CHESTER HAS MOVED!: The Future of the Iranian Nuclear Program, Part III

Thursday, November 18, 2004

The Future of the Iranian Nuclear Program, Part III

[Note: Have been consumed with non-blogging domestic issues. Light blogging tonight, but will return full force tomorrow afternoon for a few hours.] [Note: See Part I here, Part II here.] Analyzing all military options in one post is far too unwieldy, and would be sloppy. Therefore, the remainder of this series on Iran will be broken down into much smaller parts. This part is a group task. Before diving in to analyzing specific US military options vis a vis Iran, The Adventures of Chester would like to request a group brainstorming session. Using the power of distributed intelligence, we ask you, what are the range of MILITARY options (not diplomatic, not economic, not informational)? Let's see what ideas get tossed out on the table and then we'll look at a number of them, or combinations of them. Readers will forgive the use of editorial privilege in deciding which to consider and which to combine. We've developed these so far: Limited Political Objective: Destruction of Nuclear Infrastructure 1. Aerial raid or campaign to destroy WMD infrastructure. 2. Ground-based raid (heavier raid) to destroy WMD infrastructure.. 3. Ground-based sabotage (lighter raid) to destroy WMD infrastructure. 4. Combination of aerial raid/campaign and ground-based raid to destroy WMD infrastructure. For example: a. Aerial raid on majority of infrastructure, seizure of key installations via ground or over the horizon, in order to perform intelligence exploitation, or to capture existing facilities intact. b. Man-hunting operation designed to find and capture key members of the scientific community, possibly combined with aerial raids on a number of their locations. Still Limited, but Expanded Political Objective: Destruction of Nuclear Infrastructure, Weakening of Regime Power (a "punitive campaign") 1. Aerial raid on WMD infrastructure, aerial raids on critical vulnerabilities of regime power. 2. Aerial and/or ground raid against WMD infrastructure, aerial/ground raids on critical vulnerabilities of regime power. 3. Aerial/ground raids on WMD infrastructure, ground raids on critical vulnerabilities of regime power, fissure of the nation into a zone of Iranian control, and a zone of US-backed resistance control. Unlimited Political Objective: Destruction of Iranian Nuclear Infrastructure; Removal of Iranian Regime 1. Aerial raid on WMD infrastructure, small-scale and singular aerial decapitation attack against key individuals, institutions, and symbols of Iranian regime. 2. Aerial raid on WMD infrastructure, rolling aerial campaign against all regime targets: political, economic, military. 3. Aerial/ground raids on WMD infrastructure, aerial/ground campaign against entire Iranian regime. Continued occupation of WMD infrastructure. No alternate government created by US forces. Quick exit of US forces from majority of country. a. Same as 3, but with extensive use of local Iranian resistance. b. Same as 3, but with overwhelming US ground force. 4. Aerial/ground raids on WMD infrastructure, aerial/ground campaign against entire Iranian regime. Creation of US-supported government zones. US long-term occupation of these zones. Slow attrition of remaining regime power. Could be lighter, or heavier than option 3. 5. Aerial/ground raids on WMD infrastructure, aerial/ground campaign against entire Iranian regime. Creation of US-backed government. Long-term US presence in Iran. Some Other Wild-Card Options (these break the rule of military-only actions, as they are truly combinatory in nature) 1. Encouragement of aerial strike by proxies (Israel) on WMD infrastructure (military + diplomatic) a. Can include logistical or other support. 2. Support of internal rebellion; ground raids on WMD infrastructure in conjunction with opposition groups (miliary + covert/CIA) What say you, readers? Please offer your thoughts and we will have a robust discussion. The tempo and content of the responses will dictate the timing of Part IV. Remember, the goal is to imagine all unique options, not to critique them in-depth at this point. And likewise, not to be repititious. UPDATE: Fri, 1:25pm: Excellent comments, readers! Please keep them coming. Remember, the goal at this point is not to critique different actions yet, or to examine the Iranian side, though we will do that too, but instead to offer unique solutions that have yet to be mentioned. I have strong opinions on many of the actions proposed thus far, but will hold back for awhile to let more flow in. The best comment thus far, which offered an idea completely unique from any others, was posted by "tdbedilion" and involved "military option to squeeze the Iranian economy at its pressure points" to destabilize the regime. Other good comments continue . . . Sporadic posting throughout the afternoon has begun . . .


