Here below is a rather typical article warning of the risks of a war with Iran:

However, I guess is that the Pengaton is looking at a rather different option: a two-phase war.

The first phase would begin by 2-3 days of combined cruise missile and air strikes. The aim would be to degrade as much as can be Iranian C3I capabilities and, even more importantly, to isolate the Iranian coastal areas from the main command centers and resupply routes. Then, as soon as Iranian air defence capabilities are sufficiently degraded I would see very intense bombardments and strikes all along the Iranian coast and the straight of Hormuz combined with a strong effort to destroy all Iranian Kilo-class advanced diesel attack submarines. I personally expect “boots on the ground” *before* this phase is completed: Marines forces with Navy and Air Force Forward Air Controllers would land on key positions along the coast and surround pockets of resistance. Once beacheads are secured, US Army troops would land heavy equipment and establish forward bases. The end goal of this first phase would be to control (but not necessarily occupy) most (but not necessarily all) of the Iranian coast with the hope to remove the Persian-Arabian Sea lines of communications from a threat of Iranian attack or blockade. This goal would need to be reached within 4-6 weeks to achieve the desired effect.

Once enough counter-battery capabilities are concentrated along the coast (and to a depth of about 10-20km depending on terrain) and once Iranian active/passive detection capabilities are sufficiently degraded, the USA could announce that the sea lanes are safe, open and protected from any further strikes.

The second phase would include strikes at the “national infrastructure” (read: terrorising the civilian population into submission and, hopefully, into revolt against their leaders) and proactive support for various anti-government forces (Kurds, etc.) and an air/land/sea blockade against the remaining part of Iran. This second phase could be sustained for a very long time.

This was would be a US/Israeli war in which I do not expect the Brits to participate directly. Most of NATO will be busy preparing (or actually executing) an extraction under fire of UNIFIL forces from Lebanon. Obviously – all this would be done without any UNSC resolution authorizing this. Lastly, this scenario would *not* requiere the use of nuclear weapons by either the US or Israel.

The official justification for the actions will be “preventing Iran form aquiering a nuclear weapon” while the real goal of the war will be to economically ruin and politicall weaken Iran.

Does this sound plausible? How about the nuclear option?

There are two options here:

a) the US attacks Iran.

b) Israel nukes Iran.

The second one has some very real advantages. First, it does not involve an over support from the USA (covertly, such a strike would not be possible without proactive US support). Second, since Israel is already the most hated nation on earth – even more than the USA – it will not create much more problems, except possibly in the USA but these can easily be taken care of by mantric repetitions of the word “Holocaust”. Besides, even if the public opinion in the USA will be appalled by an Israeli nuclear strike – who cares? All they have to chose from is the Republican Zionists or the Democratic Zionists (I like to think of it as the choice between kosher Pepsi and kosher Cola). Second, such a strike would not involve the already hopelessly over-extended US military, not a bad thing at a time when Dubya is calling for MORE forces to be sent to Iraq. Thirdly, such as strike would – presumably – scare the wits of the “AYE-rabs” and other “ragheads” and convince them that while the Israeli got their “elite” butts kicked by a very small Hezbollah force in the war this summer, the Israelis are still the big bully of the neighborhood. Not to mention that this would also feel good for the “patriotic” crowd in Israel. So this option does appear to have some real advantages. However, it fails to achieve the real main goal: to “bomb Iran into the pre-industrialized era”.

I sincerely believe that the boggyman of the “nuclear armed Ayatollah” is not at all the reason why Washington and Tel Aviv are after Iran. First, there is a really nasty and terrorist supporing government out there already armed with nukes: Pakistan. For anyone knowing anything about ISI, there is the real threat of nuclear terrorism. Iran’s government, for all its rhetoric, has consistently behaved in a super-reponsable way, even when provoked (as it has been many times by the USA and by the Talibans). No, the REAL goal here is to punish the Iranian population for its support of “the mullahs” (as the expression goes in the USA) via the ballot box. This is exactly the same logic which brought the Israelis to cover all of Lebanon with bombs, missiles and mines, the same one which made them kill over 500 people in Gaza, the same logic which made the US bomb all over Serbia and Montenegro and the same logic which explains the bizarre embargo of Cuba. The message here is: you support the bad guys, you pay for it.

An Israeli nuclear strike on Iran would most definitely not achieve this kind of result. At best, it might provoke Iran into some kind of retaliation, but I personally doubt this very much. The Iranian response will be a mix of very covert reprisals (a la PanAm 103 over Lockerbie – Iran was behind that one) and economic and political hell to pay (think the oil barril at over 100 bucks and Shia insurrection in Iraq). They just ain’t going to behave like Saddam Hussein would have and uselessly launch missiles at Israel.

This strike would have to be a one-time, limited strike on one, maybe two, facilities. It would not hurt the Iranians in any significant way. A nuclear strike campagain is just not feasible for political and, even more so, technical reasons.

So my guess is that the first option – an American bombing campaign with a possible limited coastal invasion is still the preferred option in Washington and Tel Aviv. The only question is whether the US military will go along such a lunacy. I personally do not doubt that the vast majority of the US military command is opposed to that kind of crap. However, the civilian leadership might just force them to do this anyway. This is where this thing will be decided (and not in the pathetic Congress).

But if common sense prevails in the USA, yes, Israel might go ahead and just do it.

It is also important to keep in mind that both Dubya and Olmert have really nothing to loose. Both have proven their idiotic incompetence beyond anyone’s doubt. Unless they can deliver some kind of feel-good “victory” to their supporters they are going to loose power. Bush has the option of a new 911, but Olmert does not (the Israeli society is FAR more pluralistic, more inquisitive and more restless to allow their politicians to use this kind of tactics). Besides, after the stomping Olmert got in Lebanon – who needs a 911 in Israel?

So my personal bet is as follows: I think the USA will attack Iran, if they don’t – Israel will. Either way, we should all begin planning for an oil barrel at over 100$ and more “homeland security” to silence the opposition.

(written sometimes in February 2007)

The Essential Saker: from the trenches of the emerging multipolar world