Kurds and Tehran authorities, one might expect that in case of the war between USA and Iran, Kurds of Iran may choose to support their relatives in Iraq. In Iraq, Kurd Army (Peshmerga) counts some 100 thousand men and territorially is located close to border with Iran.
Sixth. There are several national movements in Iran, which movements are historical opponents to central regime. Those are Baluchis of Sistan, Kurds and Arabs of Khuzestan and Azeris, of course. Periodical unrests in the Iranian Azerbaijan always were a headache for Tehran and the latter often accused US of support to those movements. Persians comprise 50% of the population of the country.
Seventh. Mujaheddin e-Halk left radical movement of Iran is based in Iraq. During Hussein’s leadership, there were some 10 to 15 thousand of armed Mujaheddins in Iraq, ready to war against regime in Tehran. During American occupation, those bases survived. Iran performed several attempts to eliminate those bases but failed to fully suppress the movement.
And the final, eighth factor. Serious contradictions inside Iran itself. A part of Persian elites would not like to be defeated in the war. They do not wish to see the collapse of the country or, for example, development of situation, likewise in Iraq, with the subsequent plit of the country into zones of influence controlled by Azeris, Kurds, Baluchis and others.
We cannot exclude that the deterioration of living conditions, for the blockade and reduction of regional trade will result in riots of the population. Those riots look rather possible, in case US and allied aviation fully ruins Iran’s infrastructure, in one month.
Plans of the Parties
In general, we may suppose how events will develop in the nearest future. USA and their allies have taken all necessary steps. From now on, the future reality depends on Iran. Russia and China may influence the development of situation, to certain extent, which countries are rather critical about US policy in the discussed region. It is clear that Russia and China will not support any UN Security Council’s tough measures against Iran. For example, Russia, conducted rather robust discussion with Western countries in regards to UN Security Council’s draft resolution about Syria. Besides, in January, i.e. during the apex of intensiveness of the conflict in Syria, Russia signed contract with Syria, by which contract Russia will sell to Damask 39 training and combat planes Yak-130.
Russia’s action appears a clear demonstration of support to the regime of President Assad, although Moscow should realize that the contract may never achieve its implementation time. It is clear that Russia does not wish the repetition of the same situation as took place last year, during UN discussions on Libya, as the result of which discussions Russia lost its influence and several significant contracts in Libya. If the Damask regime collapses, Russia’s losses will be far more substantial. Russian interests in Syria are inclusive of a naval base in the port of Tartus of Syria, favorable contracts for supplies of weapons and, finally, close contacts with the leadership of the country, which kind of relationships allowed Russia to perform the important role in the Middle East regulation.
Syria is an important, but not a core issue in Russia’s dispute with West. The key issue behind that dispute is, of course, Iran, and China is also a participant of that dispute. Moscow and Beijing, however, have different interests in the region, which difference became publically clear during 2011, when Russian and Chinese experts actively argued on whether Shanghai Cooperation Organization could be expanded, implying the admission of Iran. China was in absolute disagreement to that. Because if Iran was an Shanghai Cooperation Organization member, by present time, China would have to protect Iran’s position. That would impose additional obligations on official Beijing.
China obviously seeks freedom of maneuvers in the relations with the USA and does not wish to depend on the positions of Russia and Iran. China needs oil from Iran and obviously is not satisfied about losses it had to incur in Libya and the way how West treated Libya and produced resolutions against it and Moscow and Beijing, in fact, supported those resolutions. So, China’s interest is not to support Tehran under any conditions. China’s own relations with West and USA are far more complex and multi-disciplined. Beijing, clearly tries to use the existing situation for bargains with West and USA. In fact, Russia does the same. Because if Russia’s spirit was tuned into confrontation with the USA, it would sell the C-300 anti-air weapon systems to Iran.