Blogger john said...

Actually, I think we should first consider what options the Iranians are going to exercise. I'm not a former military officer, but I offer to play the Iranians. It seems fair, since the Iranians calling the shots aren't military officers either.

In setting out the Iranian options, I'm guided by several ideas. #1 I really want my bomb. #2 If I pretend to cooperate with the Europeans and make nice with the Chinese I can count on avoiding an attack before Nov 2005 (12 months).

I'd put the secret nuclear program (which I don't freeze) under a Children's Hospital in Tehran. With any luck, that would be next door to the Chinese Embassy.

If I run out of room I'll put some things next to the most culturally sensitive sites in Qom.

Finally, I slip over and have a little chat with Saudia Arabia. The conversation goes something like this: "Look; we don't like you and you don't like us. Fine. But I our necks are on the line. So here is the deal: You publicly commit to an oil embargo the second American bombs start falling on us, demanding cessation and reparations, and we will be good victims and hunker down. Otherwise, we throw everything we have in attacks on your oil infrastructure saying you have sided with the Infidels against Islam once more. Did I mention that most of the people living near your oil fields are Shiite?"

Beginning 6 months from now, substantially all military units will withdraw to within 100 miles of Tehran and stay as dispersed as possible.

Airfields will be prepared for demolition / sabatoge so that they will not be useful for air bridgheads.

I do not believe America will use nukes against Iran first.
The crucial objective for Iran is prohibit the US from believing it can achieve a nearly instant KO.
Objective two is to raise the stakes to a point where the US blinks or is unwilling to play.
The population of Tehran are to be used as human shields.
Any conventional military resistance is to be limited to places where the US would have trouble supplying their army.
Delay, hide, and maximize the economic disruption and damage the whole world suffers.

... As Iran, that is my strategy.

So what would you do against those actions?

November 18, 2004 at 11:42 PM  
Blogger adamtait said...

I am going to post this over at Tait Musings as well...

I believe the proper strategy is the complete destruction of Iran's WMD infrastructure and an elimination of the Mullahs in Tehran.

Because our military capability is somewhat stretched, we would have to rely on more than military might.

I would propose a three-part strategy:

First, an effort by the Mossad to infiltrate the Iranian power circle and create instability among the power brokers in Tehran. Iran has a population ready for change, but the mullahs still hold too much power to allow the scale to tip away from their favor. Given the shaky state of affairs at Langley, an appeal to the Israelis, who have an obvious interest in new management in Iran, could start the covert process. This effort would revolve around finding allies in the higher military or political ranks.

Second, logistical and weapons support to Iranian revolutionary groups. Given the US military presence in both Iraq and Afghanistan, we have the means to seek out and supply groups willing to fight against regime targets in Iran. This would necessarily involve the use of special ops soldiers training these groups and preparing assaults on key targets, either WMD infrastructure or military installations.

Third, coordinated air strikes against harder targets, both WMD, political, and military infrastructure. Hopefully, the Mossad's covert operations are successful among Iran's military leadership to the point that we will not face heavy military action. But air strikes should target the Iranian Air Force, key leadership positions, and communications targets. Once we achieve air superiority, a similar wave or air strikes would target and eliminate the WMD infrastructure. Finally, the political leadership would be targeted.

Of course, these three 'prongs' would be coordinated, with special ops forces leading attacks with the revolutionaries and coordinating air strikes on chosen targets.

November 18, 2004 at 11:45 PM  
Blogger tbedilion said...

Under limited politcal objective consider as additional tools 1.capture and control of all oil terminals/ pipeline termini- military economic blockade, 2. control and restriction of airspace- civilian and military "no fly zone" over all of Iran, 3. destruction/disruption of telephone, satelite, whatever communication- essentially any military option to squeeze the Iranian economy at its pressure points.
Perhaps in combination with strikes against WMD facilities or as a sole solution- the West offering a stark trade "keep your oil economy or your WMD but not both". Someone with more information on Iran's oil infrastructure and economy should weigh in on this first though.

November 18, 2004 at 11:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like this one but not for any military reason; I have no military background to offer an opinion (do I get points for being a Hogan's Heroes fan?).

Aerial/ground raids on WMD infrastructure, ground raids on critical vulnerabilities of regime power, fissure of the nation into a zone of Iranian control, and a zone of US-backed resistance control.

