Monday, February 27, 2012

Israel’s possible strike on Iran will only strengthen the Mullah regime….

Hussain Saqib

US, Israel and their allies are arm-twisting and pressurizing Iran into submission over its nuclear program. The rest of the world, including the so-called Ummah, is either watching Iran’s persistent defiance of global pressure helplessly or with wide-eyes, except those nations of the region who foresee devastating consequences of any misadventure in Iran. Iran feels that its nuclear program is directly threatened by the USA, Israel and conservative Arab nations for various reasons. 

The United States and its traditional allies (Britain, France, Germany, etc.) are increasingly worried about a nuclear Iran, especially given the tense relationship Iran has with most Western nations since the Iranian Revolution of the late 1970s. Israel has a long history of conflict with the Muslim world, and the current president of Iran has made several anti-Semitic comments, and has indicated that he does not believe Israel should exist. Israelis are worried that Iran's President is seeking to acquire nuclear weapons in order to destroy Israel and kill millions of Jews.

Conservative Arab nations, such as Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf States are equally wary of Iran’s nuclear. Having a total lack of ability to target Iran’s nuclear installations themselves, these Arab nations may very well aid and abet any attack by the West and/or Israel. Historically Persian Iran has been in conflict with the Arab nations. This is partly due to the fact that Iran is dominated by the Shiite sect of Islam, while most Arab nations are controlled by the majority Sunni sect of Islam.

Although, there is still no hard proof that Iran’s nuclear program is designed to produce nuclear arms, the US and its allies would like to forestall any future eventuality leading Iran to becoming a nuclear state. Still, Israel’s right-wing Likud Party may actually intend to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities, just as Israel attacked Iraqi and Syrian nuclear facilities to preserve its Mideast nuclear monopoly. Whipping up a crisis over Iran also serves to deflect attention from the unresolved question of Palestine and from Israel’s growing social and economic problems.

Having assessed the cost, and possibly learned from Iraq fiasco, the US & Co is exercising maximum restraint in going to a war on the issue. The war, if it happens, will have the potential for a wide-spread conflict engulfing in the war-flames the farther shores. Apart from destabilization, destruction and devastation for the region, will any attack by Israel or the US have any devastating consequences for the attackers themselves?

According to a recent analysis carried by The National Interest, Israel has some three hundred nuclear devices in its arsenal, capable of being delivered by medium-range ballistic missiles, submarine-launched cruise missiles and aircraft with standoff missiles. Two of Israel’s three German-supplied “Dolphin-class” submarines carrying nuclear-armed missiles are reportedly stationed off Iran’s coast, providing an invulnerable second-strike capability for the Jewish state. Any Iranian nuclear attack on Israel would result in Iran being vaporized. Israel’s potential target list in Iran is clear. At least twelve major nuclear or nuclear-related sites would have to be struck to seriously damage Iran’s nuclear program, some of which is buried deep underground. Leading targets include the aboveground heavy-water/reactor facility at Arak; reactors at Bushehr (a civilian power reactor relying on Russian-supplied fuel), the new underground enrichment facility near Qum at Fordow, the ore conversion plants near Isfahan, and other facilities at Qazvin, Damghan, Tabriz, Lavizan, Chalus, Darkhovin and Parchin.

Iran itself and the adjoining states may become a direct target of nuclear fallout because destroying Iran’s many reactors and processing facilities could release large amounts of radiation and create radioactive dust storms. Winds would carry this toxic miasma over Afghanistan and its large U.S. military garrison. Dangerous radiation would also extend to Pakistan, western India, Iraq, Kuwait and to the Gulf, where large numbers of U.S. military personnel are based. Equally ominous, radioactive dust could blanket oil fields in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. High-altitude winds would spread radioactivity around the globe, as occurred at Chernobyl in the Ukraine, but at a factor of twenty times or more.

