Archive for the ‘Iran’ Category

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How Syria is, in fact, Iran’s “route to the sea.”

October 24, 2012

David Kopel explains why Mitt Romney’s statement about Syria’s maritime connection with Iran was not the mistake some are presenting it as:

Romney was speaking in the context of the debate topic on foreign policy and the sanctions restricting the finances and trade of Iran. Although Iran is indeed located on the seacoast of the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf, the international trade sanctions have restricted and impeded its ability to transport armaments and other goods through its own seaports. To defeat these trade sanctions, Iran has resorted to using its air transportation to transport goods through an air corridor in Iraqi airspace into Syria and its seaports, such as Latakia.

. . . Iran was generous with its “foreign aid” because Syria provided support for terrorists Iran backed. Now Iran is keen on getting nuclear weapons. The first ones Iran will get will be large and delicate. The only feasible intercontinental delivery system will be a ship. A ship that is accustomed to moving illicit goods.

In short, Romney’s statement was not one of physical geography, but rather of strategic geography, of which the physical landscape is only one consideration.

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Test of Concept: Sanctions are hitting Iran hard

October 4, 2012

Steven Hanke shows that the Iranian currency has collapsed and Iran is in a state of hyperinflation.

The sanction regime that was initiated in the last months of the Bush Administration and then turned up two years ago by the Obama Administration has really sunk its teeth in . . . but will it be enough to turn Iran back from the brink?  Hanke doesn’t think so:

There is no question that the sanctions the “allies” are imposing on Iran are starting to bite, and bite pretty hard. But, will this coercion win the “war?” Probably not. Prof. John Mearsheimer, in his masterpiece, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, provides more than ample evidence to show that naval blockades and strategic bombing (and I would add financial sanctions) rarely produce their desired results. As Prof. Mearsheimer concludes:

“…the populations of modern states can absorb great amounts of pain without rising up against their governments. There is not a single case in the historical record in which either a blockade or a strategic bombing campaign designed to punish an enemy’s population caused significant public protests against the target government. If anything, it appears that ‘punishment generates more public anger against the attacker than against the target government.'”

Even though the sanctions are causing untold misery in Iran, history suggests that a good dose of skepticism about whether the Iranians will comply with the demands of the “allies” is in order — as Prof. Mearsheimer writes:

“…governing elites are rarely moved to quit a war because their populations are being brutalized. In fact, one could argue that the more punishment that a populations suffers, the more difficult it is for the leaders to quit the war. The basis of this claim, which seems counterintuitive, is that bloody defeat greatly increases the likelihood that after the war is over the people will seek revenge against the leaders who led them down the road to destruction. Thus, those leaders have a powerful incentive to ignore the pain being inflicted on their population and fight to the finish in the hope that they can pull out a victory and save their own skin.”

So, in one sense, the sanctions are working; they are imposing a great deal of misery on Iranians. But, in another sense, they will probably fail — fail to force the mullahs to comply. Perhaps that’s why Russia’s wily foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov confidently stated that “Russia is fundamentally against [adopting even more sanctions], since for resolving problems, you have to engage the countries you are having issues with, and not isolate them.”

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Iran claims to have Caspian sub fleet

August 27, 2012

The Bug Pit, back from its long summer hiatus, makes note of a recent proclamation by an Iranian admiral that the Islamic Republic has deployed light submarines to the Caspian Sea.  Take the claim with a grain of salt, but it makes more sense to deploy subs to protect their oil and gas claims in a place where they would have regional superiority, than to risk losing them trying to take out a US carrier.  The latter would make a bigger splash, but the former would have greater strategic utility.  Indeed, if the mullahs are eager for a war to humiliate a US ally and to demonstrate the limits of American power, a campaign against Azerbaijan makes sense (much as Russia used its 2008 war against Georgia to intimidate other US allies in the Black Sea/Transcaucasus).  Iran can continue supporting the low intensity conflict against Israel while scoring a blow against US regional prestige and planting doubts about US power in the minds of the Israelis.

2010 photo of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad entering a submarine.

Competing oil claims in the Caspian Sea

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How vulnerable is the US Navy to Iranian countermeasures in the Persian Gulf?

July 27, 2012

In yesterday’s Washington Post, Joby Warrick detailed the new array of asymmetric weapons and tactics that Iran would bring to bear on the US Navy if a conflict erupts in the Persian Gulf:

Iran is rapidly gaining new capabilities to strike at U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf, amassing an arsenal of sophisticated anti-ship missiles while expanding its fleet of fast-attack boats and submarines, U.S. and Middle Eastern analysts say.

The new systems, many of them developed with foreign assistance, are giving Iran’s commanders new confidence that they could quickly damage or destroy U.S. ships if hostilities erupt, the officials say.

. . . A Middle Eastern intelligence official who helps coordinate strategy for the gulf with U.S. counterparts said some Navy ships could find themselves in a “360-degree threat environment,” simultaneously in the cross hairs of adversaries on land, in the air, at sea and even underwater.