On second thought, if we're gonna take Iran on, I prefer to give them everything we have and not just bloody their nose. Those mullahs still owe us for the hostage taking and I don't see them being any tougher than Hussein's thugs. Whatever our military folks and the President decide is fine with me, just do it.

November 18, 2004 at 11:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

read something recently in an areospace journal concerning an EXTREMELY hard metallic projectile. the example they gave was it punching a 2 inch hole thru 5 feet of fortified 'bunker type concrete' and with almost no effect to the projectile...they went on to say it could be fitted somehow to a GPS guidance system...ass end of a smart bomb, and used to "punch" a hole thru a reactor under construction, leaving no REAL damage, yet rendering the structure unuseable. the cover for such a covert ariel attack would be to 'pick a fight' along the border and in the first 1 -2 hours of the fight , try a fast 'homerun' attack on the WMD structures with some level of shoulder shrugging as to what, if anything happened.....that's my thought

November 19, 2004 at 12:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about a low level campaign. Primary forcus will be on training and supply to native fighters via special ops. We can then bring US air power into play by providing air support to a "Student Revolution" and attacking suspected WMD sites that are vetted out on the ground by newly aquired HUMINT sources.

If the short range objective is to curtail/cease Iranian WMD production, then give them a resource hog by proxy fighting a low level confrontation in thier own back yard. Then pound any suspected WMD site from the air.

If a long range objective is to overthrow the current rejime then we can supply equipment and logistics to accomplish the task while keeping out troop count in country low.

I don't think Israel is going to be invited to this party, at least not in a high profile fashion.

November 19, 2004 at 4:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

More importantly i would like to hear from readers what reponse Iran would have to the various plans of attack and how we could respond to them. It is too simplistic to consider moves only 1 ply deep.

November 19, 2004 at 6:05 AM  
Blogger diane said...

Some random thoughts; Iran is a hard problem because none of the "usual" solutions really come together well.

First, the US does not have a good track record of backing local insurgents, and the whole world knows this. If we choose a strategy that includes this, we really need to get our act together in a hurry. The option has a certain poetic justice, because Iran does this so well throughout the region, and it might indeed have the effect of drawing down Iran's support of Hizbollah, Iraqi insurgents, etc. Might. But again, we have to do it extremely well, far better than we've ever done it, or it's likely to backfire in such a volatile region. Picking this option has the feeling of wishing for a free lunch, and there's no free lunch here.

Second, any limited war has to include taking down the electrical grid, and keeping it down. The primary reason is that producing nuclear weapons requires huge amounts of electricity. Stop the electricity and you've nearly stopped their WMD program. Of course, it will also have hugely disruptive effects in Iran's economy, and might, MIGHT be the most effective support we can give to local insurgents. And might make logistical support to insurgents more effective.

Third, the Israel question. On the face of it, it would seem impossible to keep Israel out of any action in Iran, and Israeli involvement will mean the end of the word "limited" in any kind of "limited" war. It would set the entire Middle East on fire.

The trump card here is that Israel is facing a civil war in Palestine. We can offer them a trade: Israel focuses on containing the Palestinian war, and the US involvement in Iran, along with continuing efforts to quiesce Iraq (meaning continued "engagement" with Syria) will draw down the amount of outside support and interference that the Islamic world gives to the Palestinians.

Fourth, we have GOT to do a better job of anticipating consequences, and planning both strategic and tactical follow-up, as well as anticipating and preparing to block countermoves from Iran and the rest of the Islamic world. We can't afford to underplan here the way we did in Iraq. Broadly speaking, this is a general problem of limited objective wars in a region full of unlimited consequences.

November 19, 2004 at 6:17 AM  
Blogger BCM said...

Just curious, does Iran have any international interests that could be attacked or used to pressure them?

November 19, 2004 at 6:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Might there be a way to strike a nuclear facility in such a way as to simulate a nuclear "Accident"? With proper intelligence, and assuming we could hide and/or deny any involvement, we would be left in the position of offering aid, cleanup, etc., while condemning the proliferation of nuclear technology to states not qualified to handle it.

November 19, 2004 at 6:59 AM  
Blogger Phoenix_Blogger said...