Air attacks may not be as effective as a nuclear attack.  The Pentagon has estimated it will need to strike at least 3,200 targets in Iran, including nuclear facilities, air and naval bases, military production plants, headquarters, communications hubs, missile bases, Gulf ports, and command-and-control facilities. After the first wave, air and missile strikes as well as Special Forces raids would have to continue for weeks, perhaps months. However, the most important result of an Israeli air campaign against Iran would be to draw the United States into a long-running conflict with the Islamic Republic that it neither wants nor can afford. After having lost two expensive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is quite inconceivable that the US would decide to go to a third major conflict which could possibly wreck America’s finances and plunge the republic in an Orwellian state of permanent war.

It may be kept in view that the national interests of Israel and the United States do not converge, and many leading figures of the US administration blindly believe the Israeli claims that Iran poses a deadly threat to its existence, and act as if the Israeli nuclear arsenal is of no concern. 

Paul Rogers in his report, Military Action Against Iran: Impact and Effects, warns that consequences of Iran conflict would be devastating and would lead to a long war. The study follows Israeli reports that Syria is manufacturing Iranian M-600 missiles for Hezbollah, the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu calling Iran “the ultimate terrorist threat” and saying it was a mistake to think Iran’s nuclear ambitions could be contained, and a call from the United Arab Emirates Ambassador in Washington for a military strike on Iran.

The report outlines the likely shape of an Israeli strike, saying it would be focused not only on destroying ‘military real estate’ – nuclear and missile targets - but also would hit factories and research centers, and even university laboratories, in order to do as much damage as possible to the Iranian expertise that underpins the program. The strike would not be limited to remote bases but would involve the direct bombing of targets in Tehran. It would probably include attempts to kill those technocrats who manage Iran’s nuclear and missile programs. It would be widely viewed across the Middle East as having been undertaken with the knowledge, approval and assistance of the United States, even if carried out solely by Israel.

Professor Rogers says that, “There would be many civilian casualties, both directly among people working on Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, but also their families as their living quarters were hit, and secretaries, cleaners, laborers and other staff in factories, research stations and university departments.”While much damage would be done to Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, it would increase Iranian political unity, making the Ahmadinejad regime more stable.

Iran would be able to respond in many ways, argues the report, including withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and immediate action to develop nuclear weapons to deter further attacks. Such work would use deeply-buried facilities that are reported to be under construction. A series of actions aimed at Israel as well as targeting the United States and its western partners including missile attacks on Israel. These actions, including paramilitary and/or missile attacks on western Gulf oil production, processing and transportation facilities would cause a sharp rise in oil prices by closing the Straits of Hormuz.

The experts and analysts agree that an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities would almost certainly be the beginning of a long-term process of regular Israeli air strikes to further prevent the development of nuclear weapons and medium-range missiles. Iranian responses would also be long-term, ushering in a lengthy war with global as well as regional implications. The report concludes that “the consequences of a military attack on Iran are so serious that they should not be encouraged in any shape or form. However difficult, other ways must be found to resolve the Iranian nuclear crisis.”

Friday, February 10, 2012

US 5th Fleet faces the Sunburn in the Strait of Hormuz....

In spite of rhetoric of the Mullah regime, Iran’s nuclear capability cannot be an existential threat for Israel. It, however, is a real challenge to superiority of Israel being the only nuclear power in Middle East. Israel can hardly digest the prospect of having lost the nuclear card at the hands of Iranian Mullahs. It wants to destroy Iran’s nuclear installations in a surprise attack, have US Navy sink the whole of Iranian Navy in the Gulf and rally around the civilized world for economic sanctions to cripple and paralyze Iran’s economy.

The air attack has yet to materialize, the sanctions have started taking their toll on the ordinary lives of Iranian citizens but Iran’s resolve to go ahead with its nuclear program has not been broken. Iran is daring the US to come and fight in the Gulf and its war games in the Strait of Hormuz named as Velayat, are being perceived by independent analysts as potential threat to oil supply in case Iran is pushed to the wall.

