Springs never hop over the Suez Canal
by Fair World 101
There is no real comparison between Iran’s military capabilities and the combined capabilities and support systems already piling up against it
Over the past couple of months, speculation about a US or Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities has made headlines around the globe. Being pro-US means nothing really for a lack of choices. Being pro-Israel means caring about the people of Israel and it does not mean using it as an excuse for power brokering and suppressing dissident voices. Being pro-Iran means the same thing. In all these countries, it seems that the people involved in selling the national images to the world care more about promoting the government’s policies and strategies than the people of these countries do. In general, people want to live in peace, do not like to be taken for granted and do not like wars and violence. Whereas governments in general do not listen to the normal peace loving people, they only listen to the ones causing a stir, the ones which probably have nothing more to do than create chaos and benefit from it.
The US has been made to see or it sees itself that Iran with its ballistic missiles and potential of developing a nuclear weapon poses a threat to all friends and allies in the Middle East region. Not only has Iran ignored the US warnings to stop but has also announced that it is “self-sufficient” in nuclear technology already. Iran claims that it can domestically produce its own raw uranium for enrichment. Iran has been saying that all warnings are unfair and it wants to go on with its intentions because they are peaceful. Needless to mention that Iran is one of the states in the region that has signed and ratified the NPT, whereas India, Pakistan and Israel have not. Iran and India are the only countries in the region with ballistic missiles of all four types, short range, medium range, intermediate range and intercontinental range. Israel has medium and intercontinental ranges only. Pakistan has short and medium ranges only. Iran has more varieties in the medium range in the region that anyone else.
Nothing will convince anybody and if Iran does not stop or change its course in allegedly pursuing nuclear weapons, and if all options, diplomatic, peaceful, blackmailing, and/or economic sanctions fail, the chances are the US would take the lead, as it always likes to do, in carrying out a preventive military strike against Iran. Iraq, or Afghanistan or Pakistan or Turkey will not fight a proxy war for anyone anymore. In such a case, the US itself will not only strike but also have to provide a defence umbrella against any Iranian retaliation that would be aimed at the US military targets or allies in the region. How easy it is and how efficiently it could be done would be dependent on many conditions. How much time is required to build that umbrella and how neighbouring allies can be satisfied with the expanse of the umbrella shall be the main obstacles to overcome before anything happens. Looking at history, it seems likely that as soon as these obstacles are removed, no further talks or reasons shall be required. Many already believe that attacking Iran needs no justifications and Iran does not help either with its aggressive statements on a regular basis.
So let us say if a decision is made and a strike happens, what could be the primary objective? Find specific nuclear targets and destroy them. Halt the nuclear programme. Set it back for a few years, but for how many years, because it can never be totally stopped forever. Destroy other installations for nuclear or non-nuclear military development, research and production. Destroy Iranian missiles in the air in the pre-boost phase to reduce the number of warheads intended for US allies like Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait. Support and boost the early warning radar systems and ballistic missile defence systems already installed in the allied countries.
Some reports suggest that Iran has five main nuclear facilities, eight ballistic missile bases, around 15 missile production facilities and around 22 mobile missile launchers. Considering the expertise, precision and technology required for such a task, where only military installations are destroyed, minimum civilian casualties occur, and Iranian missiles are destroyed before they cross the mid-course phase, no other country is interested in the strike but the US has the ability to do so. This would also suggest that if Israel alone had the required expertise, a strike would have happened long ago. This also suggests that Israel, even if it had the required expertise, would have been stopped by the US because the former’s actions would lead to a wider regional war, which would ultimately draw in the US and leave hundreds of Americans dead in various places.
Seems Bush wanted to setup early warning and attack systems in Poland and the Czech Republic but Russia started becoming unhappy about it. Obama decided to make Russia happy, get closer to Iran, make the allies near Iran happy, be closer to the oil, settle old animosities and find a reason to be in the Arabian Sea for many more years. This was easier, had already been started and could be done in stages as barter trades are chalked out, irrelevant treaties are signed, kings are forced to bend and people are made unhappy. If a few aircraft that are more modern are provided to the allies, they would promptly allow air strikes from their bases, as they have done in the past on many occasions. No Arab country really liked Gaddafi and Iran did not make many Arabic-speaking friends either.
There is no real comparison between Iran’s military capabilities and the combined capabilities and support systems already piling up against it. Some of the problems are the complexity of the mission, nature of the terrain, dispersed locations and distances involved. Any strike will require various types of aircraft with various technologies with various roles and multiple levels of coordination between all of them. Just the bombers with heavy payloads will fail without various types of escort aircraft, specialised electronic warfare equipment in the air, airborne communication jammers, offensive counter-aircraft, unmanned aircraft systems, systems for intercepting missiles early and air-to-air fuelling, etc.
Amidst all the plans for a strike comes the warning from the IMF about an expected shock to the world economy if Iran decides to blockade oil exports via the Straits of Hormuz in the Gulf. The volume of Gulf oil exports amounts to some 20 percent of the world’s oil production. Any major disruption affects the entire economy of Asia and all world oil prices. Virtually all of the Gulf’s oil must pass through the Gulf, the Straits of Hormuz, the Gulf of Oman, and the Arabian Sea and then through the Indian Ocean. It goes in Iran’s favour if the oil routes are disrupted as it will not have much to lose from the disruption as compared to the damage to the rest of the world. Saudi Arabia, UAE and Iraq have pipelines that will prevent the disruption only if the upgrades to those are completed in the next few years. With alternate oil and gas flow lines not enough yet to avoid the disruption caused by a blockade of the Straits of Hormuz, a strike on Iran seems a far-fetched idea. That is why the Arab Spring really never crossed the Suez Canal but it has provided a peep show of what might happen in the future if full support is not provided when required.
FairWorld101 is an alias for a Pakistani blogger who writes for various newspapers on social and cultural subjects since 1993 and also published a book in 1997 on adventure travel photography about his experiences from 45 countries. He currently resides in Karachi and works as a strategic planning consultant for various international, public and private organisations for projects related to urban development