Just one point - on the Iranian Student Movement website a while back they were stating, they didn't want US to actually invade, because that would be used to unite Iranians behind the curent regime. Certainly that would be one tactic of the Mullahs. Since all their chips are on the table, they would also increase attacks in Iraq and Saudi Arabia by sympathetic Shiites. This would immediately be played in the Arab Media, CNN and Europe as an attack against Islam and not a terrorist supporting regime. For Iran to ultimately survive they would need the help of China and they would promise China anything in order to get it. What options would China take is another important question. Could Musharaff survive supporting the US in Pakistan if we invaded Iran. Would he begin to think he is next? What impact would attacking Iran have on N. Korea?
Having said all that I think if we're in for a penny we're in for a pound. If we do a limited WMD facility strike we will be in the same position in 5 more years having to go back again. Supporting resistence fighters leaves the US out of the equation when it comes time to setup a new government and we would be left hoping a democracy developed on it's own reminisent of Afghanistan after the Soviets left.

November 19, 2004 at 7:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since this is a brainstorming session, I'll throw out a covert, technical option I heard mentioned on a C-SPAN discussion of the Iran issue. This covered a variety of cyber-warfare operations to create cascading equipment failures in the uranium enrichment process. (Destabilizing operating centrifuges, irreparably contaminating equipment, etc.) On the positive side, this wouldn't result in videos of smoking piles of rubble. On the negative side, you somehow have to gain access to carry these out.

November 19, 2004 at 8:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I could not sign in. Why?

Anyway, my best option is to cause the regime to implode. The one playing Iran above mentionned "Beginning 6 months from now, substantially all military units will withdraw to within 100 miles of Tehran and stay as dispersed as possible."

Achieving that result around a propiscious time (internal elections) will embolden the internal opposition (with some encouragement). This requires guile, patience, coordination and good manipulation of events. The key is to make the anti-mullah masses feel the USA is on their side and do not threaten the country.

The Iran governament would need to mass it's troops to protect the regime internally but convincing it that the forces would be easy target for the US military will force them to disperse and be less effective fighting internal strife.

November 19, 2004 at 10:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a wide range of options that can be envisioned, however I will limit my suggestions to those which have some room for deniability.

Sabotage of goods used in nuclear/military activities that are imported from third party countries

Disinformation efforts against involved personnel to incite distrust between leadership/scientist and citizen/leadership.

Covert attacks against scientist and military such as car/plane accidents.

Sabotage against infrastructure supporting nuclear/military establishments.

Overt attacks against leadership/scientist/military such as IEDs.

Attacks using weapons such as non-nuclear EMP devices against nuclear establishment and government offices.

The longer we can attack yet deny the more freedom of action we will have in the long run. Our goal should be to delay the construction of nuclear weapons and support internal unrest until the mullahs fall .

November 19, 2004 at 11:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is an option that no one has thrown out. It was an option that was discussed regarding stopping terrorist money movements, but it has potentially far-reaching destabilization repercussions.

Destroy the integrity of and their people's faith in there currency. Clean out and or manipulate all bank accounts related to Iranian interests outside of Iran and all bank accounts within Iran. In addition, flood the country with counterfeit money.

If this were a one-time thing, they could recover, but if it was maintained over a period of time, their country could be reduced to, at best a barter economy, and at worst complete anarchy.

November 19, 2004 at 11:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Adding to the post by Anonymous at 2:15 AM, regarding hardened facilities, NEMESIS, an occasional poster at Belmont Club previously has blogged the following:

I am particularly fond of his last few lines:

"The US military knows. I don’t, you don’t, and Henry Solkoski is certainly no longer current. But every day and in every way very smart people here are thinking up dastardly things to do to those who are trying to kill us. And that means that the Iranians could be in for what is colloquially known as a big fucking surprise.

At least that is my sincerest hope."

November 19, 2004 at 11:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

An semi-permeable oil blockade seems to be the best course of action. Most of Iran's oil exports are uploaded onto tankers at one off-shore facility. Iran has no seagoing surface naval assets to speak of, and maintaining a healthy distance from Iran's shore would dramatically reduce the potency of Iran's anti-ship missile arsenal. Not every ship carrying oil need be stopped, if only tankers are stopped, Iran's oil industry will essentially be shut down. A small amount of smuggling similar to the level that occurred under Saddam could be allowed. By avoiding Iran's littoral waters, we dramatically reduce the capability of Iran's sub fleet as well.

