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28 March 2008

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William R. Cumming

The problem with logistics analysis in the context of Iran in any permutation or combination totally ignores the fact that Iran did withstand Iraqi efforts in their 8 year war. Admittedly it devasted an Iranian generation of males but cohesion is still there in Iran. All the war games I know about that involved a red team like Iran demonstrated that almost three years would be necessary and a total restructing of conventional capability to do what--occupy Iran (a really huge mountainous country) or as in Iraq just knock off the leadership cadre--don't we know better now? Still the USAF and US Navy still need to show off new toys and concepts from time to time. I read GATES as finally standing up for common sense but who knows? I think Basra's real implications are oil and shipping and not military logistic protection of Kuwaiti supply line to central and even northern Iraq.

Walter Lang

All

I invite general comment on WR Cummings' comment on relative priorities in this situation. pl

Charles I

Now that the USM has well and truly joined in the current civil war(s) - on the losing side, I think - the only realistic question facing the USM regarding its supply lines is whether they be secured well/long enough for its' inevitable withdrawal.

I am not a soldier or professional. It just seems so obviously over to me, in so many contexts, that except for waiting for Bush's successor to do the withdrawal,a ground invasion of Iran from Iraq is the last thing to worry about.

Just as an aside, when considering Bush and Iran, which everybody says there is no way to prevent clashing should the Commander-in-Chief give the order, surely to god by now that order would result in command level service resignations and or impeachment? Is there no free will to found, but I digress.

wiseguy

the speed of the Basra incursion (indicated by the omission of Kurdish forces), the decision to avoid Sadr city, and the lack of any reasonable civilian PR, we can discount policial considerations. If we are trying to secure our supply lines then getting Maliki to do it is a really negative indicator. In his speech Maliki stated that he would route the criminal elements and specifically mentioned national treasure. ISTM that Maliki is running short of oil-sourced cash to grease his operation asince Basra has not been forwarding enough to Baghdad. Could be an end game move. If Maliki falls are there any other pro-occupation groups?

Arun

Juan Cole on juancole.com, Feb 24:

"The problem for Iraq is that whereas Baghdad or even Mosul can be subjected to a vigorous military campaign without that causing the country to collapse, I am not sanguine that Basra can survive a frontal assault and still remain Iraq's import-export entrepot. And, if Basra is depopulated or sent into a spiral of violence similar to the Sunni Arab areas of the north, it will not hold Iraq harmless."

DeLudendwarf

Colonel Lang:

Be nice to put up a topographic map of Iran, to illustrate one of Mr. Cumming's points. Hopefully the map would also show the road networks.

Off to a board game party in Basye, Virginia, where an aging German gentleman, H. Guderian, will debut his latest board game, Cloud Cookoo Land.

It's like Liar's Poker. You can win wars with divisions that do not exist or are tied down elsewhere. Just got to bluff and believe. It's a novel concept, transformational, even.

As he has provided a detailed map, I should be able to find his home, named Alpine Redoubt, easily.

Charles I

Surely Basra is mostly about Basra, whatever the conceits and logistical requirements of an aerial strike on Iran. I'm no soldier, but how can there be a ground assault of Ira?. I'm sure a helluva strike package has been ginned up deliverable in a variety of configurations from a variety of angles - or, geez, I sure hope that's how they plan. I read that if Shrubby wants to go, he can dial it up. Every service wants their oar in the water I guess targeting is not the problem. I posted elsewhere that hopefully that would lead to resignations/impeachment, as dim a hope as that may be. I also posted that the only thing on the ground the USM should be thinking about down south is how to get the hell out as best they can with as much as they can, the 100 year fantasy team excepted. Are we a seriously discussing a ground invasion of Iran from Iraq?

I think Basra is currently all about local politics - or lack of same, and a scramble amongst Shia factions for resources of all kinds. al-Malaki and the U.S. fear Sadr electoral success and irksome democratic legitimacy, a la Hamas. Southern Shia see no political progress. The end of ethnic cleansing consolidating the sectarian division of Baghdad under the auspices of the Surge naturally turns minds to other pressing divisions - and opportunities.

After doing so well on a local level to quiet things down, it inevitable that that progress will now be thrown away attempting anything greater. This must be the penultimate stab at maintaining the fiction of governance and progress Bush must cling to on the precipice of irrelevance and disaster. Even a doable air campaign against Iran is going to engender a greater disaster or an order I find difficult to contemplate. One that can have no good outcome, however calculated to consider temporary tactical supply line security planning.

