Tuesday, December 2, 2014

What IRIAF intervention in Iraq means for Iran-led coalition forces against ISIL

Commentary by Mark Pyruz on IHS Jane's 360 report: "Iranian Phantom jet strikes the Islamic State in Iraq" by Gareth Jennings, dated 30NOV14.

File photo of IRIAF McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II, of the type supporting Iran-led coalition forces against ISIL in Iraq
Photo: Mohammad Razzazan

COMMENTARY: Earlier in the year there'd been rumors of IRIAF participation in the Iraqi theater of war against ISIL; now with this recently provided Al-Jazeera footage there exists evidence of just such an intervention taking place, in support of Iran-led coalition forces.

The Al-Jazeera footage supports the claim IRIAF F-4E Phantom II fighter-bombers have conducted at least six combat sorties, assisting to repel an ISIL counterattack against Iran-led forces near the town of Sa'adiya, Iraq.

Aviation writer Babak T states this fall's IRIAF "gunnery training competition" was scrubbed in the lead-up to these combat missions flown against ISIL in Iraq. Source also indicates IRIAF Su-24MK "Fencer-D" aircraft from 72nd TFS have been shifted from Shiraz/Shahid Dowran TAB 7 to a forward base in western Iran for potential combat missions against ISIL in Iraq.

IRIAF F-4E aircraft of 31st TFS for a previous year's gunnery training competition at Tabriz/Shaheed Fakouri TAB 2
Photo: Babak T

There are a couple of errors in Mr. Jenning's report at IHS Jane's 360 deserving correction:

1) Sukhoi Su-25 "Frogfoot" close air support aircraft provided by Iran to Iraq were supplied by IRGC-AF, not IRIAF.

2) Open source evidence exists of quantities and types of Iranian-supplied weaponry in Iraq in excess of those identified by Mr. Jenning.

Gareth Jennings provides an opinion that the two coalitions against ISIL-- one U.S.-led and one Iran-led-- "should they happen to cross paths over the coming weeks and months it would no doubt muddy still further an already complicated conflict." This UOI writer sees combat missions flown by IRIAF over Iraq  suggesting a level of communication if not coordination with American military forces, in at least as much as pre-informing mission planning. Same applies to SyAAF strikes against ISIL in Syria, where on a given day SyAAF flies combat sorties against ISIL positions at Raqqa [click HERE], subsequently undertaken by U.S.-led coalition forces [click HERE].

The IRIAF intervention brings into focus two aspects of the Iran-led coalition against ISIL in Iraq:

1) The Iran-led coalition against ISIL in Iraq comprises an Artesh component, as addition to the IRGC-QF component most often made visible by Western and Iranian media sources. With IRGC-QF supplied Su-25 aircraft apparently returned to Iran for service/repair, IRIAF now appears engaged.

2) Whereas the U.S.-led approach to the war against ISIL in Iraq and Syria is reportedly under constant review [click HERE], subject to a forced change at the SecDef position [click HERE] and a pushback for commencement date of U.S.-supported Iraqi offensive from spring to somewhere unspecified in late 2015 [click HERE], the Iranians appear to take a more here-and-now approach to their war effort. As in Syria, more limited, incremental gains are pursued using combinations of reliable ground forces-- be they existing elements of host nation regular army, paramilitary police and security forces, and allied sectarian militias.

Old workhorse American-made F-4 Phantom II aircraft, as well as American training provided during the 1970s, continue to serve as the basis in providing Iran with an air force apparently still capable of effecting tactical results on the battlefield. Additionally, Iranian technical improvisation in keeping these 40-year-old jets operational without manufacturer support, while engineering what are essentially improvised air-launched weapons, should not be so readily dismissed as has so often been the case among Western defense circles.

Iranian-built Ghassed type precision-guided munition (PGM) 


Anonymous said...

pretty good American engineering in those 50 year old planes.

Anonymous said...

and even better Iranian ingenuity in keeping these museum pieces flying despite sanctions and lack of spares since 1979 and having fought a 8 year war of national defence along the way. Iran is now the frontline state of the civilized world against the most vicious terrorists and deserves better equipment.

