And Iran So Far Away…

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.

"This is cause for reassessment"
Pro-Choice And Proud
  • Anonymous

    What would the Middle East look like now if Jimmy Carter had given the Iranians a bloody lip over taking the hostages? Historically, has being nice to a bully ever had a good outcome?

    • Anonymous

      The hostages would be dead, and Saddam Hussein would be occupying Khuzestan today.

      • Anonymous

        Except that, if we’d used the original hostage rescue plan, it probably would have gone better.    There was a problem with the “minimal force” aspect of the mission: many of the planners wanted to use a lot more aircraft and men.  When they lost some of the helicopters to hardware failure, they had to call off the mission.  If they’d just had a couple more helos, the operation would have continued.  They started with 8, and ended up with 5 on site (6 was a mandatory abort).  Most of the planners wanted to start with 11 or 12.

        Earlier plans were for a lot more resources (more planes, more troops) involved, a much more aggressive strategy (taking an actual airfield instead of an improvised location in the desert), and more active rules of engagement.If we’d taken a similar tack with Saddam Hussein, he’d still be dead – in 1991 or 92.

        • Anonymous

          I didn’t know you were involved in Delta Force operational planning back in 1980, cirby.

          • retired.military

            And you know so much because you were right chico?

          • Anonymous

            Actually, I was in the military not long after that, and met some of the people who did plan the raid, so you’re not far off.  

            Most of this stuff is easily available on the internet, if you’d ever bothered to look, including the official post-action reports from the Pentagon.  The version you seem to believe in is the standard “dumb person who read a badly-written story, by a reporter with no military expertise” sort.

            I also helped playtest the 1981 board game “Raid on Iran,” but that’s a much different story, and didn’t have much to do with the actual raid.  So yeah, I’ve been dealing with the mechanics and causes of the Operation Eagle Claw screwup for a good solid 30 years.

          • Anonymous

            According to the official Holloway report, p. 33, this is what happened.  OPSEC was the primary consideration that kept the helicopter force at 8.

            JTF Rationale. As planning for the rescue progressed, the number
            of helicopters perceived necessary to execute the mission grew from
            four, to six, to seven, and eventually to eight. These incremental
            increases were the result of unforeseen growth in the force believed
            necessary to achieve an acceptable probability of success in assaulting
            the Embassy and freeing the hostages. In addition, more heli~
            copters were required to compensate for the lift capability lost
            because of seasonal temperature increases in the objective areas.
            . .
            The JTF decision on helicopter requirements was based on the collective
            professional judgment of highly experienced helicopter pilots
            participating in rescue mission planning. A risk analysis based
            on fleet-wide RH-53D statistical data for an 18-month period from
            1 July 1978 to 31 December 1979 seemed to support the planners’
            conclusion that eight RH-53D helicopters aboard NIMITZ provided
            an acceptable degree of risk. Moreover, the always-primary OPSEC
            concern apparently influenced the planners’ rationale, driving them
            to seek minimum practical force levels. In hindsight, it is clear
            that the eight helicopters put aboard NIMITZ provided adequate
            redundancy to airlift the initial assault force. However, as
            personnel and equipment grew in response to evolving intelligence,
            the minimum airlift requirement at Desert One increased.
            Alternative. The review group concluded that additional helicopters
            and crews would have reduced the risk of abort due to mechanical
            failure, were operationally feasible, and could have been made
            available until quite late in the planning evolution. An unconstrained
            planner would more than likely have initially required at
            least 10 helicopters under JTF combat rules, 11 under the most
            likely case, and up to 12 using peacetime historical data. NIMITZ
            was capable of onloading a few more helicopters with little or no
            impact on other missions. Aircrew availability did not limit the
            force. By reducing the contingency margin, fuel available at
            Desert One was sufficient to accommodate at least 10 helicopters.
            In sum, aside from OPSEC, no operational or logistic factor prohibited
            launching 11 from NIMITZ and continuing beyond the halfway
            point to Desert One with 10 helicopters.

