by General Fabio Mini
Anyone who thought that the green light for the Israeli-American attack against Iran would come from the American Congress, was wrong. Equally wrong were those who thought that a president like Bush, so frustrated by the Iraqi chaos, the Afghan deadlock and the industrial lobbies’ pressures, would wind up making the decision on his own. The attack against Iran will take place thanks to the newly-appointed French Foreign Minister Kouchner. In these years of threats and counter-threats, of pretexts to make war, the only “revealing” words have been those from the laconic phrase “we must prepare ourselves for the worst.” Many have taken these words as a slip of the lip, others have regarded them as a bad luck-dispelling provocation, others as an instigation and still others as a submission to an ineluctable event. It could be that the sentence contains all of this, but the profound essence of Kouchner’s words is different.
Strange connections and affinities have come into being in these last 15 years of worldwide military interventions of different kinds. Armies have been integrated with private soldiers, visionaries with mercenaries, business with ideology, and truth has gotten so imbued with lies that the propaganda’s logic can’t account for either. And one of the most unusual connections is the one that has been established between military staff, humanitarian workers and foreign policy, to such an extent that each of the three components can pass itself off as the other two. The main cement of this union is the emergency concept. Foreign politics has lost its nature of continuity in the relations between states and in the sphere of international organizations. It has been devoting itself for a while to running emergency relations, meaning extemporaneous relations connected to temporary and changeable interests or positions that are transitory and changeable to variable geometries.
At the end of the day, emergency politics is the only kind that allows a limited and selective commitment. Moreover, it can be done or undone at one’s will, since the dimension of the emergency can be manipulated or interpreted. Following the same manner of reasoning, the armies of these last 15 years have exclusively devoted themselves to emergency situations, preferably abroad and for so-called humanitarian reasons, in order to guarantee themselves consensus and support. There are no longer any armies able to defend their own territories or to provide defence in case of war. It’s increasingly difficult to find a state threatened with war by another state and today all the world’s armies rely on a minimum 12-month notice allowing them to mobilise the resources for national defence. Therefore, they have become specialized in emergency in the respect of both the kind and the timing of the interventions.
When Kouchner candidly states that we “must prepare ourselves for the worst” he simply interprets a philosophy which doesn’t have as its objective the searching for the best, less traumatic solution, but which instead calls on the political class to manage the emergency, the military means and the humanitarian organizations which have by now become inseparable. It’s also about the recognition of the political class’s incapacity itself to think of and find enduring solutions. It is about the military instruments and their incapacity in managing conflict situations until their complete stabilization, and the incapacity of the humanitarian organizations in settling the problems of the people in more long-term perspective than the one offered by emergency. Finally, Kouchner also admits that the summation of these incapacities leads inevitably to war.
Then, war it will be.
It’s obvious that, under these conditions, some exaggerations are required in order to assure the accomplishment of the emergency and the intervention of the various components: something has to happen: what the observers call the “trigger” so that it may provoke the political emergency, there has to be an immediate danger for the security of everyone and a humanitarian catastrophe has to be in sight (the bigger, the better). There has to be, in other words, a manageable apparatus capable of “inventing” the emergency, as well inventing its conclusion that will allow disengagement and the end of the commitment whether or not there has been any solution of these problems. The attack against Iran falls perfectly within this scenario and, looking at it carefully, it’s by now a nearly completed picture.
There are multiple pretexts available for the attack.
The idea that Iran intends upon developing a nuclear bomb and to destroy Israel is by now widely recognized by everyone. What’s missing are confirmations and evidence beyond poor empty boasting, but in the past we have witnessed terroristic boasting that has at any rate, come about and nobody is willing to run the risk of underestimating it, not even for truth’s sake. An Iranian or Iranian-supported attack against the American forces in Iraq, this too without a scrap of proof, has started to persuade even the most sceptical people. Sooner or later, after much speaking about it and evoking it, it will be taken as an invitation or a challenge and it will really be carried out. The support Iran gives to Hamas and Hezbollah makes Teheran extremely vulnerable. An excess or mistake by one of these formations is sufficient to set off an immediate military intervention.
The foreign policy of the most major nations, Europe included, is by now used to the idea that a military intervention is able to bring Iran back to the positions it was in 20 years ago. Moreover, what’s starting to be accepted is the idea that the purpose isn’t only that of preventing a nuclear power from rising but also that of terminating the country as a regional player which embodies oil and strategic interests in every part of south central Asia.