November 19, 2004 at 11:50 AM  
Blogger Dunerati said...


these are probably in the wild card(think USS Maine:)) section but I prefer limited military with one of two reactions:

Military/covert action to cause small nuclear meltdown(sabotage) at the "nonexistant" secret nuclear site. this in turn causes invetigations up the wazoo(UN, US, EU, even IRAN) because everyone will look like the fool. This in turn causes the world community to act a little more united and cause france to stop being such a raging Pu$$y and actually put up(or just shut up, either sufficient) Any further military action would then be globally supported to fully deal with wmd/regime.

Covert/military action to hit religous weaknesses of regime. They rule through control of moral highground and police state procedures. Hypocracy isn't limited to our politicians.

November 19, 2004 at 12:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In case anybody missed it, DebkaFile had a post today describing some potential scenarios that have suposedly been war gamed already. Interesting.

November 19, 2004 at 12:32 PM  
Blogger JohnW said...

Here's a consideration for the unlimited option - Iran already has the functional institutions for a democracy. There is a parliament and a prime minister, they even have elections. Last I read, they were agitating for reforms, and pretty pro-American, too (I'll admit I could be wrong about that). The problem is any reform minded initiatives are squashed by the Mullahs (through the Islamic high court and the secret police), and elections are rigged. So the unlimited option would be much easier to implement than in Iraq, ie we wouldn't have to stand up the democratic institutions from scratch. We take out the military, the secret police, and the mullahs, and there is a government ready to take control.

November 19, 2004 at 12:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ohhh... You guys are playing kind of dirty..

Hmm in that case..

I like the idea of using 3rd party sales. Sell them some much needed equipment for thier nuke facilities, then command dtetonate it. Possibly a small 5K nuclear device. Make it look like an accident.

Assasinate a high level pro-democracy leader. Make it look like the mullahs did it. Start a PR campaign based on this. Force confrontations between pro-democratic populace and the mullahs security force.

Dump radioactive material all over one of their plants. Make it look like an accident at a nuke facility there. This will bring out the anti-nuke crowd in droves. Serious international pressure to follow!
You could also use this as a galvizing action to start the average Iranian into a anti-government frenzy.
Show the current govt as bumbling to the point of making a huge swath of land contaminated.
Image all the anti-mullah PR you could run on that...!!!

Dig deep into the skunkworks and find something really special. Something everyone will think is an act of god or the like. Maybe we have a super ray gun that turns all fissile material into clay or something. :P

November 19, 2004 at 1:04 PM  
Blogger clearedhot said...

Of course we are all working here on one common assumption: That Iran actually has a nuclear weapons program that needs to be stopped. Where did we get that intelligence, and who vetted it? Sure Secretary Powell has stated it, but I seem to think that he's been wrong before. Being a guy in the target destruction business, if you are going to target something, you better damn well be sure 1)it actually exists 2)where it is and 3)how it is going to react when hit with the selected weapon set. Otherwise, things can go bad on many different levels.

November 19, 2004 at 1:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


You may want to look at the interesting analysis provided by on the Iran/Military Option. The article can be found at:

Great Blog, keep up the great work!

November 19, 2004 at 3:12 PM  
Blogger jfreddd said...

Some political conditions are necessary preconditions of any long-term success.

The first is mobilization of widespread pro-democracy activity. That entails effective [military-?] neutralization of the massive Revolutionary Guard forces. Is there reasonable hope that the "regular" military might partly sit out a conflict while the RG's are mired in counter-insurgency and counter-sabotage?

The second is having us (USA) clearly identified with pro-democracy nationalists. It seems that "progressive" Iranians are unabashedly nationalistic, unlike our local loony Leftists. Iranian pro-democracy nationalists ardently desire Iranian nuclear forces, just without the Mullets.

Effective US actions that clearly attack the RG's in a context of defending or saving pro-democracy forces might offer pro-democracy Iranians enough breathing room to accept a "quid pro quo," foregoing their nukes, but, er, who is going to sign the contract?

The third is pro-democracy success--a successful revolution. Smashing infrastructure makes that unlikely because a dominant majority has to have at stake to defend to defend democratic-cooperative ways.

