Monday, July 23, 2012

To attack or not to attack Iran?! The Cons and the Pros affecting the war decision

Photo source: US airforce (US government photos are not copy righted)

Since there isn't much being said about the imminent war with Iran, I thought I'd write something about this neglected issue and brake the monotony.

I invite you to consider the following Pros and Cons for war from the point of view of the three main countries involved, namely, Iran, Israel, and the United States of America.




Pros for Iran (in case of war):

. The Iranian regime, drawing on the experience of the 1980s Iraq-Iran war, can blame government inaptitude on the war. Currency free fall, economic collapse, the erosion of personal and political liberties, not to mention the draught, can all be blamed on the foreign imposed war.

. The revolutionary guard (IRGC) leadership could benefit financially from war profiteering and smuggling of goods, as all legal avenues of import and export would be shut down in the event of a full blown war, leaving organized smuggling as the only option.
Many here would agree that IRGC's involvement in smuggling is a well established fact in the blogosphere, and is one hidden camera investigative report away from being a mainstream media fact.

. The Iranian regime would have an opportunity to eliminate dissidents, wholesale, during the war, including the green movement activists and leaders currently in prison or under house arrest. It's much easier to execute spies at time of war, than it is to execute political dissidents in peace time.

. The regime may be hoping that war would result in increased support from religious nationalists and other core supporters. This can be more of a factor if there were to be high profile incidents with large civilian casualties, or a freak incident resulting in the destruction of a national or religious monument. Having said that, the chances of the US accidentally bombing shiite shrines or Azadi square are as slim as accidentally bombing Persepolis.

. Iran would get the opportunity to activate Iraqi shiite militias to destabilize Iraq, or even seize power by force if the opportunity presents itself. With the political parties divided, the Iraqi people might decide to passively watch an Iranian backed military take over without raising a fuss.
Iraq will probably not allow the use of its territory to attack Iran, but that won't stop Iran from using Iraq to retaliate against attacks against it, and use the war to accomplish its long term strategic objectives with open and unapologetic meddling in Iraqi affairs.

Cons for Iran (in case of war):

. War could become the straw that brakes the camel's back in terms of the general public's impatience with the Iranian regime and the economic hardships it is causing, especially if they were to conclude that all their suffering is due the Islamic republic political inaptitude and arrogance.

. In the ensuing chaos of war, the opposition groups in Iran might feel emboldened to take on the regime head on one final time. With weapons more abundant at time of war, some opposition groups might even take up arms against the security forces and retaliate for any future crackdown on peaceful protesters, a la Syria, or even a la Iran 1979.
(side note: Opposition groups aboard should be meeting now to discuss the future political process in Iran to stay ahead of events, and develop a transitional plan in case a future revolution in Iran does succeed, war or no war)

. Separatist groups in Iran might step up their military activities against the regime even if the west doesn't offer them direct support. The regime will be forced to station large number of elite loyal troops in areas where there is little strategic need, such as Azerbaijan or Baluchistan, aside from the usual hot spots of Kurdistan and Khuzestan.

. Opposition groups might get more breathing room in terms of the total media blackout by the regime, as government jamming capabilities get degraded secondary to targeted US attacks. Iranians may be able to get a minute by minute account of events on the streets from the BBC Farsi without being subjected to constant government jamming.
In addition, the US may target media installations, like it did in Iraq and Libya, and cripple the regime's own propaganda broadcasts. My guess is that many Iranians will find the benefits from the total shut down of the regime's media apparatus to far outweigh the downside of the tremendous loss of the entertainment value, which the Iranian TV and radio is famous for. I'm sure many of you have heard of mullah-wood, with it's 24/7 compulsory morality broadcasts.

. The West may, for the first time, openly target the Iranian leadership, including Khamenei, as part of the war effort. Even if these military decapitation efforts don't succeed, they would leave the regime elites fugitives in their own country. Once forced outside their secure zones in Tehran and elsewhere, the leadership will be vulnerable to domestic threats to their lives. They certainly accumulated enough intrinsic animosity in the past 30 plus years that they should be concerned for their lives as they become physically more accessible to the Iranian public.