Regarding the military planning aspect, everything has already been prepared for a while. The plans for the attack date back to 1979, at the time of the US embassy crisis, and they have been updated with new technologies and strategies ever since. The thesis that it’s about an attack basically aimed at the atomic installations with no collateral damage for the civil population is only a miserable fantasy from those who have by now become used to telling lies. Even the idea that it may be restricted to Iranian soil is suspicious to say the least, since the end of the stubbornness and the boastfulness of the Ayatollahs, on one side, and by the Israeli-Americans, on the other, has to do with interests and ambitions which go far beyond the Persian Gulf.
Whatever the kind of attack it may be, it will produce heavy military and civil casualties regardless of whether or not a nuclear emergency fall-out or a radiation leak is triggered. Any kind of attack must have as its premise the destruction of defence structures: air and missile bases, deposits, mobile ramps, military ports, naval units, radars and anti-aircraft artilleries, land and armoured units, communication and command headquarters will have to be eliminated before or during the attack against the nuclear installations.
Many of these structures are located near the most densely populated areas. Even taking into account the most sophisticated cruise missiles, the “intelligent” bombs directed against the targets by the Israeli and American commandos, who have already been operative for some time in Iran, a quite high margin of collateral effects remains. Were mini nuclear fission bombs or neutron bombs to be used instead of the conventional “bunker busting” bombs, the damage percentage might rise, even thought not as greatly as many expect.
Also the thesis that precise attacks may be carried out with only one component, the aerial and missile one, is a deception. A complex operation, as they say they want to realize, that aims at bringing the Iranian bellicose potential back to the stone age, requires multiple attack actions, with many forces, from many directions and in short lapses of time in order to prevent, as colonel Boyd used to say, any capability of decision, reaction and counter-strategy by the enemy. The multiple action has to also prevent the direct retaliation by the Iranian air and naval forces against the oil installations and cargos in the Persian and Oman Gulfs. It has to neutralise the missile threats against the American military bases in Central Asia and the Middle East. It has to prevent indirect Iranian strategic operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza, the Caucasus area and anywhere else a Shia may represent trouble. Moreover, Teheran controls the northern coast of the Hormuz Straits and closing this seaway to oil cargos might cause oil prices to skyrocket to levels between 200 and 400 dollars per barrel. The same would happen if Iran turned sabotage actions and bombings against the oil installations of other countries in the area.
The military strategy of the attack against Iran can’t therefore be entrusted to a surgical attack or to one single component. It can be nothing but that of “Swarm Warfare” (or Horde Warfare), unearthed by Arquilla and Ronfeld after the unmatchable realization by Gengis Khan. In modern terms, this strategy makes all the components of warland operative, naval, air, missile, space, virtual and information ones on multiple settings and levels. To achieve all this, it’s necessary that the “swarm” of the various components and actions, which develop by focusing on one place and then by spreading to other directions and places, be are at least sufficient enough in order to prevent any sort of reaction. The hordes entrusted with destroying the targets materially have to get integrated and to focus on targets along with the virtual hordes of diplomatic actions, of psychological warfare and with those of the manipulation of information.
The military actions have to be aimed at creating a humanitarian emergency that allows the international organizations to intervene in Iranian territory. Obviously, the responsibility for the catastrophe must be pinned on the Iranians themselves. Even in this respect, everything is ready or practically ready, not least after Kouchner’s exhortation. International agencies and NGOs are already looking forward to going to Iran to set women free from their chadors. If they are given the chance to intervene so as to gather refugees, to treat the wounded, to do the counts of the dead and to call elections every month, there will be a rush to bring democracy to Iran.
This scenario’s complexity shouldn’t lead one to think that it’s necessary to deploy a huge amount of forces. The Israeli and American flight formations’ bombing capacities are so high that they can cover multiple targets with a limited amount of jets. The naval missiles are by now technological weapons that don’t require mass interventions to carry out precise or wide-scale destruction. If anything, the variety of the plans and the kinds of intervention will bring about coordination, command and control problems, yet nothing out of the ordinary. The US and Israel have been cooperating for half a century and the matters of pseudo-authorizations from third countries about flying over or troops’ transit are by now overcome both by political accords with concerned countries and by the two powers’ inclination to ignore any objections.
What remains is the serious and important unknown of the post-emergency. The doubt about the future of a state which retains imperial origins and outlooks and which finds itself being turned from “rogue state” into “loser state” and being regarded as a political and strategic black hole after having been considered as aspiring to the role of regional power. Deep uncertainty remains not so much for the reaction to the defeat or the reduction of its aspirations but for the reaction to the humiliation. What can’t be ruled out is just what they want to avoid, that is, Iran’s nuclearization, still to be proved and implemented, which might instead be favoured with the help of foreign powers as a reaction to the humiliation.
Originally published (in Italian) by the Expresso Republica and later translated into English by Diego Traversa and Mary Rizzo and published by Tlaxcala