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12 August 2010


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Patrick Lang

David Habakkuk et al

I think that chess is an apt metaphor for skilled diplomacy or espionage trickery but not for warfare. IMO the demonic forces released in humans by actual combat are not likely to be controllable in the aftermath of an Israel or American strike on Iran. pl


Would the Iranians have to strike back immediately or is it possible they could threaten some form of retaliation in the future while waiting to see how the US and UN go about disciplining the Israelis?


Come on folks -- do any of us doubt that the Israelis are fully prepared to engineer an "Iranian" attack on US assets, civilian or otherwise, in theater, further afield, or even in CONUS?
Given the willingness of the neocon armchair generals to gain further glory, it wouldn't take much, would it?

Chris E

"The Israelis might be happy to set the Middle East aflame and bring the world economy down in ruins, the Iranians could insist, but conscious of its responsibilities not only to its own people and the peoples of the Middle East"

I'm not sure that the Iranians have as much control over Hezbollah as would be needed to restrain them under this sort of scenario. That's even before you consider all the elements in the ME who might decide to *act* on behalf of Iran, or otherwise take advantage of any confusion to kick off their own displays of violence - I'd bet on uprisings in the West Bank etc at the very least. So the real fear is an explosion of unintended consequences.


Isn't the Persian for chess 'shah mat' or kill the king? I imagine a lot depends on what the Iranians actually want - which I doubt includes destroying the US, or even Israel, for that matter.

What are their intentions? I suspect one is primacy in the Muslim world. If so, do they get to checkmate via retaliation or restraint? With a hundred steps in between.

Curiously, I have a baseball image of Iran as Gaylord Perry, touching every part of his cap and uniform while fidgety batters suspect he's loading the ball up and complain to the umpire to do something.

Guess who's up.

FB Ali

I agree with Col Lang. It is unrealistic to expect the Iranian government to ‘play chess’ when their country is being bombed, their people killed, and their military power destroyed. Besides, the Iranians know that, even if they exercise restraint, the US (and its Western allies) will continue to squeeze them. And, that their aim is regime change, not curbing nuclear proliferation.

Both “gut emotion” and rational calculation would push them into immediately unleashing as massive a response as possible, since they could reasonably expect a second strike (from the US), which would severely damage their retaliatory capability (and much more).

One should also not ignore the strong streak of martyrdom lying deep within the Shia psyche. If Iran is attacked, al-Qaeda’s attacks will seem like child’s play.


It seems that there is an underlying assumption here that an Israeli air strike would be successful. How realistic is that? The Israeli planes would have an awful long way to go through hostile airspace and then be greeted by an enemy that is prepared because the attack is so well publicized. This is the military that could not defeat Hezbollah on the ground so resorted to attacks from the air which, as far as I could tell were militarily ineffective (and this is right next door to them). Also, I don't get the sense that this administration is preparing to attack Iran (thank goodness). They aren't preparing the American people by scaring the bejeebus out of them as the Bush admin did before attacking Iraq. The Israelis may want us to be their attack dog in the ME, but I think the American people are war weary at this point. (Are there any polls on this?)

Paul Escobar

I think a non-response by Iran would actually make "the world community" more open to further action by either Israel or the U.S..

Let's ignore the south when we say "world community", since they're totally impotent.

Instead, let's look at the north (Europe & North America).
Our conservatives were ready for WW3 yesterday. Watching Iran cry at the UN would only get them off.
Our liberal elites are only different in that they're afraid of the "doomsday scenario" that's been described on this blog.

What if Iran begins to look weak?

Wouldn't we be one rural stoning story away from both the Huffington Post & National Review endorsing more air strikes?

You'd start seeing a mass consensus that likens Iran to Serbia...


So what did the Iranian Regime do when attacked as reported in Time Magazine on
Monday, Mar. 25, 1985 ?


They responded in kind (missiles) and as they could (car bombs).

I think any people who feel they are under attack expect that their government give at least as good as they get.

