Wednesday, 22 June 2011

US Report: War on Iran Great Risks and Doubted Results

Local Editor
Trying to find an answer to the question "What would an honest assessment of the risks of military conflict with Iran look like?", the defense analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former senior U.S. intelligence officer Jeffrey White states that "it is disingenuous to try to frame military action against Iran as a simple raid or even a broader operation. We are talking here about war, with attendant potential high costs to all combatants in terms of military casualties, civilian damage and economic disruption."
"While a war with Iran might begin in the military domain, it would likely expand to others, and while it might begin at the operational or tactical level it would soon encompass strategic and political levels as well." White added.

Mentioning the strategic options on what a war with Iran would look like, White says "Peenemunde option would presuppose a narrowly focused, short duration strike largely limited to nuclear facilities."

"Submission option would call for a sustained air and naval campaign against nuclear associated facilities, air defense systems, command centers, offensive missile forces, naval forces and the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Republic (IRGC)." He stressed.

Moving to the option of regime-change, White warns that this would require a broad military offensive that could include nuclear facilities, air defenses, Iran's retaliatory capabilities, leadership targets, regime supporters, and national infrastructure and economic targets. "This could include putting some forces on the ground to collect intelligence and neutralize specific targets that are difficult to strike effectively with air power."

Acknowledging that a U.S.-Iranian war would probably not be fought by the United States and Iran alone, White states that each would have partners or allies. "A Western coalition could consist of the United States and most of its traditional allies (but very likely not Turkey, based on the evolution of Turkish politics) in addition to some Persian Gulf states, Jordan and perhaps Egypt."

"The U.S. administration would probably not welcome "Israeli" participation. But if "Israel" were directly attacked by Iran or its allies, Washington would find it difficult to keep "Israel" out-as it did during the 1991 Gulf War. That would complicate the U.S. ability to manage its coalition, although it would not necessarily break it apart. Iranian diplomacy and information operations would seek to exploit "Israeli" participation to the fullest." White claims.

"Iran would have its own coalition. Hizbullah in particular could act at Iran's behest both by attacking Israel directly and by using its asymmetric and irregular warfare capabilities to expand the conflict and complicate the maintenance of the U.S. coalition. The escalation of the Hizbullah-Israel conflict could draw in Syria and Hamas." White said.

Noting that the United States or a U.S.-led coalition must plan for all levels of war and organize itself to ensure unity of command and purpose across those levels, white points out that US will find itself involved in a secret, political, economic, and social war. "Hizbullah can strike targets throughout Israel. Its missiles and rockets are also accurate enough to hit military installations and other important facilities, and it can fire as many as 500-600 per day. Hizbullah also has the ability to conduct terrorist or special operations against civilian, military and infrastructure targets outside the immediate theater of war. If Hizbullah were to gain access to Syria's P-800 Yakhont supersonic cruise missile system-a distinct possibility-it could potentially strike targets as distant as 300 kilometers from the Lebanese coast."

"Syria's missile systems could target military sites, logistics facilities and airfields in Israel. Syria's Yakhont coastal defense cruise missile system gives it an enhanced capability to threaten naval and merchant vessels in the eastern Mediterranean." White warns.
"In any case, if the United States decides to attack Iran it should certainly look before it leaps and prepares itself for a hard landing. Above all, U.S. leaders should not underestimate the scope or misread the broad nature of war and should therefore organize the U.S. government in advance to prosecute it coherently. In light of how we have fared with whole-of-government approaches and unity-of-command issues in Iraq and Afghanistan, this is clearly a requirement we need to take seriously." The former Intelligence officer concluded.

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