November 19, 2004 at 4:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1) Bomb Lake Urmia as well as other lakes in country
2) Make use of Caspian and Black seas to strategic advantage. Don't know quite how and you Navy types can figure it out.
3) Isolate and bomb any signs of volcanic activity. This should produce a a diversion.
4) Bomb via plane or submarine Tehran, Mashad, Isfahan, Tobriz,and Bandfar-e 'Abbas.
5) Take out telecommunications sector-TV, radio and such. Al Jezerah??
6) Identify nuclear plants and destroy.
7) Simultaneously, attack the monetary system- banking, foreign exchange and so forth.
8) Simultaneously, put extensive pressure on United Nations and various NGO's.

November 19, 2004 at 4:54 PM  
Blogger Kat said...

From this perspective, I think we should remember what our resources are.

1) Most operational military units are dedicated to Iraq and Afghanistan. That includes spec ops that are busy hunting the terrorists in these two countries and in Africa. Money for reconstruction would be limited as well as resources (men and materials) are obligated in Iraq which cannot be allowed to run into the hole that it would go into if we diverted resources.

2) Farsi speaking spec ops are just as rare as good arabic speakers.

3) Political repercussions of overt American attack while Iran is declaring it's cooperation with the IAEA.

4) Financial repurcussions (to the world) of taking Iranian oil production offline. Unlike Iraq, who barely contributed 3% of the oil from the region, Iran produces and exports a significant portion of the oil from the region. Something along the lines of 20-25%. This is largely pumped out by French, Russian and chinese oil companies (recall our UN problem with Iraq). While Russia might remain silent, France could do nothing militarily but could be a big economic and verbose opponent; and China, who gets a large amount of oil from Iran and the region, might take it as an act of war.

5) Having Israel act as our proxy, will not look anything but Israel acting as our proxy. Further, this would not be the same as their attack on Iraq when many of these countries (including Iran) were both militarily weak as well as despised Saddam.

6) As a continuation from #1, as much as Iraq is being infiltrated from Iran, it is still somewhat controlled. Loss of control would be a greater fluidity of men and materials for the insurgents/terrorists.

Having said all of that, we have to use those as our preconditions for action, not necessarily a critique of other suggestions.

Things to remember about Iran:

1) they don't trust their military as much as you think. There are special units that are ultra loyal to the government and these are kept closer to the seat of power. Other units are not allowed in or near the cities (same deal as Iraq in many instances; or, if you prefer, the reason the romans did not allow their legions into the cities) as they may prove to be a coalesced force that can turn against the regime. They also rely on paramilitary units (like Saddam's fedeyeen) for the same reason: loyalty to the regime or loyalty by money.

2) Like Iraq, if we are desirous of turning it into our third success at ME democracy, we cannot afford to destroy it's infrastructure if we want it to come on line quickly. Oil and finance have to be able to operate in short order and limited humanitarian issues would have to be able to be dealt with quickly.

3) They have more political pull with France, Russia and China. Unlike Iraq, that basically was a completely failed state, Iran has money and it spends it overtly with these partners. These people would have a huge stake in stabilizing the country on BEHALF of the mullahs. You could expect large amounts of funds and armaments to be shipped in. Particularly from China (overtly) with some less "overt" actions from the others.

Ok, we've set some of the preconditions for the environment. We also need to know what our political aims would be.

1) Reduce or destroy Iran's ability to produce nuclear weapons.
2) Insure the region does not explode in total chaos. (No overt attacks on Israel; complete uprising of Palestinians against Israel; groups breaking up into different extremist organizations and trying to kill each other as well as destabilize any other regimes like Saudi Arabia or Jordan)
3) Limited or no damage to the financial or resource interests of major players, like China. (must keep them out of play as much as possible)
4) Reduce or destroy Iran's ability to assist terrorists or meddle in Iraq's affairs/reconstruction.
5) The third democracy project in the ME.

Options are, therefore, limited by our political objectives, but can and should change based on actions or issues within Iran itself.

Option set 1:

1) Intelligence. This is key because it would help decide whether we should chuck some of our more friendly political objectives because we are running out of time or if we have time to work on a few of our other options and bring them to full fruition. We may be re-aligning our intelligence efforts right now with the changes going on at the CIA. Good start.

2) Money/Finance. If we are serious, we need to start spreading money around that country liberally. More and better support to opposition groups both in and outside of Iran.

