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09 April 2006

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rpe

Some time ago I read about the Chinese intervention in the Korean war and how devastatingly effective large forces of well led light infantry can be, especially when they can cut a heavy mechanized forces supply lines.
If a large Iranian force of light infantry, lavishly equipped with wire guided antitank missiles, manpads, and mortars, with the aid of their Shia allies in the south of Iraq set out to cut our supply lines it would require a very, large, force to reopen the supply line and keeping it open would present a real challenge. Where are these troops going to come from ?

If the Iranians move against us strongly in Afghanistan with the aid of their many local allies how would we stop them ? If the report from Hersh is correct and we do intend to use a nuclear bonb on Nanantz the fallout would reach into Pakistan. Does anyone think the Pakistani government, with its citizens dying from fallout from an American bomb, will be willing to allow us to resupply our troops in Afghanistan ?
Does anyone believe that, if it did work with us in these circumstances, it would long survive ?
I keep reading that the administration expects the Iranians to reply to an air attack on them with terror attacks. Why do they think the Iranians, with thousands of their people dead and dying, would limit their retaliation in any way ?
There is good reason to believe that the Iranians have large numbers of mobile antiship missile launchers positioned to close the Gulf to our navy and the ships that resupply our men in Iraq. Where are the troops going to come from to secure the large segment of the Iranian coast needed to stop the Iranians from sinking our ships at will ?
Does the Navy think it can fight each and every ship through the Gulf without the use of land troops ?
I sincerely hope that someone in the administration has thought these and many other issues through. If not we could be in for a very interesting and lively time.

W. Patrick Lang

rpe

Good thinking, but I do believe the navy can probably handle its own problems. The interdiction of LOCs is a different matter in just the way you say. pl

b

Seaways are LOCs and are vulnerable to the same tactics that land LOCs are.

J

Colonel,

i don't think that the 'current' jcs will be putting on their thinking-caps anytime soon, as they appear (sadly) cowd by the bush neocons, and are incapable of independent military thought and action.

i'm glad that past jcs's can't see what is happening today, so so sad.

ckrantz

Maybe a stupid question but are there enough troops available to secure 'shialand' on short notice? Especially if Iranian regulars or 'advicers' move in largescale in case of a strike on Iran.

I'm obviously not military but if the Shia in the south turns against the US wouldn't that be the end of the US presence in Iraq?

zanzibar

I can understand why folks are concerned about a US attack on Iran. At this stage of the game with the quagmire in Iraq, the probability of a US led attack on Iran is very low. The US needs Iran to sort out Iraq. And the outcomes are too uncertain of air strikes on Iran that saner heads in the military will prevail. At the very least we will have many whistleblowers not just a Gen. Shinseki. Gen. Zinni recently has been very eloquent on the TV shows. I have no doubt that our military have many smart officers that will not be brow beaten that easily now. Bush and the neocons are in a weakened state. Only the diehards will believe them. Their credibility is shot. As many astute strategists state we have to arrive at a political undertsanding with Iran. The question is will the theocrats in Iran see it the same way? Maybe they do not see their political future in the prism of US opposition and martyrdom. That is far too suicidal for a regime that has visions of dominance.

W. Patrick Lang

Zanzibar

"The question is will the theocrats in Iran see it the same way?"

I think that you are projecting a western viewpoint onto them and that they are not interested in doing anything with us other than humiliate us. pl

W. Patrick Lang

ckrantz

"on short notice?" Depends on what that means. pl

W. Patrick Lang

b

Quite right about the "sealanes being LOCs. Having watched the USN at work in the same waters. I have assumed that the fleet will keep the sealane open from the Arabian Sea to Kuwait. No?? pl

Mac Nayeri

PL:

What is that makes you believe
"that they are not interested in doing anything with us other than humiliate us?"

M

Serving Patriot

COL,

Given what Hersch has recently written, a more interesting question is "would the military really do it?" (use tactical nukes). It is almost impossible to conceive, but yet, like OIF, this very real possibility continues to move forward (seemingly of its own momentum). Scary times ahead - now even scarier when one considers that Hersch has normally been about 6 months ahead of events in his "news scoops."

Makes one wonder even more about Bacevich's and Dunlap's comments in the recent Harper's article "American Coup D'etat" (Apr 06). Gives the Hersch article another disturbing dimension.

