Wednesday, February 15, 2012

War Games

And Only One Winning Move

At a guess, late one night within in the next three weeks, we'll be ready to shut off Conan O'Brien when it's possible that normal broadcasting of Teevee networks may be interrupted with news that Israel (and, possibly, the good old Eusa) has hit Iran with nearly everything but the kitchen sink. Initial targets would be the Iranian air force on the ground, Revolutionary Guard command, control and communication (The Three Cees) facilities, Antiaircraft and antiship missile positions; and (aber natürlich), the four known major centers of their nuclear development effort.

(It's also possible that you could first hear the news of an Iranian attack on an oil tanker or American aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf, or some incident near the straits of Hormuz that results in casualties aboard a U.S. Navy vessel. No matter; the end result would be Iran, lit up like an Exmass Tree.)

By the time you heard reports of an all-out attack, the initial strikes would have been completed and the Iranians moving to execute counterstrikes against U.S. and Israeli targets. No one really knows what the reaction of other, regional and global players -- Russia, China; India, Pakistan; and the rest of the Middle East -- would be.

And by then, all bets will be off; we will truly enter Alice-Through-The-Looking-Glass, unknown territory: Beyond Here There Be Tygers.

Why I feel this is a likely possibility has been the steady drumbeat of evants -- sanctions, and more bellicose statements by the Iranian government; the assassination of another Iranian scientist in Teheran in mid-January; the attack on Israeli defense ministry officials and family members in India and Georgia, and the Israeli statement that it blames Iran (followed by the expected denials); the report of 'Iranians' and explosions at a rented house in Bangkok; claims of Hezbollah planning to attack Western targets (followed by the expected denials).

(I've already chronicled a previous timeline of events here, if you're curious -- or, you know, not.)

I've also noticed an increase in articles on web versions of newspapers or cable news organizations about Iran: Short, even 'filler', never front-page material but consistently playing on themes of Iran's leaders as aggressive, deluded and nonsensical; never know what they'll do next; and they want The Bomb ... and I feel that I haven't ever seen so many of these articles, so consistently -- even last summer, when many observers were convinced, then, that it was likely Israel would hit Iran any minute.

Today, as a result of economic and trade sanctions against the Iranian government, it announced that it was preparing to cut oil shipments to some European countries -- at the same time claiming it wishes to 'negotiate' about the status of its nuclear program.

It's been argued that the attacks on IDF members outside Israel were false-flag operations -- I doubt that; the evidence against the Iranian government and the creature they created, Hezbollah, is damning. However, my gut sense is that the fact the attacks have occurred may reduce or remove opposition to Benjamin Netanyahu and hard-liners in the Israeli cabinet who want to kill the snake in its nest, right now. It's just something indefinable, in the air, that I'm sensing. But I feel the Israeli government has consensus and has made its decision.

And it may be that the only thing preventing them from executing that decision (as it has been for some time, I think) is American reluctance to go 'all in' with our Middle Eastern ally. The recent long article ("Will Israel Attack Iran?") by Ronen Bergman in The New York Times' Sunday magazine section noted that whether or not the Israeli government had U.S. support -- intelligence, logistics; military and political -- will be a critical factor in Israel's decision to attack.

There may come a time that, with or without America's blessing and support, the Israeli government feels it has no choice. When you're surrounded by countries full of people determined to wipe you from the face of the earth, there's no incentive to wait for one of them to go nuclear. Bennie and his hard-liners might call President Obama as attacks are under way, saying You have to go all in with us now. Think how it will look in November if you abandon Israel in her hour of greatest need. You want that on your conscience?

And, realistically; who would?

Well, we'll see. I truly hope I'm wrong about this, but remember -- if it does occur, all bets about the future will be off, for real.

The GBU-28/BLU-113 Hard Target Penetrator is now a standard weapon in USAF service. In the months following the Gulf War, the USAF completed the testing process, TI developed and certified proper software for the seeker, and a substantial stock of warheads was built up. Carried initially by the F-111F prior to its premature retirement, and now by the F-15E, the Bunker Buster can be called upon to do its task at any time. It is indeed an excellent conventional deterrent weapon, as it can crack targets which otherwise would require a surface burst nuclear warhead to take out.

Iraq, Iran, Libya and North Korea have been reported in recent years to be expending much effort in digging themselves even deeper underground, producing a boom in world sales of tunnelling equipment. Given the proven performance of the GBU-28, they should probably keep digging !

More recently, Northrop have commenced flight testing of the GBU-37 GAM-113 (formerly BLU-113/GAM), a GPS guided weapon which uses the GBU-28’s BLU-113 warhead and a modified Northrop GAM tailkit to produce a wholly autonomous all weather bunker busting weapon for use by the B-2A....

Virtually undetectable, a Northrop B-2A dropping these weapons could paralyse an opponent’s hardened C3 system with total surprise. A single B-2A can carry up to eight rounds on its internal rotary weapons launcher. The almost undetectable APQ-181 Attack Radar and GPS aided GAM/GATS targeting system provide a true all weather around the clock precision capability.
-- From Australia Air Power, "The GBU-28 Bunker Buster"

MEHR:... and the top article in this morning's online Paper Of Record is, "Aggressive Acts by Iran Signal Pressure on Its Leadership... A flurry of actions and statements by Iran this week suggest its leaders are responding frantically, and more unpredictably, to the tightening of sanctions."

My take on the story is that the Iranians are fragmented but far from stupid, and while they're willing to lash out at Israel in copycat-style attacks on IDF personnel in Georgia and India, using tactics ascribed to Israeli intelligence in the assassination of Iranian physicists (a message in itself), it doesn't mean they're insane -- at least, not enough to provoke a full-scale assault of their country.

Iran's government excells at escalating situations, and then suddenly appearing conciliatory, reasonable. That style of brinksmanship has worked well for Kim Jong Ill's North Korea, but the Iranians have used it so often as an apparent stalling tactic with the UN and IAEA investigators that it's damaged their credibility: No one wants to trust an angry drunk when they suddenly become genial and ask for the car keys.
As investigators unearthed new evidence implicating Iran in the attacks this week in Thailand, India and Georgia, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran announced Wednesday what he said was his country’s latest nuclear advance, and Iran’s Oil Ministry threatened to pre-empt a European oil embargo by cutting off sales to six countries there.

“These are all facets of the same message,” said Muhammad Sahimi, an analyst and professor at the University of Southern California. “Iran is saying, ‘If you hit us, we will hit back, and we are not going to sacrifice our nuclear program.’ ”...

Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the belligerent moves by Iran actually underscored weakness.

“If there’s a meta-narrative here, it’s that Iran tends to speak loudly but carries a small stick,” Mr. Sadjadpour said. “Their alleged terror attacks projected incompetence more than fear, their announced nuclear progress is likely exaggerated, and their threat to pre-emptively cease oil exports to Europe turned out to be another bluff.” ...

The latest developments suggested to some analysts that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was deliberately lashing out at the West, though it was not clear whether his intention was simply to retaliate or to provoke a limited war with Israel. Some Iranian hard-liners are said to believe that such a war would benefit them, allowing them to close ranks and assert greater authority for the elite Revolutionary Guards.

“I think this is Iran’s way of saying, ‘Look out, we can reach out and touch you,’ ” said Mehrzad Boroujerdi, a professor of Middle East Studies at Syracuse University. “But I doubt that Khamenei wants to go all the way to a serious armed confrontation.”
So, perhaps not all the way to War Games. At least, not yet.

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