          • Anonymous

            …and the reason they wanted such high OPSEC?  The White House insisted on it, despite there not being much risk at going for 8 to 12 helicopters.

            Too much concern about OPSEC was one of the other failures of the operation, also cited in that report.

            Nice try at cherry-picking something you’ve never even heard of before today, but you’re still wrong.

          • Anonymous

            For the Iranians, just cause you know what your enemy’s capabilities are… doesn’t mean you know what to do about it.  Having spent several hundred days on Gonzo station aboard the Midway, I saw for myself the Iranian P-3’s that came out on recon.  

            Air Force 53s are not Marine 53s.  There is a big difference… if ya know what I mean.  There they were all painted desert brown and permanently arrayed on the flight deck of the Nimitz.  I was a Corporal at the time and knew at a glance that they were not carrier T/O (Table of Organization) and discerned their purpose… no OPSEC could hide that. 

            A multi-service goat rope op in the making was obvious… for many reasons… but I’m only going to focus on one that I feel able to speak about.  It concerns aircraft logistical, subsystem, and mission readiness rates.  

            All military aircraft are complex weapon systems.  On any given mission, it is unheard of for all of aircraft to be 100% fully mission capable (even on paper).  Its even harder if your aircraft isn’t constructed for the sea service environment and doesn’t have an established standing logistic support tail.  Add in some command and control that is disassociated from this  – like in a short fused L (launch) hour… where you have swarms of technicians working simultaneously to make all the aircraft ready.  There are just somethings that cannot be done on various weapon subsystems concurrently… or that need half a flight hour to verify… 

            Then you launch not on the judgement of those on the scene… but on a timetable set by others on the other side of the world… without regard to such things as local weather (-i.e.- a Shamal).  I remember thinking to myself, isn’t that why we have have highly paid and trained Lance Corporals and Colonels?… to make decisions just like this?  (And in the Marines, as a Corporal I did scrub missions for subsystem failure prior to launch).

            Failures are orphans; Success has many fathers. I was only 25 at the time and it saddened me to see the results of this Aye, aye sir, three bags full. 

            This was a long time ago, and we lost some good men out of Gonzo station (and not just this mission’s airmen).  I still remember.

            Semper Fidelis-

          • Anonymous

            Cirby reads and remembers.

      • Anonymous

        Thanks, Chico. Now I know how Sheldon feels.

      • It must be hard for you to think about losing loved ones like Saddam.

      • Wow, my earlier prediction came true so quickly!

  • Anonymous

    The Russians and Chinese are also waiting to clean up from this situation.

    Every great power throughout history thought it was immune from an ass-kicking, until they got the ass-kicking.

    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.

    I’d say that was the message under Bush. Remember the ill-advised “Axis of Evil” speech?

    At the time:

    North Korea + actual suspected possession of nukes = food aid and gentle treatment

    Iraq + alleged bullshit nuke program = invasion

    Iran learned its lessons from that.

    Iran + “Axis of Evil” + Iraq invasion + “Real Men Want to go to Tehran” = serious nuke program

    • retired.military

      You left out

      Libya + no threat to US interests + obama trying to look tough+ no authorization from Congress for use of force =  annihilation and take over by Islamic hardliners.

      and also

      Iran + violent attack on embassy of longtime ally + UN blustering and maybe writing a letter + obama’s harsh words = no worthwhile action by Obama admin to resolve the issue.

      Thanks for playing.

  • Anonymous

    “We can sink the entire Iranian Navy in about a day.”

    Except didn’t our Russian “allies” sell them a few sneaky, little, hard to detect diesel-electric attack subs?.  While they won’t last long once they launch an attack on a Navy vessel, even our best ships are vulnerable to the initial attack.  Also they could wreak a fair bit of havoc as commerce raiders before being found.