3) The financial squeeze. Right now, we are allowing our dollar to deflate in order to offset some of our own financial issues. In relatively quick order, we can turn that around and start squeezing the Iranian dinar (?). That will mean that some of our "friends'" monetary valaue will be squeezed, too, but, if we are serious, we take it on the chin while we continue. Once their dinar is squeezed, they will be unable to purchase as much men, materials and armaments. This will also cause financial issues for your common Iranian citizen. all the better because there is nothing that can make the citizens more angry than the perception that their government is screwing with their livelyhood. This will help garner support for the opposition "reformers".

4) Opposition. Speaking of the ultra lite reformers of Iran, we should not throw our support behind those people. They are just the next dictators waitiing in the wings for sure and if they feel threatened they will, as they have lately, throw their support behind the regime. We need to fund the hardcore, ultra democracy crowd. They need bigger and better ways to spread their propaganda as well as fund safe houses and other underground operations. The more propaganda they produce the bigger their numbers. And they need BIG numbers if this is to go down relatively peacefully as well as actually stand up against the crackdown.

5) Buying loyalty and isolating the government. Remember funding and finance and the fact that there are probably plenty of military units that are not exactly for the "mullacracy" but defending their homeland. The generals can be bought. This may also go for a large number of the police. This buying has to go through the Iranian opposition and not us for the police. So, the opposition may have to get better at getting down and dirty in the "financial warfare for loyalty" program and despense with some of their potential ethics or issues of getting involved with the police. Of course, that is risky because the police could double time them so this would have to be either a quick flooding of many or a slow feeling around depending on the amount of time we have. We buy the loyalty of the military directly as this will require huge individual sums and certain guarantees. No career officer is just going to dump it and become ultra patriotic if he thinks it will all go in the can and leave him in a hole. This includes airforce or other airborne units as much as possible since we will want them to stay down during the "civil uprising".

6) Overt American political support for the movement. Once the movement gets going, the US comes out and starts calling for Iran to heed it's people and give them true democracy. What is France going to do? Oppose democracy? They will look like idiots, so they stay quiet. Maybe join the cacophony of calls from the world if it looks like the movement will succeed (they won't want to lose their financial and oil options if they oppose a movement that maybe in control soon). Russia stays quiet or backs US with some vague words. China says nothing but may start funnelling more money and arms to Iran.

7) Overt American military support. This doesn't mean actual action inside Iran, aside from maybe some spec ops working on the military buying. Once the movement gets big enough and we have turned a few units (or more) of Iranian army, we put a large number of aircraft carriers in the gulf for "protection" of the region. Move military units in Iraq in fairly decent numbers to the border with Iran for "protection of Iraq" and smaller scale in Afghanistan for same "protection". We let it be known that we will protect the civilians of Iran if the army or any military groups start going wholesale slaughter on them. This will decrease even more the numbers of military units willing to participate against their citizens (they'll look bad as well as risk certain death).

Now, the important things that have to happen to make this viable is that the movement of the citizens has to stay underground a bit longer but has to get big very fast. Without large scale support, it is just another uprising to be put down by the Iranian militia. The money factor will very important. We have to be able to squeeze Iran and flood them with American money at the same time. Their currency will be crap and ours will be king. Just another leverage for the opposition movement. And, intelligence wise, we need to know who INSIDE Iran we can work with that isn't another Chalabi or an Arafat/Saddam in waiting.

For all this to work, it is contingent on making Iraq quiet as quick as possible depending on how fast we want to make this operation work.

other issue, if this all goes south and it turns into large scale bloody civil war, we should understand that oil prices are going to go out of this world, China and a number of other countries will start buying large stockpiles of oil to offset their losses, oil prices go out of this world, economies suffer. This has big implications.

Option set 2 depends on if Iran is on the fast track fast track for nukes.

1) We go hardball. (Like what Powell has started) We start denouncing Iran as attempting to get nuclear weapons, loudly and with table banging as necessary.
2) Muscular posture. We put bombers on alert and send more air craft carriers to the gulf. Again, something dramatic will have to change in Iraq to free up troops for "border protection" or we add a huge number of troops quickly. This would have already started under the guise of "troop rotations" in the region before we add cruisers, carriers or submarines.
3) Brinkmanship. We need giant brass cajones. We will have to be ready and able to take action. We cannot blink. I imagine there will be some dissenters in America, but the political ones will shut up and sit down because, in the end, this is about America and not their world vision of huggy love peace.
4) Internal Opposition. If we're lucky, the internal opposition will feel like it is an excellent time to rise up. Then these guys will be on a two front defense, both internally and externally. If we're smart, we would do several of the items in Option set #1, like buying off military and flooding the opposition with funds.