I think the Sadrists, and all parties are hardier than al-Malaki imagines. A 72 hour ultimatum has morphed into buy out offers on a 10 day plan. Shia factions at the center of Basra were reported to be co-operating to hold their ground.

They will continue to compete amongst themselves and co-operate when prudent until the distortion in Iraqi politics that is America is no longer physically occupying the battlespace of the newly liberated Iraq. Then the main event(s) will unfold, as the other post-Ottoman states around them unravel, Iran, bombed or not, playing a leading role courtesy the singularly inept efforts of the 43 presidency.

LJ

RE: Cummings comment and Pale Rider -- Both seem to argue against the Basra operation as seen in the context of some future Iranian attack. Their seem quite strong to me unless the attack would be purely an air attack. In that case, might Iran seek to call out sympathetic Shites to engage in harassment and sabatoge? See http://www.antiwar.com/lind/?articleid=12583>Operation Cassandra> by William S. Lind for his scenario. I just can't see there being any chance of a significant ground operation into Iran. But an air operation might still have dire consequences which the Basra operation might be intended to mitigate.

Cold War Zoomie

I think Basra's real implications are oil and shipping and not military logistic protection of Kuwaiti supply line to central and even northern Iraq.

I interpret oil and shipping to be some of Maliki's priorities. There are news reports that we didn't really know about this offensive until it got cranked up? That seems strange but I've given up trying to figure out what is plausible and what isn't. Seems true, though, since it appears the Bush Admin was caught a little off guard and events have been so liquid. So supply lines may be one of our priorities while political power, oil and shipping are Maliki's priorities. He may be thinking we'll take care of the supply line ourselves and he needn't worry about it.

Cheney may want to show off some new toys like these in Iran as a last jab in the eye before his next heart attack takes him out for good:

MOP

I wouldn't put it past him, and no invasion necessary.

LJ

If the Basra operation were to be seen as a part of some larger operation against Iran, the only way this seems to be credible would be if the operation would be an air via the air. Securing the supply lines would have to be in the event of Iran seeking to unleash the Shias in a holy way against the occupier. William S. Lind speaks to this in his http://www.antiwar.com/lind/?articleid=12583>Operation Cassandra.

Color-coded Wonder

Dear Col. Lang:

As the author of the remark that is the basis of this post of "Pale Rider", let me point out that I took it for granted that an 'attack on Iran' would be limited to air strikes. I find this discussion of the impossibility of a ground attack useful, but I didn't think of such a ground attack as in the works. What I thought might be the case is an attempt to secure the Supply Lines prior to an air attack on Iran. It now occurs to me that the American goal might be even broader--to secure their southern flank. But things don't seem to be going as well as they might.

With respect,

Color-coded Wonder

Babak Makkinejad

All:

A US war against Iran is a strategic escalation to nowhere.

It will not end in US victory; there are other states besides Iran that will make sure of that.

It will be yet another opportunity to bleed United States white (no pun inteneded).

VietnamVet

Colonel,

The USA cannot invade Iran. The necessary Abrams Tanks and Bradley Vehicles are all worn out and dispersed through Iraq. There are no armored divisions prepositioned in Kuwait to conquer Iranian oil fields. Even if dusty armored forces are pulled out Iraqi FOBs, leaving the grunts unguarded, and gathered together in the desert on the Iranian frontier; the first town the vehicles transverse will be like "Black Hawk Down" gone really bad.

Even, corporate media reports that a conventional aerial attack alone on Iranian buried and dispersed nuclear sites will be ineffective. An Israeli air attack and American escalation can have only one outcome; the Death of Millions. The only effective weapons left to the USA to attack Iran are nuclear bombs.

Color-coded Wonder

Dear Col. Lang:

Two additional thoughts if I may.

1) Time Magazine is reporting the official statement of an American officer in Iraq to the effect that the Maliki attack was coordinated from the beginning with the Americans (as I took obviously to be the case), with the potential for American backup always there. Hence it is reasonable to suppose that the Americans, and judging from President Bush's rapid endorsement of Maliki's attack, all the way up the to WH, have a plan which extends beyond 'fixing' the forthcoming provincial elections through the barrel of a gun.