. Iran oil exports would be near zero for a while, with infrastructure damage that might take years to repair. Even if the Iranian regime were to survive the war, it would be left with little oil revenue with which to bribe its core constituency in return for their continued support.

. The potential closing of Hormuz strait will probably only last a few weeks, but will represent a suicidal act on part of the Iranian navy forces and the Iranian coastal defenses. The mining of Hormuz will serve as legal justification for the west to control the entire northern shore of the Persian gulf to ensure free international shipping.
By the way, the three disputed island in the gulf will likely be one of the first strategic targets to be occupied by US forces, and may even be handed over to the UAE after the war.

. Having learned from the experience of Iraq and Afghanistan, the US is probably not going to be as predictable as the Iranian leaders might think, rendering any Iranian defensive plans outdated and ineffective. For example, the boots on the grounds will probably not be armored divisions with a large footprint and logistical gaps, but rather fast moving elite forces that would be there for the purpose of putting weapons, like missiles, beyond use then getting the hell out of dodge, before any organized resistance has time to emerge.

. Many Iranian military and civilian lives would be lost in any war with the USA. That should be the most important draw back, but i doubt it would give the regime in Iran any pause.
We should remember that it took Khomeini 500,000 Iranian lives before he decided to agree to end the Sadam initiated, but Khomeini sustained, Iran-Iraq war. Back then Khomeini thought that Iran can act like a world superpower and force the execution of, the then president, Sadam Hussein of Iraq, as a punishment for unjustly attacking Iran. Right or wrong, that demand was arrogant and unrealistic at the time, just like many of the current Iranian expectations might be considered unrealistic and costly.

Pros for Israel (in case of war):

. Israel many not have many other chances to attack Iran in the future if it misses this window of opportunity.
After years of raising the alarm about Iranian nuclear ambitions, Israel can not afford to not act, when it knows that it's efforts have now reached a crescendo.
Any inaction will be considered by the rest of the world as an israeli acceptance of the status quo, making any future return to the subject by Israel much less effective, as judged by western public opinion, and western political and military planners. Iran will become analogous to North Korea from that point on, a relatively harmless nuisance.

. The Israeli goal of regime change in Iran maybe achieved through war. One could argue that for Israel, an Iranian regime change is much more important than the goal of preventing Iran from attaining nuclear weapons. In that sense, attacking Iran is more likely to be successful and doesn't necessarily have to involve smart weapons.

. Israel doesn't really have to hit the Iranian nuclear sites accurately or effectively. In fact, all Israel has to do is hit anything of importance in Iran in order to ignite war. Everyone, including the Israelis, knows that the subsequent Iranian retaliation against the Americans (and the Israelis), and the more effective US attack that follows will take care of all the Iranian nuclear targets and then some. The Americans will likely resent having the Israelis impose war on America of course, but that will not stop us from attacking. Israel will however have to make an effort to appear to be hitting the nuclear targets directly and effectively in order to minimize the American resentment.

. Israel would have the opportunity to use the war with Iran to target more Hamas and Hezbollah leaders and personnel, to finish previously unfinished missions. Israel might even use any military posturing by Hezbollah in support of Iran, as a pretext to invade south Lebanon with a more effective push to destroy the Hezbollah stockpile of weapons this time around.
The planners in Israel know that with the Iranian and Syrian regimes gone or weakened, Hezbollah would not be able to restore their missile capabilities anytime soon. Without war, Israel will have to live with the possibility that Hezbollah will remain at its door step for at least another decade, with capabilities enough for at least one more war with Israel.

. Any missile attack by Iran against Israel would likely create sympathy for Israel in the west and improve their negotiating position with the Palestinians. Israel would feel more entitled to push for more concessions from the Palestinians.

. Any war with Iran would distract from local controversial issues in Israel, such as settlement expansions and the final status of east Jerusalem. Israel could easily move to expand their efforts in these two areas in the fog of war with iran. The west will be busy with the war and would pay much less attention to what Israel does domestically.