With the above considerations taken in account, Tehran’s present ruling regime fears that Russia and China will take those positions and, at the same time, soberly comprehends that it should not fully rely on them, in its confrontation with the USA. Wen Jiabao, the Prime-Minister of China visited Gulf of Persia and made a public statement on 18 January 2012, that “China decisively acted against Iran’s attempts regarding development and possession of nuclear weapons”.
As the result of that, Iran found itself in a rather narrow room for maneuvers. And that does not necessarily root from upcoming parliamentary elections (April 2012). Those elections may be successful, once organized with the patriotic sigh. A tougher challenge will be economic diversity, for reduction of exports of oil and lack of hard currency incomings, which deprivations will cut Tehran from imports of critically important goods and commodities. Life level will drastically diminish and the population will suffer of shortages in food and engine fuel.
Given the present reality, Iran’s leadership has only two options. First is the actual capitulation, acknowledgment of defeat and refusal to further proceed nuclear research and development, because USA and its allies shall no longer tolerate semi-measures, such as negotiations with International Atomic Energy Agency. Second is war and hope for miracle.
Tehran’s present problems will appear more complex, due to the potential drastic deterioration of national economy, prior to the parliamentary elections of April, which phenomenon may result in replacement of radicals with somebody more moderate. The discussed sphere contains the potential for a domestic conflict, because Iran’s society is not that consolidated as to readiness to enter into a senseless war. Likewise modern bourgeois Israel, Iran, compared to the times of Islamic revolution, has smaller number of tough idealists ready to bring any victims to the altar of the higher cause. However, those people still live in the country.
So, all the parties are in readiness to a big conflict and their troops are kept in combat alertness. The main query now is who will be the first to lose nerves. The conflict could happen on 23 January, when a US aircraft carrier group was passing through Strait of Hormuz en route to Gulf of Persia. It was then that the whole US group was clearly in the impact range of Iran’s anti-vessel missiles. Besides, earlier, in the beginning of January, an Iran Admiral communicated a concealed threat and addressed it to the US, advising Americans off direction of their ships to the Gulf of Persia. And it was particularly on 23 January, that European Union made decision to stop procurement of oil from Iran.
In virtue, Americans deliberately exposed USS Abraham Lincoln to attack on 23 January, when the ship was crossing the Strait of Hormuz. The Strait offers too narrow room for passage and any ship cruising there will be very close to Iran. If Iran was in true readiness to commence the war, it missed its only chance to attack the US aircraft carrier, because Iran does not possess aviation and anti-vessel missiles able to eliminate targets in the Gulf of Persia and Arabian Sea.
Iran dared not, and Americans, actually, faced not so significant risks in the Strait of Hormuz. Iran has many anti-vessel missiles made in China and of indigenous make. Recently, Iran introduced a new missile system – Kader with the effective range of up to 200 kilometers. But Iran does not possess super-sonic anti-vessel missiles, likewise Russian Mosquito, which system is often referred to as Aircraft Carrier Killer. Regular pre-sonic missile will lower speed and limited ability to maneuver at small heights will be comparatively easily intercepted by the US anti-air systems. Any US aircraft carrier group is inclusive of Ticonderoga Class cruisers and several destroyers with IGIS AA systems designed to repel massive attacks of Russian anti-vessel missiles.
Russia, presently, however, supplies to Syria shore based anti-missiles systems Yakhont and Bastion. Those are super-sonic missiles capable to harm US ships. But their probable supply to Iran will depend on development of situation in Syria.
Americans, besides, will control air space by means of their AVAKS surveillance planes. Any launches of anti-vessel missiles from Iran will be spotted and reported to IGIS. Besides, many Iran missiles are light and even if they break through AA range, their harm to ships will be inferior. At least, during the so-called Tanker War in the Gulf of Persia, Iranians hit not less than 200 tankers but just a few of them sank. So, the attach on USS Abraham Lincoln, would, most likely, bring no result, but trigger the war.