2. I am struck by photos in the media which show, for example, a Shia militiaman who can't be much older than 14 or 15 wearing of all things standard US issue body armor (London Times Online). Even the Time magazine article shows a militiaman wearing what appears to be body armor. The kid is also shown wearing bandoliers over his body armor, but the shells to my unprofessional eye seem to be for a machine gun and not for the AK-47 the kid is brandishing. I am also struck by the 'scoped' rifles the militia men are shown carrying. We seem to be way beyond the "rag-tag guys with AK-47's" in this battle.

With respect,

Color-coded Wonder

frank durkee

Does anyone have any relatively 'hard' information on the stories of police and Iraqui Army forces deserting, fleeing or joining the opposition?
I read 'assertions' but little beyond that.
Thanks

Curious

map of Iran-Iraq border/Basra

http://wikimapia.org/#lat=31.128199&lon=50.976563&z=6&l=0&m=a&v=2


Current larger political landscape around Iran: (we are slowly loosing the middle east. So the condition required for large scale attack is not there. Diplomatic support, cost, oil supply stability, airspace right, various support.)

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/JC29Ag02.html

Economic gains of friendship
But everything in the Russian policy is not about politics and history, either. Ultimately, Moscow places emphasis on the expansion of economic interests. The "peace dividend" of Russia's growing friendship with the Islamic world is already not inconsiderable in economic terms. In January, for instance, Russia won an US$800 million tender to construct a 520-kilometer railway line in Saudi Arabia. The Russian arms export monopoly, Rosoboronexport, is on record that Russia was discussing supply of T-90 tanks and armored vehicles to Saudi Arabia worth $1 billion.

Again, Russia delivered to Egypt upgraded S-125 Pechora-2M and Tor M-1 air defense systems despite US control over Cairo's military-technical policy. On Tuesday, Russia signed a path-breaking agreement with Egypt allowing Russian companies to build nuclear power plants in Egypt and envisaging Russia providing training for Egyptian nuclear technicians and supplying nuclear fuel.

Evidently, Cairo expects that cooperation with Russia will be more advantageous since the US imposes strict conditions, including regular inspections and control. The US has been pressuring Egypt to place its nuclear program under American control, even as a tender is expected to be floated later this year for Egypt's first nuclear power plant estimated to cost about $2 billion.

http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5iDStjCsz-XIxS_QWYfUufmjZBlAQ

As of right now, without major diplomatic skill we are going to lose the entire region slowly. Nevermind if there is war with Iran. That will flip region public opinion overnight. Even if Iran turning on their nuke plan. (I think they wisely wait as a bargain ploy. All they need now is to flick the switch. But they need nuclear weapons, not nuclear reactor.)

---------

Land war with Iran?

not possible under any circumstances without turning the country inside out, draft, war economy mod, and loosing Taiwan, Korea, central asia/afghan, and Pakistan.

Current oil price is at $100-110, last Basra explosion send the oil price up $2-3. Even a small conflict with Iran takes several months of $150-250 oil price, easy. Nevermind massive land war. Unless somebody reconfigure national energy need first. It won't happen. Even Mexico army can drive up the border and win after this an iranian land war.

-----------
If I were a psyhchotic general still bent on attacking Iran... well.

Since it is not possible to reconfigure Iraq occupation force into a land war formation without the Iranian themselves reacting quickly, then the only way to do it to start the Iranian invasion right from Iraq.

It is possible to invade Iran, but everything has to be done in less than 3 months and no error. And somebody has to think what to do with $250/barrel oil price while stabilizing occupied Iran. (not to mention the bombing will be massive and kill millions of Iranians and the $600-800B war bill.)

----------

basic strategy:

rebuilt Iraq infrastructure for massive and continuous air land war to attack iran. (reconfigure occupation force into land battle while the first day of bombing start.)

Everything has to be done before Iran is able to react. (less than 3 weeks) Avoid lengthy mechanized land war. Everything is airlifted.

The most this can do is destroy the current regime and its functioning army while the larger population still trying to figure out what happens. That's about it.


1. disabled all Iran airports, ports. Iran arm force should be left with semi functioning army only. (no major navy power, no aerial capability)

2. set up air base in 2 center "dry salt lakes" in the middle. I seriously doubt Iran has the capability to defend that. EZ job.

3. from there Tehran airport and QOM airport. (of course, QOM will be gone. and so is major military installation near Tehran.)