. If the dream of regime change in Iran were to materialize, Israel would feel less threatened by Hezbollah and Hamas, as these groups would be losing a major source of financial and logistical support in the region.

.War with Iran would serve to re-establish Israel as the dominant military force in the region, and reinforce the partially lost deterrence that Israel had enjoyed since their last war with the Arabs.

. Israel can never trust that the Iranian regime won't use nuclear weapons once they have them, despite the Iranian leadership claims that they would never consider using nuclear weapons based on moral and religious grounds.
In the Iran-Iraq war, Khomeini also claimed that bombing of civilian targets (cities) in Iraq would be un-Islamic and barred the Iranian forces from retaliating against Iraqi bombardment of Iranian cities. By the middle of the war when Iraq started targeting Tehran almost daily with rockets, Khomeini conveniently made an exemption to his religious edicts and ordered the Iranian forces to retaliate in kind. By the end of the war, the Iraqi city of Basra was almost totally destroyed by Iranian artillery and missiles.
Even if the Iranian regime doesn't use it's nuclear weapons, this regime is likely to threaten their use in every political crisis.

Cons for Israel (in case of war with Iran):

. Potential damage to Israeli nuclear and industrial/chemical sites in the Iranian retaliatory missile attack should be a concern for the Israeli military and civilians at large. The chances of Iran shrugging off a military attack by Israel and not retaliate are very slim, even though such inaction would be the logical thing to do to avoid total destruction. In a worst case scenario, we should expect the Iranian retaliation to be unrestrained and unrestricted, and involve nuclear (Dimona) and chemical complexes (in Haifa), not to mention major population centers such as tel aviv.

. The war with Iran will likely increase anti-Israeli sentiment in the region. Not a big issue in the short term, as it would go from horrible to slightly more horrible. It is, however, a concern in the long run as Israel would have to live with their Arab and Iranian neighbors for years to come, knowing that the west will eventually become disinterested in Israel (if not ten years from now, perhaps a hundred years from now).

. The war may result in long term damage to the American-Israeli relationship, as even the most enthusiastic US supporters of israel would potentially resent, or at least pause at the prospect of the USA being dragged into war by an ally without consenting to it in advance. This might mark a turning point, especially if some republicans conclude that sometime israeli interests contradict US interests, and that the US is being used to advance a policy that is not it's own. Of course, the mutual US-Israeli relationship will endure for decades to come, but such sentiment shift can prove costly to Israel many years from now.

Pros of the USA (in case of war with Iran):

. War before the 2012 presidential election would ironically serve president Obama's re-election campaign, even if, in principle, president Obama doesn't want to be dragged into America's third war in the middle east since 9/11. The president can draw sympathy from democrats and independents as he appears to have no choice but to react to the events on the ground. Republicans would find president Obama less objectionable in war time as he acts presidentially and decisively to use military force against a long time US foe.
This would be a war against the same people who violated the sovereignty of the US embassy in Tehran, and humiliated the US by parading US diplomats and marines in blindfolds. In general, Americans should, and probably would, rally around the president at a time of war, unless he is somehow caught with a Monica Lewinsky-like character in the oval office a week before the election.

. The US would finally get a chance to remove a thorn in its backside thats been there for the past 30 years, namely the regime of the Islamic republic of Iran. The US would have legal justification as it would only be reacting to Iranian attacks (most likely provoked by Israel).
A new regime in Iran would transform the Middle East; A US friendly Iran would also change the long term political situation in Afghanistan and Iraq. The US could look to future Iran for support against religious extremists in Afghanistan, instead of relying on Pakistan, which itself is full of religious extremists and can explode in our face at any time.

. A future, US friendly, regime in Iran would allow for a much safer logistical support of NATO troops in land locked Afghanistan through 2014 and beyond.

. A friendly Iran would be fertile ground for American companies to invest in projects to rebuild the country's infrastructure, including the languishing energy industry. Needless to say, such business opportunities would dwarf what was available in Iraq after the war; The first aircraft order alone should be worth billions for Boeing.

Cons for the USA (in case of war with Iran):

. The potential for the loss of American lives and treasure in yet another war should be a major Con. Americans are tired of war, or at least we should be by now.
Starting a war during a recession would seem reckless and unwarranted to many Americans.