SP

ked

"This kind of fooling around is probably indicative of an absence of real thought."

Col Lang, not to get sidetracked, but just a point of info... The trend you note is due as much to the outsourcing of thought than its absence. Contractors & consultants have cornered the market on regurgitating familiar terms & concepts into newspeak for a healthy profit. While I've seen no evidence those efforts have enhanced our fighting capacity, I suppose their shareholders & bonus-laden executives are proud.

ckrantz

A week or two. I can't help to think about another war and the potential for a tet style offensive. But I assume the planners have taken all this in account before any action.

dan

I'm assuming that you're contemplating the consequences of a US attack on Iran here - and if so, what good is a mobile force in Kuwait if, amongst other things, the Iranians decide to insert forces into Kuwait in a bid to destroy the US logistics platform?

There's no doubt that the Iranians could take Basra ("10 Mullahs and a sound truck" ) and use it as a jumping off point for forays into Kuwait.

I'm pretty sure that the Iranians can, and would, hit the port infrastructure with their missiles as well. It's not just the LOC's that are vulnerable - the whole platform is susceptible to disruption.

W. Patrick Lang

dan

It is necessary to plan for unpleasant contingencies no matter how bad the odds. What is the alternative? To do nothing?

I was thinking of various end states, among them the one you mention.

I would not conceded the point in advance that US Forces in central Iraq operating in cooperation with a substantial force based in Kuwait could not keep the LOC open. pl

W. Patrick Lang

ckrantz

"But I assume the planners have taken all this in account before any action."

This is a bad assumption. Senior thinking is being driven by the political vision of the administration. pl

W. Patrick Lang

ked

We have grown a generation of senior military leaders who are not really educated. They were created in a sycophantic process and drenched in pseudo science as a part of their vocational training.

K-Mart managers. Do not expect too much. pl

W. Patrick Lang

SP

Don't kid yourself. They will obey orders in anything which is not a violation of the law of war. I would. pl

W. Patrick Lang

Mac Nayeri

I have followed the course of the non-relations between the US and Iran ever since the revolution. I have yet to detect anything on the part of the present Iranian regime other than hostility toward the US. I do not generally hold with the assumption that history will continue in a straight line but in this case I do not think that the Islamic Republic thinks of the US government as anything but an adversary to be frustrated and if possible defeated.

None of the talk about the coming youth revolution and the lost opportunity of the Khatami presidency impresses me as other than a chimera. pl

Serving Patriot

COL,

I agree with you they will follow that order.

But, opening the nuclear bottle without a similar prior provocation seems to me to be a violation of said laws as well as basic common sense. Given that the uniforms are unable to go public with thier opposition, then all of the not-so-subtle off the record leaks to the press have a broader context. Namely, "don't give us that order because we will follow it."

IIRC, at Nuremburg, the military on trial found no refuge in the defense that they were merely following the legal orders of the madmen in charge.

Did you read LTGEN Newbold's printed dissention in TIME? "Fool me once..." as the saying goes. Newbold gives yet another signal from the military to the Administration to not give the order on Iran.

SP

W. Patrick Lang

SP

I am weary of the protestations and lamentations of general officers who have discovered their duty once they are safely in retirement.

It is unclear to me that an order to attack Iran with nuclear weapons would be any more of a violation of international law than the use of any other kind of weaponry.