    • Anonymous

      The Persian Gulf is not a great environment for submarines, not even Kilos. Hell, at least three of our subs have had collisions there since 2004. Plus, I’d put serious odds that every time those Kilos go out, they’ve got a shadow,with a couple of Mark 48 ADCAP torpedoes loaded, just waiting for the word to be given.


      • Anonymous

        Diesels on batteries are very hard to track. 

        The Iranians also have lots of small speedboats in hardened and concealed locations.

        I presume you are familiar with the wargame of that issue in which Paul Van Riper ran the Iranian side.

        • Anonymous

          Well-maintained and professionally operated diesel subs are very hard to track, in deep open ocean, without active sonar.  The Kilo-class subs the Russians sold the Iranians?  Not so much.

          The Persian Gulf is also really shallow – 300 feet, at its deepest spot, with average depth of about 150 feet.  In other words, you can actually see the subs in daylight in most places, and a sub moving underwater will leave a surface wake unless it’s moving at walking speed.

          The “small speedboat swarm” that many people love to cite is pretty much a myth – once you get into an open ocean, even a small one like the Persian Gulf, small boats have too many problems.  Even at that, they’d have a lot of firepower to face from US ships – most of our CIWS can target surface targets, and Marines love to shoot at soft targets with rifles and .50 cals.

          The Van Riper thing is another of those “half the story” situations.  Yes, he “won” the wargame by saying he was using old-style communications techniques (motorcycle-riding couriers and such), but pretended that they worked as accurately – and as fast – as radio and radar.  He also “gamed the simulation” by planning on certain aspects dictated by real-world concerns (short windows of time for transport plane availability, as opposed to continuous use in a real situation).

          In gaming terms, he was a munchkin.

  • I have the perfect organic, non-nuclear solution to the Iranian problem. Sandworms.

  • The leaders of Iran could have other motives too. That would be a revival of the Persian Empire. They are still pretty pissed at the Greeks for destroying it. They see the United States and its allies as a offshoot of the Greek Empire. What better way to strike back at Greece, through its proxies and allies.

  • Anonymous

    “What we don’t have is the resolve”And we won’t until Barry gets kicked out of office.  Our current “leader” takes great pride in voting “PRESENT!” whenever a critical issue comes up.When the going gets tough, Barry goes golfing.

  • herddog505

    Jay TeaWe’re already seriously overstretched, both militarily and financially, and a lot of Americans are war-weary.
    I like to engage in a little mental exercize at times like this: “What would we have done a century ago?”
    A century ago, America was a burgeoning empire: we had the unpleasantness in the Phillipines and, to a lesser extent, Cuba.  We’d been involved in China to some extent, and were getting increasingly involved in Mexico and Latin America.  Our Army was small.  Our Navy was growing rapidly.  However, we had damned few foreign entanglements and not much need to have any at all.  We didn’t import much (if any) food, fuel, steel, manufactured goods, or anything else.  Our country was, if any country can be, self-sufficient.  We could therefore have afforded to not even know where Iran is, much less worried about what they were up to.
    Fast-forward a hundred years and… we are where we are.  This is thanks to decades of a reflexive, more or less aimless foreign policy.  It was in our interests to keep Western Europe, Japan, and South Korea out of the hands of the reds, so we played at being the world’s policeman.  Because it became cheaper / easier to buy oil than to drill for it here, we became dependent on foreign oil, oil that comes from one of the most unsettled and dangerous places on earth.  Indeed, we are taking steps to INCREASE that dependence; no drilling here!  We rely on foreign factories to provide many of our manufactured goods.  Now, for our survival, we MUST play at being the world’s policeman.
    Yet, we don’t want to.  We deliberately shrink our military even though our national prosperity – even our national survival – depends on military supremacy.  We send troops off to fight, but hobble them with rules of engagement and embolden our enemies with “peace overtures” and timelines and “exit strategies”.
    So, now, a relatively p*ss-ant country, a backwards theocracy, presents a major challenge for us.
    What the hell are we playing at???  Either we need to take steps to make isolationism a viable policy, or else bite the bullet and realize that, if we want security, we are going to have to do a lot of fighting and killing to get it.