. The president would have to deal with being pushed into war without wanting to, and still maintain the illusion that he is still in total control. I think Obama can do that though.

. The level of success of any Iranian retaliation and the relevance of the regime forces after the first wave of attacks is still highly unpredictable. If the Libyan and Syrian precedence holds true, then we might be surprised as to what length the Iranian regime is willing to go to self preserve. The regime may risk total distraction of the country's infra structure before throwing in the towel.
Luckily, this scenario is less likely than the best case scenario that takes into account that many Iranian have been contemplating getting ride of this regime for quite some time, and might chose not to miss the opportunity war provides. I know this sounds like vice president Cheney talking, but even crazy people can be right sometimes.

. The post war Iran may not stabilize as fast as everyone hopes. Instead, it may take years, especially if separatist wars ensue, or if there is a civil war between the remnants of the Islamic republic and the the new, west supported, government forces.

. Regional powers may want the threat of Iran removed but some would be against a good US-Iranian relationship. This situation would add more unpredictability to the post war situation given the potential behind the scenes political maneuvering by the Saudis and others.

In conclusion, the question is not, whether or not we can agree on which pros and cons are correct, but rather, whether or not we can agree that it takes only one spark from one the three countries (Iran, USA, Israel) to ignite war. Moreover, all it will take for the decision to go forward with war is for that one country to decide that the "pros" for war outweigh the "cons" and damn the consequences.

One spark, and we can have a war that most can't predict its outcome or side effects. We should hope that if war does come, the political and military pros are going to be prepared to make the best of the circumstances.

15 comments:

Mark Pyruz said...

Doctor, your premise is "to attack or not to attack Iran" but your Iranian positions are based on that of an Iranian first strike. Why is that? And I must caution you, sir, there is no such thing as an invitation to first strike in recent warfare, unless you qualify the ROK artillery bombardment against the DPRK prior to the latter's invasion of the former as a case of just such a scenario, which is what the DPRK has argued ever since. Or, according to the UN charter, there is a threat of first strike, and a preemptive strike is warranted. Obviously a first strike by the Islamic Republic is not in any way imminent.

As a medical professional, your advocacy should be that of peace and preservation of life. Demonizing either side only serves the hawks of war.

Jabbar Fazeli, MD said...

Thanks Mark.
The above peice was intended to analyze the possible scenarios under which a division for war might be raken, nothing more.
Even though I would agree that Iran would not fire the first missile on Israel, I don't think it can escape the responsibility for creating this crisis in the first place. I don't think the Iranian people will be as forgiving as you when they decide who to blame for the war.

As far as the UN in concerned, we should look at what it did when Israel destroyed the Iraqi nuclear reactor in the 1980s. They did nothing, because the UN operates with the consensus of the major power, and not according to who brings forward the best debate arguments.
Thanks again for the comment.

Anonymous said...

The notion that the Straight go Hormuz wouldn't only be closed to navigation for a mere few weeks, is a dangerous gambit to bank on. Six months is a more realistic time-table.

On a side note, Americans watching any number of U.S naval vessels sinking and burning for the first time since WWII on Fox News or CNN, will probably create an incredible backlash against Americans of Iranian descent, here in the United States.

This article does not take into account the effects of U.S losses, which will most likely be heavy, at least by modern American standards.

Anonymous said...

In conjunction to Mr. Fazeli's views I would like to add that Cons, for western side of an anticipated war should include possibilities that aggressors may loose technological and opperational secrets to countries such as Russia or China. For instance a loss of several modern airplanes such as f-15, F-16 or may be even B-2 as well as unexploded cruise missilles and other ordnance will compromise those technologies. Russia and China will have a good opportunites to learn about countermeasures against jamming, cyber and communication's warfare as well as other new offensive secrets of the West. The author Mr. Fazeli mmistakenly anticipates that unity and strenght of morale of the Iranian nation majority will be weakened by an aggression. From my knowledge of different social systems including american one,I believe that Iranian culture, system as well as a social fabric and values of overwhelming majority of Iranian population, exceed values of the western culture and its "fabricated -schizophrenic" unity. There may be also a possibility...... that Russia has a contingency plan to send their paratroopers (like it was in Pristina in Kosovo) to prevent an attempt to overrun Iran teritory by the western powers...