4. cut out all information pipe in and out of Iran. (phone, net, international passage, etc)

The entrance point will be the 2 dry lakes. Then force the Iranian to move and do land war in highway 9.

of course any smart general would just Ignore all these shenanigans inside Iran and proceed to attack all oil facilities around Iran.

That's it.

You got destroyed Iran, destroyed world oil facilities, about 2-4 millions dead iranians in all major industrial cities. about 50 nuclear heads an half of Iran major cities are radioactive.

US casualty, about 20K. And we are forever be the bad guy of the world. Israel is gone, we have no more energy nor money to defend them.

At least the general get to test all their nifty toys against russian radars right in the middle of Iran.

arbogast

The Israeli experience south of the Litani is germane.

The ground component was a disaster. The Israeli Army went back to shooting civilians in Gaza as quickly as it could.

The air component, Rice's birth pains of a new Middle East, was much smoother, but had no effect except to further alienate everyone in the Middle East against Israel. Some of Israel's staunchest allies such as Egypt condemned it.

The American Army in Iraq has morphed into the Israeli Army in Gaza: civilian population "control" attempting to use mercenary surrogates (comparable to Fatah). It is not surprising that they would be incapable of mounting a real military operation against Iran.

Will Bush/Cheney bomb Iran before they leave office?

That is the question.

chimneyswift

Well, since everybody's already talking "Cassandra," how bout...


This is the nightmare scenario! This is the thing that was totally predictable from the get-go and now we get to deal with massive implsion and turmoil.

I still think of Chalabi, sometimes. There's a lot that Iran stands to benefit from "our guys."

As for the MSR, I think it's very true that the vast majority of Americans haven't fully considered how bad trying to do Iraq with airplanes would be, whether staying in or trying to leave.

At times I contemplate the works of Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Cheney in staggered silence.

Andy

William Cumming gets it right, but he is far too charitable. The idea of this Basra operation as a prelude to a US ground invasion of Iran is laughable. Pale Rider and others in this thread have only touched on problems with this scenario.

In any war with Iran the greatest threat to supply is not some militia interdicting the MSR to Baghdad, but the Iranian capability to control and interdict shipping from the northern Arabian Sea all the way up to the Shatt. Any operation against Iran must take this into account and necessitate the destruction of the Iranian Navy, most of the Air Force, the coastal air defenses (likely the entire air defense system, such as it is) as well as Iranian coastal defense missiles (which are mobile) and artillery systems and the elimination of forces on, or even capture of, Abu Musa, Farsi and the Tunb islands and numerous oil platforms. All this is achievable by US forces but the timeframe is highly variable and uncertain. Iran has been planning and equipping for such a war for more than a decade and they are not stupid enough to underestimate US capabilities as Saddam was in both Desert Storm and OIF and they will plan accordingly.

And this really exposes what a strategic liability Iraq is in any operation against Iran. Even a limited strike against Iran's nuclear facilities is likely to escalate quickly into the scenario above which would put operations in Iraq at risk to say nothing of the free flow of gulf oil.

In this vein, some have mentioned William Lind's "Cassandra" operation. Unfortunately, as is often the case with Lind, his analysis is full of false assumptions and wishful analysis. Here's what some real experts have to say about Lind's scenario. As just a taste, there are two things the US Air Force excels at - gaining air supremacy Air Interdiction or AI. Iranian formations would probably be destroyed within sight of the Iranian border if not in their marshaling areas.

Finally, I guess I'm not as concerned for our supply lines in Iraq as even Col. Lang is. An outside chance might see a sufficient force mustered and coordinated that might achieve surprise and interdict the route for a few days or maybe a week at the very most, but forces would be dispatched in short order that would open the routes back up. Remember that during OIF Saddam turned many of the cities in the south into strongholds filled with a variety of units - mostly Fedeyeen - and significant stores of weapons and ammo. During the invasion, the US simply bypassed all the cities and left a few screening forces to cover the supply routes for the forces pushing north. Thousands of Iraqi forces died, mostly Fedeyeen, died attempting to cut these lines which where defended by relatively modest forces.

In my estimation the threat to our supply lines in the south is not that 150,000 troops would be "cut-off" for any period of time, or starved, or routed, but that even a temporary interdiction would be a political and possibly strategic victory. Any force opposed to the US does not actually have to cut lines of supply - only make them appear vulnerable. I don't much like analogies to Vietnam, but one might draw parallels in such a strategy to Tet.