Under present rather intense situation, there may be any trigger of war. Somebody will shoot on a Kuwait or UAE Tanker. Or, some US or Iran marines may lose their nerves and an offshore armed conflict will take place. The conflict will, most likely, begin in the sea, the only place where US and Iran’s sea forces may intercept each others. One thing remains absolutely clear, at the same time. It is that Israel will definitely stay outside the war. Its war mission will be to withstand the inevitable ballistic missile attack from Iran and avoid any reaction to that, likewise it was in 1991, during the war against Iraq. To withstand that attach, Israel has Patriot AA Systems. In the beginning of February, there was a communication that there were some up to 10 thousand US AA troops stationed in Israel. Such development of events appears rather logical, because US will need the support from Muslim states for the wars against Iran, which support will be under question, if Israel joins the anti-Iran war coalition.
War on Agenda
If the war begins, there will be a rather logical scenario behind its development. Iran will attempt to blockade the Strait of Hormuz by means of mining and will attack US, UK and France navies. Allied forces, in their turn, will attack Iran from air and with missiles. In 1991, it took them only two weeks to defeat Iraq’s army and war infrastructure in Kuwait and south Iraq. During that campaign, the rather powerful Iraqi aviation ceased active operation by the end of the first week.
In 1991, US forces did not possess many guided bombs and Tomahawk winged missiles. Now, Americans will attempt to first of eliminate Iran’s AA systems and stationary ballistic missile units and will do so by means of Tomahawks. In line with that, allied aviation will attack main airports. Iran-Iraq war exposed Iran’s incapacity to oppose to high flying planes. Iraq’s bombers faced no problems during bombardments of the territory of Iran from heights. Since that war, the situation with Iran’s anti-air weapons systems could have changed, but is unlikely that those changes were crucial. The only renovation Iran performed in its anti-air forces, was the procurement of 29 units of the Tor-1 small impact radius anti-air missile systems. That is why, USA may immediately introduce in action B-1 and B-52 bombers based in Diego Garcia Island.
Tehran will face a complicated dilemmas as to how to fight in the war. The only place, where Tehran may encounter US land troops is Afghanistan. There are no US troops in Iraq, only private military contractors. The Shiite government of present Iraq, will most likely criticize the war against Iran, but, at the same time, will stay outside the conflict. Iraq will take the neutral position. In that case, Iran will have to either violate Iraq’s sovereignty for deployment of troops to Kuwait, or proceed to withstand long-time bombings of its territory.
Any outcome of the situation shall be to the detriment of Iran. If Iran attacks Kuwait, it will have to fight against Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and all Arab countries of the Gulf of Persia. Besides, we do not exclude the possibility of attacks against Iran’s province of Kurdistan by Iraq’s Kurds, as well as attacks against Iran’s Army by Sunnites in Iraq. Iraq Sunnites dispose of up to 100 thousand guerilla force – As-Saqva, which force is rather critical about Shiites and until recently was financially supported by US. Moreover, we must mention the Mujaheddin e-Halk guerillas in Iraq.
In case Iran avoids violation of Iraq’s sovereignty, then it will have to withstand continuous bombardments and incur in human casualties, until the full loss of capacity to fight.
Similar problem pertains to Afghanistan. Theoretically, Iran’s military may attack Afghanistan in the directions of Gherat in the north and Gilmend and Kandahar in the south. But those attacks will be offences against sovereignty of Afghanistan. Of course, leadership of Afghanistan, likewise leadership of Iraq will avoid any actions that may trigger t he war. They, of course, will criticize bombardments of Iran and thus will make Tehran face another complicated situation. If Iran attacks Afghanistan, it will have to deal with not only international coalition’s land troops, but Pashtuns, as well. Deserted terrain of the eastern part of Iran will offer ideal environment for special operations regarding elimination of Iran’s communications. Under any circumstances, will Iran’s force entering Afghanistan face rather harsh conditions.