Analyst-friend

farmland investments said...

I agree that the Straights of Hormuz are not going to be closed for just a few weeks. No way. I think it will be at least 3-6 months, and oil could go to US$200.

Jabbar Fazeli, MD said...

@annon 1.14
I see your point about the potential loss of advanced weapons on the battle field but I don't know of any incident were Americans held back their most advanced weapons because of fear of secret military technology. The US develops weapons for use when needed, not for storage. I'm sure after years of having to deal with this issue, the US military already has remedies for such eventualities. If you remember, there were such instances in past more recent wars, such as the downed stealth bomber in serbia, or the multiple airplane shut down over Iraq.

As far as the unity of Iranians against a potential attack, I would submit that since any attack would be directed towards select military installations and the regime itself, it would be a war like no other the Iranians have had, and as such it would be hard to predict how the nation as a whole would react.
If you happen to be against the regime, which I'm sure you are not, then you might consider a military attack to weaken the regime to be advantageous, theoretically speaking of course.
Thanks for the comment.

Anonymous said...

fix typo

---". Iran would get the opportunity to activate Iraqi shiite militias to destabilize Iraq, or even CEASE power by force..."----


SEIZE....I assume.

Jabbar Fazeli, MD said...

Thanks annon 10.43.

Anonymous said...

Any regime change in Iranwill only be possible under internal revolution or by a government installed by the West, due to a ground invasion by its troops.
The first possibility; in preliminary stages, was attempted in the 2009 and failed. There is no chance that that theoretical attempt could be repeated with stronger support from the iranian population after a war initiated by the West.

The ground invasion is unrealistic because Iran is too big country and has strong, dedicated military and paramilitary forces with sufficient resources for a prolonged resistance.
Russia as a neighbour of Iran, cannot be idle in the light of any incursion by the western troops to control and install a symphatetic government to the western military policies...
Therefore, according to our comments and analyses the West should face more Cons against a possibility to initiate a war with Iran. However past and recent history shows irrationality of the western side's actions and policies inspired by the certain entity...
Analyst- friend

Jabbar Fazeli, MD said...

Thanks anon 6.27.
I would be interested to know what you think the actual Russian response would be in any of the following stages of a potential attack:
1. Israeli strike
2. Iranian conterstrike and possible Hormuz closure
3. American strike, including special forces operations
4. Possible street unrest in Iran (supported, but not staged, by the west)

Not to diminish the Russian role, but I thinks in this scenario, the only logical Russian reaction would be to advise the Iranians not to react to the israeli strike, just like sadam didn't react to a similar strike in the 1980s. In fact Sadam didn't even order an intercept of the Israeli airplanes on their way back to Israel.
Thanks again for the thoughtful comment.

hans said...

There will be no attack on Iran, the schedule which the crazy Zionist were to follow was
Oct 2011 Syria was to have fallen,
June 2012 Iran attacked
Sep 2012 Venezuela, Nicaragua, Ecuador turn

Things have not worked that's why the maniac rush to destroy Syria to try to get back to plan. I predict that this years hurricane season in the USA is going to be of catastrophic proportions they will be wholesale destruction of many cities and towns. Iran plays Chess while the Zionists play maniac poker. Stay calm Iran this Zionist project is on it's last vestiges.

Anonymous said...

LOL hans!
You claimed the US dollar will collapse by July 1st and the worthless Iranian rial will be the main currency of choice.
So what went wrong genius?

Anonymous said...

Thanks Mr. Fazeli 8:28
My answers to your question will certainly be monitored by some agencies, but lets try to cure their minds...