Paul Iddon said...

Regarding Jennings "should they cross paths over the coming weeks and months it would no doubt muddy still further an already complicated conflict" I'm not sure whether or not he is aware that in Syria the USAF and SyAAF aircraft seem closer to crossing paths. They both launched sorties against the city of Raqqa within a few days of each other recently for example.

I think all these forces have a common understanding. If you the US have what you call "a level of communication if not coordination with American military forces" I think it's a simple understanding like the one the one the U.S. appears to have with Syria. They are not going to engage each other and essentially stay out of each others way while they target their respective opponents on the ground. For now anyway.

Anonymous said...

Iran is a supporter of terrorism and Iran deserves a better, decent government rather than any new equipment.

Iran ia only a frontline dictatorship

Anonymous said...

As mentioned for several months ago the Iranian Armed Forces have defined a security buffer on the border with Iraq, 50 km inside Iraq. That is Iran's "action ground" which basically means if threats get into that area Iran will directly hit them with all the force necessary. This time ISIS has crossed that red line and the best decision is to hit it in order to show decisiveness. Prior to these attacks the IRGCAF attacked ISIS positions with less success as several Su-25s were lost and pilots killed. The IRIAF has shown it has the necessary intelligence, mission planning and execution excellence to make proactive attacks on potential threats beyond the Iranian border.
Iran will soon reveal evidence on who is backing ISIS in the region and as such send a signal to those backers that if ISIS makes the mistake of carrying out attacks on Iranian soil, the ISIS supporter's will be legitimate targets for future Iranian attacks. Iran believes US will stay neutral on the Iranian initiated attacks on ISIS as it is in the interest of the US to contain ISIS which is mainly backed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar (plus some other countries helping with logistics)

Anonymous said...

Not a remotely factual comment.No Iranian SU-25 were "lost" and only one pilot was indeed martyred, a Lt. Colonel on the ground and nothing to do with any air activity. In any case, Iran only provided 6 ex-Iraqi SU-25 which it had been hosting since 1991 and had refurbished them. Iran's limited single plane sortie in Iraq has nothing to write home about. Iranian military is very weak and is sporting a hodge podge of 1960's military equipment and even no match for US supplied Saudi Arabia or Qatar. The reality is that mad mullahs have endangered Iran by needlessly getting involved in Arab tribal wars. The Shah was much the wiser and always kept Iran neutral as it has nothing to do with the Arab world of endless conflict and lunacy. Iran would be much better if it cut its losses and wash its hands of Syria and Iraq, since nothing good will come out of it. The mullahs are more Arab than Arabs themselves.

Anonymous said...

those future attacks that Iran might make on Saudi Arabia will bring attacks by a vastly stronger power down on Iran

Anonymous said...

I hardly believe that... I think Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar are well aware that if their line of anti-Iranian stance continues Iran will not hesitate to pull the trigger. Iran has paid hugely for making the mistake of not attacking Saddam and let him take over vast areas of Iran before kicking him out. This mistake will not be repeated on the trio mentioned. Hopefully the trio will not make the same mistake as they did when they backed Saddam in 1980....this time if they ISIS which will attack Iran, it will be an attack on their mainland not their proxy only

Anonymous said...