However, if one is concerned about the long-term interdiction of supply lines, then the real action is further east in Afghanistan. It's not a coincidence that the US is heavily engaged in negotiating with our "friend" Putin/Medvedev for a supply route into Afghanistan from the north, or that Uzbekistan is suddenly a bit more friendly, or that attacks against our supply convoys coming through Pakistan are increasingly common and deadly, or that our "friend" Musharraf probably won't last the year, or that we no longer bother with any charade that our attacks into "Pakistani" territory are not unilateral. Many have wondered at Bush's tolerance of Musharraf's dictatorship and his weak support for operations against AQ and the Taliban, but the real reason is that our operations in Afghanistan are impossible without a land supply route into Afghanistan. Given the geography, infrastructure and political realities, only two options exist - Pakistan or Russia via Uzbekistan or, less likely, Tajikistan. The question that remains is what will the US have to give Putin to make him our BFF and open up an enduring supply-line to Afghanistan for NATO and US forces?

arbogast

I guess that my first comment can really be summed up by saying that when your military is being used primarily as a police force in an unfriendly, foreign civilian setting, your empire is in decline.

And, if things move as fast as they do in the modern world, it's in rapid decline.

That is what makes the economic news as context to the military news so horribly threatening to the US.

b

My understanding is that the supply route through Aqabar is already in use. The Navy has a floating dock system, INLS, that can be used instead of fixed piers. The capacity problem isn't the harbour. There is also an alternative with Eilat.

The problem is not the supply route unless the folks in Anbar get nasty again (quite possible as they are nationalists like Sadr.)

But a land attack on Iran requires much more and Curious' plan above sounds like a Stalingrad campaign to me.

No, not by land. Bombing is possible but then Petraeus' army in Iraq is in deep doodoo.

The current fighting in Iraq is about something else.

- Cheney wanted the election law done
- Maliki had to formaly give in on that but tricked the U.S.
- Maliki generated chaos in the South so the U.S. would have to step in
- Chaos in the South -> no provincial election possible -> the loot stays with Maliki/ISCI

SocraticGadfly

I don't doubt that Maliki had some degree of coordination w/US. But, I don't think this was about anything beyond Iraq itself. It plays at home as Bush saying it shows Iraqis are "standing up for themselves" but that it's a "process" that will take a while. Gives Schmuck Talk some cover going into the general election, kind of like the reverse of LBJ canceling the bombing at the end of October 1968.

Cloned Poster

You got to contain your gag reflex when reading this shit from the Daily Mail, but the money shot is here.

Already at the Basra air base, I can reveal, the British subsidiary of U.S. construction giant KBR is building four huge dining facilities - known to the American army as DFACs. These are capable of feeding 4,000 men and suggest that the U.S. Army is contemplating a massive deployment to southern Iraq - including a major presence inside Basra itself.

arbogast

I reiterate, the US military has morphed, or been forced to morph, into the Israeli military. Here it is the Israeli Air Force flying support for Fatah in Gaza:

US planes bombed alleged Mahdi Army positions both in Basra and in Sadr City in Baghdad (as well as in Kadhimiya). Kadhimiya is a major Shiite shrine neighborhood in northwest Baghdad, and the spectacle of the US bombing it is very unlikely to win Washington any friends among Iraqi Shiites.

Despite the US intervention, government troops were unable to pierce Mahdi Army defenses or over-run their positions.

I think the very, very key point here is that we are losing. This so-called war is being lost. It is a defeat. A trillion dollar, 4,000+ dead defeat. And Bush is purposely dragging it out so that he can blame the defeat on the next President.

Dave of Maryland

Somebody please tell me:

If we launch a massive air campaign against Iran, what is to keep them from counter-attacking with the massive numbers of surface to surface, surface to ship missiles - which they have, widely dispersed & well-hardened - against US airbases & US Naval ships?

What magic do we have that will turn away a dozen missiles, fired in a 120 degree arc, targeted on a single warship, with a 5 minute flight-to-target time?

The proposed attack on Iran is either suicidal, or it's going to employ a massive number nuclear ICBMs. Since the Iranians know this, the attack is a bluff. Its only purpose is to influence US domestic policy. What other conclusion is possible?

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