In regard to all your questions - there have been commenced a cooperation between security councils of Iran and RF at the end of the 2011 summer. Following statements from both sides, confirmed continuation of cooperation on military levels despite the cancelation of the S-300 contract. In the following months the sides exchanged frequent visits to their countries by security council reps. On the beginning of the 2012 year RF has established special real time monitoring command for the Middle East, which includes the chairman of RF security council, reps. of the president and key generals and security reps. responsible for a continueous updating contingency plans in that matter. As of today 11 russian naval vessels are entering Mediterranian Sea and Russia has planned the biggest military exercises in decade, which will take place this September. From this events there has been conclusion that Russia is working on such plans; of course they are secret and there are several scenarios (plans)which depends what will happen in Syria and which side will initiate conflict and when US will enter anticipated conflict. These plans are of course secret, but it is sure that RF is going to learn in real war conditions about western strategies and weaponry by assisting Iran in jamming and cyberwar countermeasures as well as with an early warning and protection or alternate power grids.These are examples of minimun russian involvement. There will be teams in places for a recovery of debris of downed airplanes and unexploded ammunition. RF still hopes that there will be some compromise and/or suspension (delay) of problems for a certain time. RF has already stated that in a face of conflict initiated by the West, it will have to take necessary steps... At present there are still significant number of russian specialist in Iran...

Regarding # 1 and #2 - I assume that RF will advise Iran not to strike civillian population centers in Israel . However it will be meaningless if Israel causes civilian casualties in Iran first. Supreme leader Khamanei announced earlier that response to an aggression will be proportional; it means will be kind of "eye for eye".

The minimum RF's involment will start from actions like i described earlier and of course there will be a call for a UN Sec. C. meeting to impose a truce.
Iran will not head any advices about not responding, however it may withold strikes on the western forces and closure of Str. of Hormuz until they join Israel's aggression or attack on Iran first.

There has been interesting suggesstion by iranian legislator to tax each barrel of oil instead (I believe)of closure of the strait. I wish to learn more about that and feasibility of that proposal.

Re #3 RF by cooperation of both security councils, will share known information with Iran, about those activities of foreign special forces...
In case of West attack against Iran, RF will move and put some troops on the highest alert and assist in an initial phase of war - as described earlier.In a case of prolonged action, the RF will prepare a release of military equipment to Iran. Russian paratroopers may land in Bushehr area and other places planned with Iran in advance...

Re # 4 - Possible street unrest in the streets of iranian cities may only be associated with a protest against the West or israeli aggression and in support of Iranian leadership... This support may even include famous names from Iranian opposition. In a war time conditions, any pro western expression might immediately be annihilated; before it even starts...

To the best my knowledge, if it is true -Iranian opposition might have learned from facts of Ms. Neda S's tragedy and her handler behavior; - "12 years older boyfriend?"- Caspian, who "performed" interviews in Israel not long time after her tragedy...

A-F

Anonymous said...

USA involvement is about the threat of Iran's WMD but mostly about oil in the ME. Iran's ultimate target is to overthrow the Saudi monarchy and to create a Shia dynasty in the whole ME (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen too). Iran has been meddling in Saudi Arabia by sending Rev. Guards to Yemen and infiltrating Saudi Arabia. The monarchy is concerned that its suppressed Shia population will uprise and USA is concerned about Iran controlling all the oil. And Israel, though rightfully looking out for its own interests, is the USA excuse to destroy Iranian weapons now.

Jabbar Fazeli, MD said...

Thanks anon 5.19

I don't disagree that oil is a central part of any US policy in the middle east. We only have to look at the difference between the us and Weston stance in Libya vs Syria in recent months. If Syria had as much oil as Libya, the west, including the US, would have military intervened by now.
As far as the Shiite/ Sunni issues, I hope you would agree that both Iran and Saudi Arabia are making policy decision based on sectarian consideration with total disregard to human rights, or right or wrong. A perfect example is the Saudi intervention in Bahrain to quell the Arab spring there, in contrast to the Iranian support of the Syrian regime despite it's total disregard to the Syrian peoples' lives as they go about their revolution.
.
I assume it would be hard to get you to agree that the Saudis are as sectarian as the Iranians in their regional policies; that is part of the reason this part of the discussion is very difficult to have.

Thanks again for your comment.