@10:09 PM
Regarding the mullahs you are true to some degree, but you should remember that Iran and the mullahs are considered non-Arabs in the Arab counties, but of course Muslims. I know some Iranian analysts in exile make this mistake as they compare mullahs with the Shah and thereby conclude that because mullahs are less Iran-centric and more Islamic-centric it makes them necessarily more Arabs...but that is not the case from Arab world perspective when looking at mullahs and Iran.
With regards to Iranian military, you are right its equipment during the Shah time was state of the art with a very strong air force. I am confident if that path had continued Iran would have a very modern armed force today and also been self-reliant as many top arms industries were actually acquired to Iran by his regime, no doubt about it.
Having said that, once again some Iranian expat analysts make the mistake that if it is not that top standard then it is nothing. This is a not a good analysis...but rather a biased analysis. Iran has been under threat for 36 years now from both regional and global powers and yet no one has had the courage to make the threats real (except Saddam who was kicked out). This if any is a great sign of strength and it should not be ignored but rather fully analyzed. If Iran was so weak, how come Bush didn't dear to attack it?
Furthermore Iran is located in an area with almost 350 million Arabs with huge natural and human resources. Iran can either ignore this mass and isolate itself from them (who are in Iran's immediate proximity) or it can engage and try to get influence. Any rational and strategic brain would plan for the latter.
Regarding the Su-25s, one was shot down and pilot killed, another shot at but minor damage and landed without problem in Iraq from where it had started. A third one was shot at and heavily damaged, managed to get to Iran and land with major damage inside Iran but outside any airfield. Pilot was also injured but survived.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your clarification of your earlier comment and generally good analysis. No one is questioning that Iran is a large and resourceful nation, but getting involved in Arab internal and unending civil strife is suicidal. The 350 million Arabs that you mention, have been occupied, divided and humiliated by merely 6 million Zionists whose economy and military is far more western aid dependent that Iran's ever was or will be. My point is that the Arabs are too divided, fractious and fratricidal to pose any threat to Iran, and if the idiotic mullahs had left them alone and not claimed a holier that thou attitude, Iran would have not even gone to war with Saddam and almost the whole Arab world supported by the west. Iranians are not Arabs you correctly pointed out, but Aryans, largely Caucasian people out of the steppes and adopted their own version of Shia Islam to separate us from the mainstream tribal Sunni version of Arabs.

The mullahs have thrust an intolerant version of Shia Islam down a reluctant population's throat, hence the repression and the sad reality that every educated or sane Iranian's desire to immigrate, not for economic reasons but just to breathe a normal life and not subjected to harsh religious mores and stipulations. It is a sad state of affairs, that Iran a huge nation with such an educated, resourceful and industrious population has largely been marginalized in the region and the world. This also reflects the ineptitude of the ignorant mullahs who have isolated Iran and have real defence or foreign policy. Iran is the only nation in the region, that does not have a professionally educated dedicated foreign service of intelligence agency. Most Iranian "ambassadors" in the world are mullah's bazaari buddies or sycophants. Living on Islamic slogans and exaggerated self-importance is not going to cut the mustard in the current complex global geo-strategic environment that Iran faces. The mullahs have mishandled the nuclear issue as well and brought the harsh sanctions on the nation by playing around with the issue. Either test a nuclear weapon like India, Pakistan or North Korea or just dismantle the farce that is already isolating Iran and costing the economy too much. However, never underestimate Iranian resilience and ingenuity as even the most vehemently anti-Iranian western analysts have conceded the sheer brilliance of Iranian engineers and technicians in keeping these 1960's Vietnam era F-4E Phantoms flying despite almost 37 years of no access to manufacturers spares. However, if Iran is to be regraded as a major power in the region, it has to create effective foreign and defence policies relevant to the multi-polar world and break out of the bazaari world of haggling and inflated claims. Iranian people as heirs to a great civilization deserve better.

Anonymous said...