You will note that I do not actually talk about physical military operations. From this perspective, we may achieve our goals without actually doing a military operation. That would be the ultimate goal of our actions.

But, we would have to be prepared to commit, if necessary. We may be setting the stage already. With the IAEA initiative, we are slowing up their capabilities, although not destroying it. This will give us a little time to work on items from option set #1. At the same time, the outgoing Sec of State suddenly becomes hawkish and denounces Iran as attempting to get nukes. Setting the stage for option set #2.

These options are both contingent on getting Iraq largely pacified. I don't mean that it has to be on the absolute road to recovery, It has to be relatively quiet.

Everything we do will have to be quick and decisive, whether option 1 or 2 as Iran's oil offline will cause a serious crisis. Think 1978. Saudi Arabia and the other opec and non opec providers do not have the capacity to cover the loss of that oil. That's a bit of a trump card in Iran's favor we cannot lose sight of. even Iraq, if it increases to the 4.5bl bbls/day that it might reach in 2005, cannot offset the loss. Short term loss might be acceptable, but a civil war or general war drawn out over a year or more will crash the system.

Last option set #3:

1) IAEA and European activities slow down but do not stop Iran from getting nukes. Iran gets limited nukes.
2) We work on a number of items from option set #1, all political and financial.
3) There is limited military option after that and there will be wide spread calls for the US to stand down and avoid potential nuclear warfare.
4) We hope for political change in the country.

Let's not forget, no matter what we do, these outside countries, not just Iran, will be obstructive. The idealist in me hopes for something resembling option set #1 but the pragmatist in me says option set #3 is very likely.

November 19, 2004 at 6:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A few points to remember about Iran's oil industry:
1. Most of Iran's oil deposits are in the Southwest corner of the country, which is separated from the rest of the country by a substantial mountain range. Control of these assets does not require possession of the entire country.
2. Iran's oil exports largely flow through a single off-shore area, which is additionally easy to control.
3. Japan is the largest importer of Iranian oil, followed by China, and then Europe.

November 19, 2004 at 8:34 PM  
Blogger Kat said...

Anonymous...good point. We could, in a limited action, take control of their oil fields and squeeze them within an inch of their lives. We could administer the oil and the funds, keep the oil flowing and put the dividens into a trust for the "future" Iran.

I would do this under option sets 1 or 2. Limited incursion into Iran in support of the civilian uprising. However, this would be risky if it appears we are interfering in their national politics and appear "overt" act of war.

Best action would be to follow the same pattern as Iraq under any situation and secure the oil fields to insure that they continue to flow and will be a resource for the new government.

November 19, 2004 at 9:12 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

If direct military options are not practical, and I am not sure if such operations are or not, then another possibility exists. Iran is pretty much contained as the Soviet Union was during the Cold War. An aggressive containment policy designed to inspect and prevent the spread of weapons grade material or weapons, supplemented by an aggressive policy of undermining the current regime and giving support and aid the to 70% of Iranians who detest the regime, may offer a possible way to end this threat over time. Not a good option, but there are no good options. Just a thought.

November 20, 2004 at 8:06 AM  
Blogger Dominic said...

I discussed this issue on my blog site a bit. I believe that the real question that should be asked:"is Iran a threat if they get nukes or and to whom"? Would they be a threat to the United States or Israel? That is the real question.

Iran a threat to the United States:

With 150,000 troops sitting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States FINALLY has options in the MIDDLE EAST! However, Iran's situation poises just as much of a problems as the threat of them obtaining nuclear weapons. Their WMD making facilities from I understand are spread out over the entire nation. This makes if extremely difficult to contain them. Thus, the only solution is to launch a widespread, far ranging aerial and cruise missle attack. Would Bush really be willing to send troops into Iran with a nation of 60+ million as compared to 26 million people in Iraq. The object of this attack, to take out WMD facilities and also to send a message to the Iranians that we are serious about containing the Middle East. The options in my estimation are truly limited on the military front, created by the Iranians spreading out their capabilities.

Iran a threat to Israel:

If this the case that we would enter a potential war with Iran, I DO NOT THINK that we would attack.

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