Posts Tagged ‘Iran’

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Israeli assault on Gaza

November 16, 2012

For all it’s bluff and bluster, the only real strategic military options that Iran has are Hamas and Hezbollah.  If Israel or the US attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, the main retaliations will come first via an attempt to close the Straits of Hormuz and second via attacks by Hamas and Hezbollah.  It is only the latter that directly impacts Israel.

For that reason, it seems to me that an Israeli assault on Gaza would be a necessary (though not sufficient) precursor to a strike on Iran.

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Terror as geostrategic lever

January 24, 2012

Geopolitically, Pakistan is hemmed in between Iran to its west and India to its east.  In India, it has what it believes to be a mortal enemy with which it has been at various levels of war since independence; in Iran, it has a rival for leadership in the Islamic world.   Pakistani leaders would like their nation to be the center of a pan-Islamic quasi-Caliphate to balance the growing power of India.  To that end, it’s Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence has built what some call “an empire of terror” throughout the nations of Central Asia.  ISI has a in every pie, with the dual goals of thwarting other Islamic nations for leadership (Iran and, increasingly, Turkey) plus building a deterrent for India.  Window on the Heartland has recently posted an overview of Pakistan’s use of terror as a geostrategic lever:

Pakistan has always desired to expand its influence in Afghanistan and beyond. Central Asia is seen as an area of natural expansion for the country. Islamabad’s objectives in the region are determined by its geopolitical imperative: to turn itself into the leader of an Islamic bloc stretching from the Black Sea to China able to counter India’s influence and become an autonomous actor on the international scene. In this context, the destabilizing efforts carried out by the ISI through support to terrorist groups in Central Asia since the early 90s have been aimed at creating the right conditions so that the Pakistani leadership could gradually take over from of other major powers such as Russia, China and the United States.

Read the whole thing.

The ISI has built what is in essence a model for a low-tech, asymmetric analog to the integrated defense network centered on complex weapons systems that the US is building.

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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.

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The sometimes crazy energy geopolitics of the Caspian basin

September 29, 2011

Wow, look at the title of this post from The Bug Pit:

Is Russia Training Kazakhstan’s Military To Protect American Oil From Iranian Attack?

The story is neither as straightforward nor as provocative as the headline, but it is still an important read for those interested in the geopolitics of energy – I encourage everyone to go read the whole post.  For those who just want a summary:  most of the nations in the Caspian basin are (at least potentially) energy rich but militarily weak.  There are only two strong militaries in the region – Iran and Russia.  Everyone seems to agree that Iran is a threat, and Russia would prefer to be the guarantor of security in the region, rather than see further encroachment of the US (already in the region through it’s NATO junior partners Georgia and Azerbaijan).