The 'Saddam has WMD' fiasco was explained by the Tikriti himself, declaring that the facade was maintained to deter the Iranians.

I would expect the Iranian regime to retaliate.

As Mr. Dooley says: "It's a good thing, sometimes, to have people size ye up wrong, Hinnessey, it's whin they've got ye'er measure ye're in danger."

(Finley Peter Dunne, Mr. Dooley On Making a Will and Other Necessary Evils , 1919)


I would expect that Iran would ship quantities of Igla-1E's to Hamas and the Taliban.

Then sit back and watch the IAF and US Army dance.

Norbert M. Salamon

Interesting analysis! Possible? yes, Probable? doubtful.

Can the USA stop Israel? yes, if they want to!

Can the USA afford a shootout with Iran? NO!

Can the world afford a shoot ourt with Iran? NO!

Can the world stop USA's shoot out with Iran? No!

Will there be repercussion versus Israel in case of shoot out with Iran? Certainly - only Q is the probable adversary and the level of action! Any country which suffers from the probable oil shock is a possibke retaliator - this group includes all the Nuclear armed states [possible exception is Russia, they have oil].

Would there be repercussion against the USA in case of shootout with IRan? Certainly, the odds that the USA economy survies is close to nil, even if no WWIII, due to the collapse of the USD. The USA is NOT SELFSUFFICIENT except in staple food products and coal [possibly natural gas, but does not have time to convert].

This is another part of the Chess Game: attack is economic suicide!


Wild Eyed Mullahs turning the other cheek; George W Bush negotiating with the Taliban for the Surrender of Bin Laden: Never Will Happen. States retaliate when attacked. But, Wars never play out as expected; usually bloodier and longer than expected.

With the USA acting like it is in a Holy War; “no bloody mosque next to Ground Zero”. To expect Muslims to remain passive when a third Islamic nation is attacked in a decade is to question the sanity of the proponents of the attack. On top of this, conventional weapons just won’t work against deep underground reinforced bunkers. Israel and the USA do not have the equipment or the manpower to invade and conquer Iran.

With millions of Muslims dying from fall out from nuclear bunker busters (the only military option that is effective), retaliation is a given (M.A.D.). We are living in “Dr Strangelove” and “Fail Safe” plots again but with National Leaders who deny the realities of Nuclear War or the value of Containment of enemies.


One interesting component of an Iranian response would be to withdraw from the NPT, declare that the Israeli attack had shown it that now it WOULD need to begin a nuclear weapons program (although of course such an idea had never previously entered their minds), and refuse to re-enter the NPT unless Israel did too.

Coupled with restraint in the conventional response, I think that would be a very difficult approach for Israel (and the US as well) to counter.


Much of this discussion assumes that IR can control the actions of Muslim groups and interests outside its borders. Certainly, Tehran could fan the flames, but can they also damp them down?


I agree with another commentator who mentions if Iran opts not to retaliate Israel might do that for them (or in their name!). Back in the 1950s they were discovered as they did precisely this kind of thing all around the Arab countries (even presumably assassinating American assets). According to documented accounts (see Quicksand) The discovery of one of their ambassadors directing these operations in one country led to Ben Gurion's abrupt exit from politics to go live on a Kibutz.
So trying to guess what happens next (as in Chess) remains a risky business indeed!!

John O'Dwyer

Of course, poker is Barak Obama's game. Any ideas as to what he might be thinking?


Putin warned during the Bush II years that the U.S. was threatening world peace. Don't discount the Chinese either,they need Iranian oil. How many U.S. cities or air craft carriers is Israel worth?


The Iranians seem to think that they can move public opinion away from Israel. Just look at all the attempts made by Ahmadinejad and the regime over the years, with the interviews, hostage releases, etc.

All along, the Iranians have been portrayed as being a bunch of hell-bent nuts. If attacked I doubt the response will be immediate. Instead, they will embark on a diplomatic and PR blitz to try and get the world to turn on Israel and/or the US.