The current stand-off between the US-led countries and stand-alone, soon-to-be nuclear-armed state of Iran has occupied the attention of those who are keenly watching the developments taking place in the region. Some are even betting on a surprise Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear installations and are predicting a catastrophe of unimagined proportions. Iran’s persistent resistance suggests that Iran finds itself really capable to close the Strait of Hormuz for long and even creating a world of hurt for the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. Iran is generally relying on a build-up of anti-ship weapons called Sunburn missiles, which it has procured from Russia and China over the last decade. These are top-notch weapons developed by the Russians as a low-cost challenge to the expensive, tech-heavy weaponry of the U.S., and specifically the aircraft carrier task force. A conflict is going to be a huge test of a global-naval doctrine that Russia and China will watch with tremendous interest. Iran's mix of anti-ship missiles (Sunburns, Onyxs, home produced, etc) is unknown, but it is armed to the teeth with thousands of such weapons in its possession.

Should the US Navy take the risk of any misadventure in the Strait? According to an analyst, the US Navy is professional, but the Strait doesn’t allow for the normal defense in depth available in open seas, in fact it offers the Iranians a cross fire setup or triangulation. If you read discussions on various military sites, there is a lively debate on American ship defense system like the Aegis. However, almost nobody claims this to be fully protective against ship strikes. And an oil tanker, no way.  It is important that the US is working on new generation laser defense to counter these missiles; however they are still in development. This puts added pressure for Iran to have this fight now, not later.

The Sunburn is perhaps the most lethal anti-ship missile in the world, designed to fly as low as 9 feet above ground/water at more than 1,500 miles per hour with a disturbing range.  The missile uses a violent pop-up maneuver for its terminal approach to throw off Phalanx and other U.S. anti-missile defense systems. Given their low cost, they’re perfectly suited for close quarter naval conflict in the bathtub-like Persian Gulf. Additionally, Iran must have plotted and mapped every firing angle and location along the Gulf, their home-court coastline. Iran’s home court strategic advantage and weaponry may mean nasty losses for the 5th Fleet. If they leave, the Iranians would use naval mines to close the strait and missiles to hamper the mine clearing operations.

There are varying opinions on this account too. According to an article in National Interest, if Tehran crosses the Obama administration’s "red lines"—developing a nuclear weapon or blocking world oil supplies transiting the Strait of Hormuz—Washington will face a dilemma. The risks of using force are high, yet the risk of inaction may also be unacceptable. If red lines are crossed the United States must respond, but it should ponder options other than bombing. One such option worthy of consideration: using mines around Iran's naval ports and oil-export terminals. This might create better leverage than a campaign of air strikes—without generating the death and destruction that could give Iran a cause for perpetual grievance. Mining would shut in both the Iranian navy and Iran's oil exports.

Modern U.S. naval mines are not indiscriminate weapons. They have programmable sensor-trigger mechanisms. These mines can be set to arm after a delay for a warning period, select targets based on a ship’s magnetic, pressure and acoustic signature, and they can be neutralized or cleared after a conflict. Naval mines have advantages over air strikes. Even precision-guided weapons might well cause civilian casualties and collateral damage that cannot be undone. Air attacks against inland targets would put American pilots at substantial risk. An air campaign could not assure the complete destruction of underground targets.

Worse, mere air strikes might not provide a successful exit strategy. An exit from conflict must be based on forcing (and also enticing) Tehran to accept a political settlement ending its threatening behavior. Yet in addition to its inherent risks, a bombing campaign might cause the Iranian people to rally in support of the unpopular regime. This could further embolden Iran's leaders.

Proponents of this option believe that it could degrade Iran's ability to shut down the Strait of Hormuz or attack U.S. forces on patrol. Iranian minelayers, submarines and missile-armed surface ships would be trapped in their ports or unable to return to them safely. Beyond that, mining Iran's oil-export terminals would impose considerable costs on the regime. According to the IMF, oil-export revenues account for more than 20 percent of Iran's $475 billion gross domestic product (GDP). Assuming that 80 percent of oil exports by sea can be halted by mines, and accounting only for lost oil profits, the net impact could be a loss of Iranian GDP equal to $59 billion over one year. This would be the equivalent of reducing Iran's GDP growth from today's 3 percent to around negative 12 percent.

Iran’s persistent resistance to the world pressure may be due to its real capabilities or it may be just a bluff. Israel and the US may actually attack Iran or are just arm-twisting it into submission. Who will call whose bluff is only a matter of time but the actual conflict will be catastrophic for both Iranian and American taxpayers.

Related link:
The Ticking Clock