Part 1
Thank you very much for a great analysis…probably the best I have read on this site’s comments until today. You have touched several types of important topics which in my opinion are great questions, but I am not sure if I have the answers to as you have indicated to have. I will try to elaborate my understanding of those issues.
First of all, let us touch the topic of immigration. Iran is the greatest brain drainer in the world and that has been the situation since the 1979 revolution, I think Iran has topped the list during the last 3,5 decades. Having said that the immigration is both negative and positive. Negative for Iran as the quantity and quality is just too high. Positive as the network of Iranians living in other countries is increasing and their exposure to alternative lifestyle is also increasing. If I was a Western diplomat I would issue a temporary visa to ALL Iranian youngsters so they can come to West and see life is not that much black and white as described back home. People here are struggling as much as everywhere else to make the ends meet and try to create a family and have an enjoyable life. Most importantly, here especially in US, “people have the right to pursuit happiness”. This is the greatest differentiator between the West and the rest of the world. It might be so that you don’t “reach happiness”, but the system gives all the rights and measures it can to allow you to “pursuit happiness” and this is compelling to many people of the world as you only live once. You want to test your wings and see yourself develop each day based on your efforts. This is unique and attractive and I don’t think any country in the world can provide that without a Western style of system. The Shah was smart enough to realize this piece as he had lived in the West during very early ages of his life and as such he tried to create an Iranian version of it and he was almost successful given all the internal and external factors until the revolution came upon him.
Now comes the question, why did he fail? He had the highest number of educated staff in the world in his governments (probably better than many countries in Southern Europe). He had the largest and greatest trained army in the region. He had the highest number of students abroad and the oil export Iran has ever experienced. Well the list can go on…but the Shah failed and failed miserably. I know one can write a Ph.D on why he fell and all the internal and external conspiracies, but the question is why he failed?

Anonymous said...

Part 2
He failed because in politics, in contrast to other areas, you have to be alert 24/7 and as soon as you don’t make moves someone will do it against you. If you are just the “good guy”…you might end up becoming “Mother Theresa”, but you will not be a great statesman. You have to see what the results of you efforts are and not the efforts themselves and that is extremely important. For example if you have one of the best military forces in the world you have to make sure it is involved in wars and not only keep it for “peace”. This is the way the US military is kept updated and alert, every 10 year or so it is involved in major wars abroad, because if that is not the case then that military will be counterproductive and might even turn against you. The Shah got all those super advanced weapons because it was supposed to engage in a war with Saddam and crush him so Israel could be pleased and feel relaxed. It was the, according to your comment, so called Zionist lobby that worked hard to get the Shah whatever he wanted in the hope he would attack Saddam (Israel’s nr 1 enemy) and crush him. The Shah was too smart and finished off Saddam’s ambitions without an attack…but that was not what the Israelis liked and had hoped for, so its entire lobby turned against the Shah. There are many interviews on the Internet where he is more or less expressing his dislike on what this lobby is doing against him, especially the Western media which turned against him fully and pictured him as a Middle Eastern version of Pinochet. And so much for his so called great allies who left him alone and let him die in an Arab land (Egypt) as the last greatest Persian king, a punishment which the British also enforced on his father also dying in Africa. For the history he and his father will remain the “fathers of modern Iran” and no one can change it and no one can change their dedication to Iran and the Iranian cause.
You are talking about bazaries and all the others. If these bazaris were so powerful, what would you do as a leader? You would either neutralize them or engage them. And what did the Shah? He never engaged them as they were considered as uneducated and not very modern. And he did the mistake of not neutralizing them by establishing a new modern bazar elite. So he let them make more and more money due to economic development of Iran and become financially stronger and yet not involved them. This was a great mistake.

Anonymous said...

