Thursday, July 10, 2008

Let's get some things straight about the upcoming war with Iran

The upcoming war with Iran is again back in the news and while the international media is awash with reports and discussions about the recent Iranian missile test, some usually savvy observers, such as Tom Englehardt and Tony Karon, now say that the US-Israeli aggression on Iran will not happen at all. So which is it - Iranian missiles raining down on Israel or no war at all?


First, let's get one thing straight. Iran can, and probably will, launch some missiles at Israel if it is attacked. This makes perfectly good sense since it is absolutely clear that if the USA decides to strike at Iran this will be solely at the behest of the Israel Lobby. Unlike the war with Iraq which has more than one sponsor, *only* the Israel Lobby and the Neocons are pushing for a war with Iran. And yes, Iran has missiles which can reach Israel. And no, these missiles are not "primitive" Scud-like "cigars" but rather advanced missiles. For example, the Shahab-3 features course correction and terminal manoever capability while the Fajr-3 might well be MIRVed. Keep in mind that according to the Jerusalem Post Iran currently has 600 Shahab-3s pointed at Israel while, according to the Israeli state radio, Iran's ally Hezbollah has another 40'000 rockets ready to be fired at Israel. There is a strong element of propaganda here, but even if we cut down these figures by, say, 50-80%, this still represents a potentially powerful retaliatory force any Israeli government will have to take into account. This is also quite besides the point for a very simple reason: missiles do not win wars.

Iranian commanders understand this very well. Furthermore, there are only a limited number of militarily significant targets in Israel simply because Israel's armed forces will only play a marginal role, if at all, in the strike on Iran. Sure, it would make a great deal of sense for the Iranians to strike at Israel for *political* reasons, but there is nothing they could strike in Israel which would make much of a difference militarily, simply because the attack, when it happens, will be a US attack.

US military targets are much, much closer to Iran. They are all over Iraq, they are in Afghanistan, they are in Kuwait, they are all over the Persian Gulf, and they are in Turkey. In fact, the most lucrative of these targets are in the immediate proximity of Iran, think "Green Zone" for example.

The reality is that Iranian long range missiles "capable of hitting Israel" will not play a crucial role in the upcoming war, at least not from a military point of view and the recent missile tests in Iran are just part of a PR effort to look fierce and scare the Israelis. I am not sure whether this is a good tactic or not, but that's all there is to it. Paradoxically, the Iranians, the Americans and the Israelis all share a common propaganda goal: to make the Iranian missiles look as scary as possible. No wonder that the media is going berserk over this non-issue!

Let's now look at the "no war will happen" arguments. It is amazingly simple: Israel, by recently engaging in a public 'rehearsal" for its bombing plans against Iran has lost any hope to achieve a surprise and therefore is not going to attack Iran after all. I am frankly baffled that anyone would take this silly argument seriously. Here is why:

1) Israel will not attack Iran not because it lost the "element of surprise" but because it simply cannot attack Iran, at least not meaningfully. The Israeli Air force probably can fly to the Natanz nuclear facility and drop some bombs and, with enough in-flight refuelling it could even strike deeper inside Iran. But besides a very limited one-time bombing run on Iran there is nothing the Israelis can do. Only the US Air Force and Navy have the means for a country-wide bombing and missile strike campaign in which targets are 're-visited' and which could last for anywhere between several days to several weeks.

2) The entire "element of surprise" discussion about the upcoming war is plain silly: this will be the most announced war in history. Has everyone forgotten that we already were at the brink of war last year? And the year before? Furthermore, the US Navy has brought so much firepower to the region by now that the Iranians can have no doubts whatsoever about the obvious fact that the USA's preparation time is now down to zero and that a war can start literally any minute now. There is no element of surprise, not even tactical, left and hence the USA and Israel cannot "loose it".

The reality is that all the actors in the upcoming war as fine ready, as ready as can be.

One guy got it right: Pepe Escobar. Check out his article "Iran's Missiles are Just for Show". Not only does Escobar explain that the missile issue is vastly overblown, but he even outlines the *real* preparations the Iranians have made:

General Mohammad Ali Jafari has been the supreme IRGC commander since September 2007. Over a week ago, after a groundbreaking interview to the conservative newspaper Jam e-Jam, he announced a very deep structural IRGC decentralizing shake-up, under the orders of Khamenei himself.

Most key regional commanders were replaced. Jafari had already organized the fusion between the Pasdaran - the military elite - and the Bassij militias.

What this means in practice is that Iran now has 30 armies - one in every province, all of them interconnecting Pasdaran and Bassij, all of them with members of both bodies training together. Esfandiari Safari, writing in the Iranian newspaper Rooz, interprets Jafari's new set up as "the response from the IRGC's high command to the imminent attack they are waiting for".

The relevance of this reorganization and fusion of the Pasdaran with the Basiji is not only relevant in case of a ground invasion (as the sentence "30 armies - one in each province" suggests). It is also relevant, much more so in fact, as an exercise in what the Americans would call "continuity of government" i.e., it prepares the entire country to operate even under a massive assault of US cruise missiles and bombers. Be decentralizing the key elements of political and military power the Iranians are basically denying the Americans the option to "decapitate" the government and to prevent a sustained resistance to their attack. Lastly, since the USA, with the blessing of the Democrats, has embarked on a massive terror & subversion campaign inside Iran, this fusion of the Pasdaran and the Basiji makes it possible to combat local insurgencies with locally available ressources. Make no mistake, the Iranians are as ready as can be, regardless of the missiles sideshow.