“This is the scenario that is giving people nightmares,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in discussing strategy for defending against a possible Iranian attack.

. . .  Modern U.S. warships are equipped with multiple defense systems, such as the ship-based Aegis missile shield. But Iran has sought to neutralize the U.S. technological advantage by honing an ability to strike from multiple directions at once. The emerging strategy relies not only on mobile missile launchers but also on new mini-submarines, helicopters and hundreds of heavily armed small boats known as fast-attack craft.

These highly maneuverable small boats, some barely as long as a subway car, have become a cornerstone of Iran’s strategy for defending the gulf against a much larger adversary. The vessels can rapidly deploy Iran’s estimated 2,000 anti-ship mines or mass in groups to strike large warships from multiple sides at once, like a cloud of wasps attacking much larger prey.

The Navy, however, is not standing still.  Raytheon has begun delivery of its advanced Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR) system which will help combat multiple threats to US warships.  The AMDR concept is illustrated below:

a Raytheon produced video of how an AMDR supplied flotilla would respond to attack by multiple weapons platforms  is also provided at the following link:

Raytheon AMDR Simulated Engagement

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US, Israeli options for strike on Iran

November 8, 2011

Alexander Wilner at the Center for Strategic & Intelligence Studies (CSIS) has put together a very thorough analysis of the military balance of power between Iran on the one side and the US and Israel on the other (pdf here).  As Iran appears close to full development of nuclear weapon capability, the pressure on Israel to respond to what it sees as a truly existential threat is growing.  Israeli leaders cannot sit by and do nothing; their history and their strategic position demands action.  However, while Israel certainly has the theoretical capability to hit Iran, the reality of the situation is that they will have to traverse potentially hostile skies all the way to Iran and back.  Also, although they have the ability to hit Iran, it is an open question whether they have the ability to deliver a devastating blow without resorting to their own nuclear arsenal (I tend to think not).

Wilner assesses Israel’s capability to conduct both a conventional and a nuclear strike on Iran.  In either case, the likely outcomes are suboptimal both from a pure military as well as a global opinion point of view.

If a military strike is to be made, it has to be the US that conducts it.  Wilner lays out the array of choices before US policymakers.  There are six basic options:

  • Demonstrative, coercive or deterrent strikes – a very small number of cruise missile strikes to demonstrate US seriousness and possible willingness to escalate should Iran comply with demands
  • Limited US attacks – dozens of cruise missile and attack aircraft strikes designed to destroy are critically damage 2 or 3 major nuclear and/or missile facilities
  • Major attacks on missile and nuclear targets – hundreds of strikes over a number of days designed to destroy or critically damage a wide array of nuclear and/or missile facilities
  • Major attacks on military and civilian targets – 1000 to 2500 strikes to destroy nuclear/missile facilities, “technological bases” such as universities, and critical military and asymmetric warfare functions.
  • Delay and then strike – lay the foundation for any of the above options, but wait for further evidence and/or allied support
  • Ride out Iranian proliferation – a number of defensive/deterrent options, such as publicly announcing the nuclear targeting of Iranian sites, encouraging Israel to also make such a declaration, aiding Saudi Arabia in the acquisition of a nuclear deterrent, building anti missile capability in GCC nations, etc.

Wilner goes over each option in much more detail.  I believe that the Obama administration will take military action against Iran in the coming months, and I strongly recommend this report to anyone who wants to understand the problems and potentials that will inform that decision.

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Relations strained between Turkey and Iran

October 29, 2011

Eurasia Review details the numerous recent Turkish actions that have strained what was a once blossoming relationship between Turkey and Iran.   In reality, the Turks and Persians have been rivals for regional influence for centuries, so it was always unlikely that the newfound friendship would last, but it has unraveled quickly.  Some of the issues that Iran has with Turkey are:

  • Turkish support for the opponents to the Iranian client regime in Syria
  • Turkish coordination with the US on Syrian policy
  • Turkish support for democracy and secular governments in Muslim states
  • Turkish drive for influence in post-American Iraq
  • and the biggest one of all, Turkey agreeing to host a US anti-missile radar, which could neuter Iran’s great power ambitions

Iran has a small circle of friends, and among them, Turkey is very important because of growing economic ties between the two nations.  Turkey holds the upper hand in this relationship, and it will be interesting to watch this relationship develop.

Long time readers will notice that I tend to write a lot about Turkey.  This is because of this blog’s focus on Long Cycle Theory in general and on the current coalitioning phase of LTC.  It is our belief that Turkey is a bell weather nation that will determine the path of that cycle.

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Iran, Hezbollah and the “soft underbelly” of the United States

October 27, 2011

Bret Stephens connects some dots and raises some very disturbing points in this essay.  Is Iran using Hezbollah and other non-traditional combatants to link up with drug cartels and disaffected Latin Americans to attack the United States through it’s “soft underbelly” of Latin America?

Read the whole thing.   And remember, too, that China is also spending money and effort to become a strategic force in South America.    For all the talk of Obama’s foreign policy successes, he has not done much to shore up our southern flank.