Part 3
What did he do with all the students he sent abroad? Once again the initiative was good but what was the result? 90% of them turned socialists and communists, especially those in Western Europe as at that time the left was sexy and popular in the West. So once again he spent the money Iran was earning and educated and trained next generation leftist guerrillas. He also sent live the court proceedings and execution sentence of leftists on the national TV.
What did he do after all of these mistakes and many others? He appointed a French educated Iranian who had spent more time in France and was married to a French national to lead a country which was facing an Islamic-Socialist revolution. At that time he should have appointed a Mullah as a prime minister if he had learnt “politics” and not being modern or being rational. What was the result? The guy dismantled the intelligence service at final hours of the revolution and then released all political prisoners so they could come out and accelerate the events in the absence of the intelligence service!!! And what happened to that great military with all the modern equipment? It was neutralized (correctly to avoid the military standing against the people) by strong influence of a top American general secretly visiting Iran.
So one learns that in the world of politics “actions” are more important than “education” and it is an art and not a science and that you have to focus on the “results” of your efforts and not how you achieve those results. The mullahs know this very well and they have applied it masterly. This does not mean they will be eternal, and that is probably good for Iranians, but let us not make the mistake of why they have survived. In the world of politics you cannot only please all and try to be the nice guy all the time….that is counterproductive and will not only finish you but maybe also finish the country/empire you are ruling and we have numerous examples of that in the history. As such for the moment the survival of Iran is above any other agenda as some regional powers once again want to see Iran wiped off the map and their alliance is not against the regime but a sovereign, independent and strong Iranian nation and they will do whatever they can to harm the Iranians, like the sanctions they have asked their global masters to impose on the great Iranian nation which only hurts the ordinary Iranian who tries to make a living, like many of us in the rest of the world.
We are a proud nation and as such we don’t let outsiders come and dominate us. You are referring to the Shia Islam etc. I have never been a religious person but you should check the history of the Ottoman Empire and see its expansion all over the Middle East and North Africa and you should check which nation (the only nation) managed to stop its expansion into its territories and after that you might make a more balanced conclusion. Iranians are a faithful nation, due to their Zoroastrian background. When people didn’t have any spirituality the Iranians had a state religion which until this modern time has proven to contain more humanistic elements beyond the current greedy consumerism or the murderous versions of hatred exposed by many religions. As such faith has an especial place in the Iranian mind, whether we like it or not.
Finally Iran is not Pakistan and as such Iran doesn’t feel an immediate threat of nuclear war like Pakistan fears India. Why should Iran go Pakistan’s way of testing a nuclear weapon? Why not go the Israeli way of not showing any proof of a weapon but send the message indirectly? If you look at the scale of the Iranian nuclear program and measure that with both Pakistan and Israel you can make your own conclusion on the Iranian capabilities in this area and then you will realize what you should expect in case of a wrong calculation or mistake. But there is not a need to test anything and start an arms race and endanger the relative security of the region and the world.

Anonymous said...

Part 4 (final)
Iran’s air force is old and needs modernization, but make no mistake Iran has the delivery mechanism which is unmatched in the region, both short, medium and long range missiles will give Iran the necessary deterrence in case of a danger. The fact that Iran has 3-stage and also 4-stage missiles, of course for space activities, sends the necessary signal to anyone who thinks he can “hit and run away”. That time is over since long time ago.

Anonymous said...

Thank you kindly for taking the time to reply to my comments in such a thoughtful and considerate matter. If all educated Iranians had an open system to debate these points at home perhaps we would have a much better Iran. One point I may add, and many including Assadollah Alam (in his book the Shah and I) have alluded to is the Shah's inability to respect the divergent views of Iranians preferring the US or Israeli "advice" and secondly as you correctly pointed out, his inability to engage all sections of Iranian society (bazaaris included) and perhaps work towards a more inclusive government or a Constitutional Monarchy. I also agree that sending over 60,000 Iranian students abroad in such haste after the 1973 oil price hike was in hindsight a big mistake. Iran was modernizing too fast for a mostly agrarian country with a conservative society and sudden exposure to the western political dynamics like Leftist movement even communist or Marxist dogma was very unsettling for most of them. That is why a whole range of opposition forces from the Qom mullahs, to Marxists like MKO and communists like Tudeh ranged against him. Iran also failed to develop and open civil society where open political discourse could take place to dissipate the political steam. The creation of SAVAK by CIA and Mossad and subsequent perceptions of mass repression also undermined the Shah's position and gave ammunition to his internal and external critics. I firmly believe that the Shah at heart was a strong nationalist but he was arrogant to some degree and failed to understand the Iranian psyche considering that most of his closest advisers were out of touch with the street mood. I also believe that the mullahs have reached a similar level of arrogance and belief in their own indispensability. Iran is once again at a crossroads and I hope it can maintain its stability and relative cohesion considering the imploding region around it. I also believe that Iran is no pushover militarily mostly due to the sheer dint of its size, resources and strategic missile deterrent. However, successful diplomacy and astute military alliances would further Iranian interests and security.

Once again thank you for your very illuminating comments and hope that Iran achieves the position in the world it much deserves. It is indeed a great nation with huge potential and an equally illustrious past.