    • When you become the cop, like it or not, you’re stuck with the job until someone else steps up to take it.

      And then you’ve got to consider whether those who would take up the job would be good at it – relatively impartial and just – or they’re just looking to get you out of the way so they can steal everything they want.

      Nothing is free.  Everything has a cost – it all depends on whether we’re willing to pay it.

  • Anonymous

    Pimco’s 4 “Iran Invasion” Oil Price Scenarios: From $140 To “Doomsday”

    Pimco’s Greg Sharenow has released a white paper on what the Newport
    Beach company believes are the 4 possible outcomes should Iranian
    nuclear facilities be struck as increasingly more believe will happen
    given enough time. The conclusion is sensible enough “Whenever the
    global economy is in a fragile state, as it is today, geopolitical
    concerns such as the possibility of a strike on Iran’s nuclear
    facilities become much more exaggerated. Although we cannot (and will
    not) predict whether an attack is imminent, or even likely, our
    experience and research tells us that any major disruption in the supply
    of oil from Iran could have either subtle or profound global
    repercussions – especially as excess capacity is virtually exhausted and
    we doubt that other OPEC nations would be able to compensate for a
    reduction in Iranian oil production.” As for those looking for numbers
    associated with the 4 scenarios presented by PIMCO here they are: “i) Scenario 1: Exports minimally effected. Concerns would drive initial price response; Oil could spike initially to $130 to $140 per barrel and then settle in a higher range, around $120 to $125; ii) Scenario 2: Iranian exports cut off for one month. In this case, we would expect prices could reach previous all-time highs of $145/bbl or even higher depending on issues with shipping; iii) Scenario 3: Iranian exports are lost for half a year. We think oil prices could probably rally and average $150 for the six months, with notable spikes above that level; iv) Scenario 4: Greater
    loss of production from around the region, either through subsequent
    Iranian response or due to lack of ability to move oil through Straits
    of Hormuz. This is the Armageddon scenario in which oil prices
    could soar, significantly constraining global growth. Forecasting
    prices in the prior scenarios is dangerous enough. So, we won’t even begin to forecast a cap or target price in this final Doomsday scenario.”
    Needless to say, even the modest Scenario 1 is enough to collapse
    global economic growth by several percentage points to the point where
    not even coordinated global printing will do much.

    • Have to wonder if Iran’s pickup of several sources led them to their little party in the UK embassy…

    • retired.military

      “Needless to say, even the modest Scenario 1 is enough to collapse global economic growth by several percentage points to the point where not even coordinated global printing will do much’

      Gee they could save this and reprint it if Obama looks like he will get reelected.

      And hey if Obama gets reelected than we have

      “This is the Armageddon scenario in which oil prices could soar, significantly constraining global growth. Forecasting prices in the prior scenarios is dangerous enough. So, we won’t even begin to forecast a cap or target price in this final Doomsday scenario.” ”

    • But ya know, it’s a good thing we’re not drilling in the Gulf, that oil leases aren’t being expedited, that the pipeline’s been delayed. 

      Because we’d much rather have a whole lot of oil under control of madmen than have energy security.  Yes, indeed, that’s MUCH better.

      For them….

  • Americans are war weary of the way we have been fighting the wars.  We have the technology and the means to strategically strike HARD and be done quickly.  Unfortunately we have too many politically correct leftist pansies to do that.  If Iran were approached with hard facts, options, and consequences for them this could end soon and well.

    • retired.military

      Obama is afraid the UN will go crying about our actions.  He really cares about the UN.

    • Yeah the pansies started with JFK and his wizkid buddy Robert McNamara. He is the one that dreamed up the body count strategy in Vietnam and unfortunately it has been the strategy every since in one form or another

      • That ‘using force to send a message’ crap worked so well once… why not do it again?