Rather questionable is that all historically pro-Iranian groups inside Afghanistan will join Iran in its offensive into Afghnaistan. Hazareans and Tajiks, as well as other ethnical groups and nationalities are well integrated with present system of Afghanistan. They are fully aware of the fact that their joining to Iran will lead to inevitable defeat and loss of present influence. And they will have to deal with not as much coalition troops, as own rival countrymen. The maximum, Iran may count on in Afghanistan are some single and inferior attacks performed by some loyal groups.
For Iran, the most complicated problem will be how to behave in the relations with the countries that host US military bases. For example, Turkey, where US have their powerful base in the town of Ingirlik. Turkish government will most likely criticize the war but will take a neutral position. Attack on Ingirlik will force Turkey to act in response. Likewise will be forced to do Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Oman. Countries of the Gulf of Persia will not create obstacles to usage of their territories for attacks on Iran, but, at the same time, they will not accelerate development of events and announce war against Iran on their sides. So, again, it will be up to leadership of Iran to make decision as to when to commence military actions.
We may suppose that Iran will not dare to commence a global war. It will attempt to harm Israel and USD navy in the region, as well as activate support groups in various countries. So, firstly, the war will be in the sea and from air. Iran will be the absolute loser in those wars. In the sea, US will promptly take over the control of the Strait of Hormuz. Compared to 80-s, US are better informed on Iran’s naval mining practices. In the 80-s, a comparatively small group of US mine sweepers managed to clear all tideways.
Iran’s ballistic missiles will definitely attack Israel, as well as some US bases in the Gulf of Persia. US aviation will work against land based missile launching systems, both mobile and stationary, as well as war infrastructure. Later, the turn of civil infrastructure will come.
Western coalition bombed Iraq for one month in 1991. Nobody knows how much time they will bomb Iran, but we know for sure that total destruction of all infrastructure, including civil services and communications will eventually undermine any country. One third of Iran’s population lives in Tehran. Destruction of electric stations will cause a humanitarian disaster.
Bigger problems will begin, when Iran’s towns and cities, weakened by continuous bombardments will begin to lose their vicinities. The first separated region may be Iran’s Kurdistan, the next Sistan and then Baluchistan, the home country of Baluchis and some local organizations in opposition to present regime.
For Iran, most important ethnical minority provinces are, first of all Khuzestan with its rich petroleum reserves and Arab population and the Iranian Azerbaijan with 9 million individuals mainly of the Azeri nationality. There are illegal organizations operating in both provinces against Iran and its influence. In Khuzestan, it is the Al Ahvaza organization. In Azerbaijan, there are many parties and movements of the kind, both radical and moderate. Any sort of weakening of Iran will offer those movements conditions for activation, especially if they receive support from outside. Besides, the Iraq model of state constitution and public administration may appear attractive to many national minorities of Iran.
So, we may suppose that even if the war begins, Iran’s military will have to stay inside the country, but will find itself exposed to long-term air strikes and losing capability to fight. At certain stage of war, it will result in growing discontent among common people and some elites, including military commanding officers. So, given the dead end the country faces in the sphere of the forced settlement of existing situation, some domestic actions against Falcons of Tehran may take place, including conspiracies of army officers.
One important question: will US troops, given such situation, invade Iran, likewise they did in Iraq. We may suppose that even if such invasion does take place, it will be partial. For example, if Iran invades south Iraq and united US-Arab group counter-attacks Iran from Kuwait striving to conquer Khuzestan. In general, allies will limit their activity to special operations and support to various national minorities, so to form territories outside the control from Tehran.
In any case, it is obvious that Iran shall not withstand the war. And the region, in general, is about to face very hard times. Tehran repeats mistakes made by Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi. Tehran did not duly take account of decisiveness of the US and their ability to select strategic targets and maneuver tactically. Iran is not the first country to take risks for the sake of the imperial idea, and the price to be paid in the game is too high, so nobody will allow Iran to implement its ambition.