Clarify? pl

rpe

It is my suspicion that an attack on Iran, particularly one using tactical nuclear weapons, would lead to an all out Iranian effort to bring us to battle and defeat us in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Gulf. The Iranians would see us, in the aftermath of a preemptive strike, as a force of almost satanic evil dedicated to the destruction of Islam. The war that would likely result would be Something like the Russian front in world war two combined with the Crusades at their worst.
Our intelligence assets are designed and optimized to detect the movements of large mechanized forces. Their ability to detect swarms of light infantry aided by local allies as porters and guides is much less evident. In Korea in November of 1950 the Chinese were able to move hundreds of thousands of troops across the Yalu without being detected and in Vietnam we were never able to interdict the PAVN supply lines. Once established in southern Iraq with the aid of all the local Shiite militias and the Shiite units of the Iraqi army, which would almost certainly defect to the Iranians, they would cut our Los in scores of places. The natural choke points at the river bridges would have to be garrisoned to prevent their destruction by Iranian/Iraqi engineers, as would various damns that, if breached, would wash away vital sections of the road grid. This would eat up a good chunk of our combat power, further troops would be needed to protect each and every base south of Kurdistan and it would be wise to try and secure at least one of the refineries. This would eat up even more manpower. The Green Zone would come under siege from the Shiite population of Baghdad and eventually Iranian troops too.
All our positions would be vulnerable to shoot and scoot mortar attacks and from 122mm rockets. The fire would not be very accurate but if there were enough of it we would suffer significant casualties. Helicopters and the big turboprop gunships would be vulnerable to manpad attacks and would take significant casualties. The fast movers are much less vulnerable but are less useful.
Attempts to open the Los would be costly and quite possibly ineffective. A strong mechanized force could move anywhere it wanted in Iraq, paying in blood for each mile from IED attacks, mortars, and wire guided missiles with which the Iranians are well equipped. However they would only control the ground under their treads and within range of their weapons. Any supply convoy attempting to move without a very heavy escort would face almost certain destruction. Convoys with heavy security would be under some form of attack from the moment they left Kuwait. Now it would be possible to build a new road through the Iraqi desert that would avoid many of ambush rich sites of the existing road net but there would still be significant exposure of the supply columns at natural choke points.
Airborne resupply, from what I can determine, is not viable in anything but the short term. Cargo planes are big, slow, targets that would be targeted by Iranian Sams in the air, and rocket and mortar attacks on the ground. We would be under siege in all our positions from the Anbar south. Where we would get the troops necessary to even try to win this battle is not evident. If the army in Iraq is not massively reinforced before the administration attacks Iran it would face the prospect of being nibbled to death like Napoleon’s army in Spain.
The Iranian government has dismissed the Hersh reports as psychological warfare and part of a massive bluff. I suspect that they believe we would have to be insane to start a war with them from such a potentially vulnerable position. I hope they are correct.
I would very much like it if someone could make a case that what I have written is wrong.

W. Patrick Lang

rpe

Impressive.

pl

fester

I am addressing the comment by ckrantz on 4/9/06 on the availability of US forces to control the LOCS from Kuwait to Baghdad by force. I have looked at this question several times at my blog and the question is getting to become more up in the air.

The last time the southern supply lines were threatened during the August 2004 Sadrist rebellion, the Centcom had 18 US brigades in country at that time, and was able to send two brigades immediately south to clear the LOCs in about 2 weeks. During the April 2004 general rebellion, the 1st Armored Division was held over on its tour and sent south to clear the LOCs from Kuwait. Both times, the assaults were assisted by SCIRI aligned forces, and were targetted against ill-trained light infantry.

Right now the US has 16 brigades in the area of Iraq (most of one in Kuwait), and if we are assuming a scenario where the US is attacking Iran, I have severe doubts about the willingness of the Badr Brigades or other Shi'ite sectarian aligned militia, security and military units to positively assist US forces. Instead, the probability increases that everyone retranches to their home bases, and US convoys start getting shot up by their previous security guaranteers and the Mahdi Army.

The US could shift forces to the south to retake the bridge cities and take some control of the LOCs again but at a cost:

"If those supply lines are cut, then within days forward US units will be running short on fuel, ammunition, and spare parts. US airlift is sufficient to make sure that US units are not overrun or besieged, but any active presence and patrolling that forward deployed units are doing would have to be sharply curtailed if US supplies lines were severely crimped if not cut entirely.

If US units can not or will not patrol, and Iraqi government forces get their civil war on, desert, or find a damn good reason to spend the next week painting the rocks outside of the barracks as they keep their heads down, then any semblance of credibility that the US may have attempted to gain through the ink blot strategy will be destroyed. The removal of active patrols would allow an easy assaination, intimidation, and rolling up of informers, cooperators, and marginal deciders by the insurgents. Once the umbrella of public safety is pierced, the public trust in the promises of protection made by the counter-insurgent force to protect its allies loses credibility."

Being forced to retake those LOCS kills the counter-insurgency efforts. That is the trade-off.


W. Patrick Lang

fester

Excellent.

pl

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