This morning, when I heard the news out of Iran, that radical students had mobbed and overrun the British Embassy while Iranian security forces stood by and watched, my first thought was “I’ve seen this movie before, and I don’t like how it ends.”
That seems like a good jumping-off point for discussing the whole mess with Iran we have going on these days. I don’t have any big ideas or grand solutions, just a few thoughts that have been fermenting in the back of my mind for a while.
First, I am quite happy at the recent upsurge in “major military Iranian military installations going boom” events. I have no idea who’s behind it, and don’t care. It’s wreaking havoc and sowing confusion among the Iranian government, and I like that.
Next, I find I am reaffirmed in my belief that Obama’s little Libyan excursion really was a bad idea. Back in 2003, Libya surrendered its entire WMD program to the US, based on a tacit pledge that we wouldn’t work to overthrow K-Daffy. Not a great solution, but certainly a workable one. That pledge by the Bush administration apparently expired with the Bush administration. The message there was: if you have a WMD program, you’re a target. Now, under Obama, the message is that a WMD program is pretty much your only guarantee of safety.
Then there’s the strategic big picture. I’m am amateur historian and student of military fiction, and I’ve read a LOT about possible scenarios involving conflict in the Persian Gulf. And it’s my conclusion that what we have is a very bad situation in regards to a US-Iranian conflict. The US has military superiority and far more options, but Iran has far more resolve.
Iran, basically, has only a few options available to it. They can use anti-ship missiles and mines to close the Straits of Hormuz, which would seriously screw up the global economy. They can unleash and encourage their proxies around the Middle East to increase terrorist attacks and attacks on Israel (like the missiles fired into Israel from Lebanon this morning). They can fire off missiles at other Middle Eastern nations who’ve been friendly to us. And that’s pretty much it. And they’re quite willing to do all of them.
We have considerably greater — and more effective — options. We can clear and keep clear the Straits. We can deploy our AEGIS-equipped ships (Ticonderoga-class cruisers and Burke-class destroyers) and PATRIOT missile batteries to our Gulf allies to provide some coverage from Iranian missiles. We can sink the entire Iranian Navy in about a day. We can destroy their shore-based missile batteries that they use to threaten the Straits. We can use cruise missiles and bombers to wipe out huge swaths of their military capabilities. We can selectively target economic targets and embargo them to choke them — their gasoline supply is especially vulnerable. Right now, the US Senate is debating a bill that would, in essence, legally take down their Central Bank.
What we don’t have is the resolve to carry out many of these. We’re already seriously overstretched, both militarily and financially, and a lot of Americans are war-weary.
Right now, someone is doing some rather nasty things in and to Iran to mess with their WMD program. It could be us, it could be someone else with our support, it could be something that has nothing to do with us. About the best we can do at this point is wish them well — and make some contingency plans should Iran decide to react by lashing out in random directions.