If that fails, their next course of action will likely be to withdraw from the NPT, incite the "arab street" with special attention paid to places such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and position Nasrallah and Iran as the only groups willing to stand up for the Muslim World.

At that point, that's when they will begin a campaign of inhibiting transport and causing disruptions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen/Saudi Arabia, etc., which will eventually very likely lead to war, but at that point it won't be just Iran we have to worry about and that's what they are banking on.


We should tell Israel they better not attack and if they do we will not support them. We should tell Iran what we told the Israelis. If the attack happens, then Iran can decide what to do and then we can decide what to do.


John O"Dwyer,

Let the other Players show their cards first?


The other part of the calculation for Iran may be that with the US presence in Iraq winding down, and the US planning on departing Afghanistan in 2011, the US and Israel will be in a much better position to launch repeated attacks, since the US won't have forces in place that can be easily hit by Iran or it's allies. Of course an Iranian or Iranian sponsored attack on US troops in Iran and Afghanistan would force a US response. So really it all comes down to if the Iranians believe an american attack is only waiting for the right combination of President and Generals or if they think there's still a possibility to maintain the status quo. This doesn't make me optimistic.


These things rarely play out as planned.

I suspect that the Israelis have already war gamed the possibility of a measured Iranian diplomatic response, combined with information operations to win international public opinion. My guess is the attack will be structured to hit emotionally important civilian targets such that restraint is not a feasible option for the Iranian regime.

I would also expect Israeli measures to provoke Hezbollah, Hamas and the PLO. That gives Netanyahu the "existential war" he needs to establish greater Israel, which to my mind is his ultimate intention.

I expect great pressure to be applied to Obama, personally, to ensure that any Iranian diplomatic offensive, if it comes following an Israeli attack, is repelled without any compromise or criticism of Israel. I would also expect that Obama would follow by issuing Iran an ultimatum over any threat to its neighbours, Israel, or Gulf navigation. The language of American statements would be as uncompromising and inflammatory as AIPAC can make it. This would probably best be sold to Obama as measures "isolating" Iran still further in the international community in support of "regime change".

What would follow would be Iranian attempts to violently demonstrate that no one in the whole world is going to be "Isolated" from what has happened to Iran. From that point we are in uncharted waters.


while i wish to believe that the u.s military would be smart enough to not allow itself to be played like a fiddle-adventurism is for amateurs, i fear that the representatives of the citizens are too susceptible to corporate and professional pressures.

accountability at least to the constitution is needed to hold this house together.

we can be led into most anything.


John O'Dwyer:
"Of course, poker is Barak Obama's game. Any ideas as to what he might be thinking?"

I would like to think he looked Bibi in the eye and said,'brag and posture as much as you need to, but if you send those planes over Iraq, they will be shot down and we will not support you.'

"Putin warned during the Bush II years that the U.S. was threatening world peace. Don't discount the Chinese either,they need Iranian oil. How many U.S. cities or air craft carriers is Israel worth?"

How would things be monetarily for Iran if they blocked the straits? In addition to the lack of cashflow, they have no refineries for gasoline.

Clifford Kiracofe

Col. Lang and Brig. Ali make good points: 1) war unleashes demonic and unpredictable forces, 2) martyrdom is entrenched in the Shia psyche: Hussein, son of Ali, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (pboh), the courageous martyr etc.

Why wouldn't Iran target the US "homeland" in an asymmetrical and perhaps dramatic way? The war would not then be some exotic form of entertainment on the nightly (pro-Israel) news to be watched over cocktails or beer. It would be right here, as in 911. How many simultaneous 911 type events spread across the US can we handle?...reflecting on Katrina and the Gulf oil volcano and etc...

And the Israelis really cannot defend against chemical warfare, can they??? Can they??? Can they????? (No, IMO) [Some Palestinians might meet their end but...well martyrdom and all that]

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