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Attacking Iran: US options

By GWYNNE DYER | ARAB NEWS | August 5, 2010

When Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the highest-ranking American officer, was asked recently on NBC’s Meet The Press show whether the United States has a military plan for an attack on Iran, he replied simply: “We do.”

General staffs are supposed to plan for even the most unlikely future contingencies. Right down to the 1930s, for example, the United States maintained and annually updated plans for the invasion of Canada — and the Canadian military made plans to pre-empt the invasion. But what the planning process will have revealed, in this case, is that there is no way for the United States to win a nonnuclear war with Iran.

The US could “win” by dropping hundreds of nuclear weapons on Iran’s military bases, nuclear facilities and industrial centers (i.e. cities) and killing five to 10 million people, but short of that, nothing works. On this we have the word of Richard Clarke, counterterrorism adviser in the White House under three administrations.

In the early 1990s, Clarke revealed in an interview with the New York Times four years ago, the Clinton administration had seriously considered a bombing campaign against Iran, but the military professionals told them not to do it.

“After a long debate, the highest levels of the military could not forecast a way in which things would end favorably for the United States,” he said. The Pentagon’s planners have war-gamed an attack on Iran several times in the past 15 years, and they just can’t make it come out as a US victory.

It’s not the fear of Iranian nuclear weapons that makes the US Joint Chiefs of Staff so reluctant to get involved in a war with Iran. Those weapons don’t exist, and the whole justification for the war would be to make sure that they never do.

The problem is that there’s nothing the US can do to Iran, short of nuking the place, that would really force Tehran to kneel and beg for mercy.

It can bomb Iran’s nuclear sites and military installations to its heart’s content, but everything it destroys can be rebuilt in a few years. And there is no way that the United States could actually invade Iran.

There are some 80 million people in Iran, and although many of them don’t like the present regime they are almost all fervent patriots who would resist a foreign invasion. Iran is a mountainous country, and very big: Four times the size of Iraq. The Iranian Army currently numbers about 450,000 men, slightly smaller than the US Army — but unlike the US Army, it does not have its troops scattered across literally dozens of countries.

If the White House were to propose anything larger than minor military incursions along Iran’s south coast, senior American generals would resign in protest. Without the option of a land war, the only lever the United States would have on Iranian policy is the threat of yet more bombs — but if they aren’t nuclear, then they aren’t very persuasive. Whereas Iran would have lots of options for bringing pressure on the United States.

Just stopping Iran’s own oil exports would drive the oil price sky-high in a tight market: Iran accounts for around seven percent of internationally traded oil. But it could also block another 40 percent of global oil exports just by sinking tankers coming from Iraq, and the Arab Gulf states with its lethal Noor anti-ship missiles.

The Noor anti-ship missile is a locally built version of the Chinese YJ-82. It has a 200-km. (140-mile) range, enough to cover all the major choke points in the Gulf. It flies at twice the speed of sound just meters above the sea’s surface, and it has a tiny radar profile. Its single-shot kill probability has been put as high as 98 percent.

Iran’s mountainous coastline extends along the whole northern side of the Gulf, and these missiles have easily concealed mobile launchers. They would sink tankers with ease, and in a few days insurance rates for tankers planning to enter the Gulf would become prohibitive, effectively shutting down the region’s oil exports completely.

Meanwhile Iran would start supplying modern surface-to-air missiles to the Taleban in Afghanistan, and that would soon shut down the US military effort there. (It was the arrival of US-supplied Stinger missiles in Afghanistan in the late 1980s that drove Russian helicopters from the sky and ultimately doomed the whole Soviet intervention there.)

Iranian ballistic missiles would strike US bases on the southern side of the Gulf, and Iran’s Hezbollah allies in Beirut would start dropping missiles on Israel. The United States would have no options for escalation other than the nuclear one, and pressure on it to stop the war would mount by the day as the world’s industries and transport ground to a halt.

The end would be an embarrassing retreat by the United States, and the definitive establishment of Iran as the dominant power of the Gulf region.

That was the outcome of every war-game the Pentagon played, and Mike Mullen knows it. So there is a plan for an attack on Iran, but he would probably rather resign than put it into action. It is all bluff. It always was.

Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist.

August 5, 2010 - Posted by | Militarism, War Crimes, Wars for Israel

5 Comments

  1. Ancient Rome…too big to fail.

    Comment by hybridrogue | August 5, 2010

  2. Bluff, ‘Strategy of Tension’…same thing once the onion is peeled.

    Comment by hybridrogue | August 5, 2010

  3. Mike Mullen should be prosecuted, shot and or hanged for TREASON for legitimizing an attack on a nation that has done absolutely nothing to deserve it. It hasn’t attacked the U.S. or Israel. It is a signatory to the NNPT. It has a legitimate RIGHT TO PURSUE NUCLEAR POWER as a signatory to the NNPT., which ISRAEL IS NOT A SIGNATORY TO the Charmin Toilet Paper treaty, let alone anything that restricts it’s NUCLEAR ARSENAL OF MORE THAN 300 warheads.

    and we have a puppet in the Whore House that thinks he can indiscriminately ‘abrogate’ the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, and ‘cancel out’ the right of ANY CITIZEN, not just American’s, but WORLD CITIZENS to DUE PROCESS UNDER THE RULE OF LAW.

    yep, he has bestowed upon himself the magical power to absolutely take away ANYONE’S RIGHTS TO LIFE, LIBERTY, and the PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS and end it with an illegal CIA controlled hellfire missile strike.

    No court in any part of the world will hold George W. Bush or Tony Blair accountable for the mass murdering they did, or the mass murdering that George H.W. Bush did in 1991, or Bill Clinton did with sanctions after that.

    The U.S. Constitution has been proven to be, as George W. Bush told ‘7’ senators who confronted him about destroying it; “just a goddamned piece of paper” but he left out ‘TOILET’ in between the ‘of’ and ‘paper’ part of his coked out brain tirade to them.

    We are now in the mother fucking TWILIGHT ZONE, folks, where time, and space, and SANITY are a long long time ago in your rear view mirror. Anything is possible in this new bizarro world of; “ahm da fuggin presdent, I make all da rules up as I goes along..”

    we’ll see about that, dude. We’ll surely see about that.

    Comment by LIKE SMOKING INSIDE OF AN EMPTY GASOLINE TANK FULL OF FUMES | August 6, 2010

  4. I guess you did not know that amerika’s been a big lie since the 1st Pilgrim came to these shores to kill & steal; not for religion.

    Never underestimate the power of the zionist serpent amerika to committ insane crimes against humanity; as seen in Japan, Vietnam, Iraq & Afghanistan, etc.

    I feel called to come to Iran to protect children as a ‘human shield’ against the zionist/amerikan beast; considering I live in the belly of the beast; it’s the least I can do.

    This article gives me hope but as the reader above said, this is the Twilight Zone, where the insane feed on phony US dollars.

    The serpent ‘beast’ is thirsty and no amount of human blood or suffering can ever satisfy the ‘beast’……….

    Comment by kim | August 6, 2010

  5. Does anyone in the entire US Empire know the words …. Negotiate First ?

    Comment by kpevt12 | October 17, 2015


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