I feel that there is a need to clarify a few things here which apparently baffle and perplex many. Since the beginning of this crisis the Saker Community worldwide (literally!) has been crazy busy trying to keep up with the events and make sense of what seems totally insane. I have been working nonstop for the past 2 days now and I ask you to forgive me for being even more curt than usual (nevermind my typos and grammar!). Here we go:
1) Iranian nukes: Iran never had a military nuclear program and Iran will never have one. For two reasons: first, nukes were officially declared “haram” by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. But there is also another reason, unless you have a full spectrum of nuclear weapons (like Russia and the USA) your nukes are just targets and not only that, they become ideal targets from a PR point of you: the US and/or Israel can claim that they HAD to use nukes to destroy the Iranian ones. The truth is that Iran does NOT need any nukes and that acquiring them would be a major mistake and would paint a huge bullseye on Iran. I know that Iran has announce that it is now moving out of the international agreement about the Iranian nuclear program, but I don’t believe for one second that they are trying to manufacture nukes. Beside, they have also added that they are still working with the IAEA and that they will resume compliance if US sanctions are lifted.
2) US/Israeli nukes: yes, unlike Iran, they have nukes. But what they lack are good targets. Oh sure, then can (and will) strike at some symbolic, high-visibility, targets and they can nuke cities. But “can” does not mean that this is a smart thing to do. The truth is that Iran does not offer any good targets to hit with nukes so using nukes against Iran will only make the determination of Iranians (and they allies) go from “formidable” to “infinite”. Not smart.
3) Iranian air defenses: they are pretty good, but no match for a determined USAF/USN attack. Yes, if the US attacks there will be much more resistance from air defenses than over Syria, and the US will loose a number of missiles and aircraft. But not enough to stop a determined attack. As I said it a gazillion times, air defenses are a game of numbers. Even if your missiles have a perfect hit ratio (1:1), this will not help you if the enemy has more incoming missiles than your stores. Speaking about stores, yes, air defense units can reload, but only if they are alive to do so in the first place! Thus all the opponent needs to do is fire enough missiles at your battery to make darn sure that your battery is destroyed before it can reload. Okay, this is a gross over-simplification, because in reality batteries can be mobile and batteries protect each other. But you get the idea. Only a totally modern and fully integrated air defense network on all levels (from MANPADs to long range missiles a la S-400/S-500) can deal with all the threats. Iran is not there yet, in spite of having had some major successes on the air defense front.
4) How can Iran win if it gets nuked?: US Americans are cursed with a special mental block: many (most?!) of them sincerely believe that war is an end in itself. It is not. Wars ALWAYS have a POLITICAL objective. This is why the USA has both won each war it fought since WWII AND lost each one too. If you just look at, say, casualty figures or which side suffered most destruction, then you can believe that the USA is a formidable military force. But just look at the 2006 war of Israel against Hezbollah. Both the US and Israel declared that they had “won” – yet it was one of the most abject military failures in history. And for Hezbollah this was a “Divine Victory”. Folks – you need to free yourself from the categories and slogans used by the AngloZionist propaganda machine. Wars are ONLY won when a POLITICAL objective has been reached. Just going on a rampage and killing civilians does NOT qualify, even if western political leaders think it does.
If the US uses nukes it will be a political suicide for the US. Well, okay, murdering Solemani is already a form of political suicide. But using nukes will only precipitate even a much faster collapse of the Empire. Here is the unmentionable truth: nukes are USELESS as war weapons in 99% of all circumstances. Yes, they ARE crucial to the balance of terror (kuz that is what this is) between Russia and the USA and, to a much smaller degree, China. But as a WARFIGHTING instrument, they are quasi useless. Yes, I know, we are all conditioned to believe that nukes are like a magic wand, or a silver bullet, or a Wunderwaffe (pick your metaphor) – but this is a lie.
So will the US and/or Israel use nukes? Probably. They will do that because they are dumb racists who believe only in violence and in their own, messianic and racial superiority, and because when they will realize that all is lost, they will do what ALL western leaders (including Hitler) would do: make the other guy pay.
The Iranians know that. They have lived under that threat for decades. I assure you that they are ready.
5) Will Russia intervene? First things first. There are NO legal/formal obligations between Russia and Iran and last time I checked, no Iranians have volunteered to die for Russia. Next, yes, Iran is an important ally for Russia. But what most folks are missing is that Iran does not need (or want) a direct Russian intervention. There are lots of reasons (including historical ones) to this. But what most folks are completely misunderstanding is that the Iranians are confident that they can win without any Russian (or other) help. I am in touch with a lot of folks from the Middle-East (including Iran) and I can tell you that their mood is one of not only total determination, but one of quiet confidence. Nobody in the region doubts that it’s now over for Uncle Shmuel. I know, this sounds incredible for folks living in the West, but that is the reality in the Middle-East.
Besides, you can be sure that Russia will help Iran, but behind the scenes. First and foremost with intelligence: while the Iranian have an extremely sophisticated intelligence community, it is dwarfed by the much larger Russian one which, on top of being much bigger, also has technical means which Iran can only dream about. Russia can also help with early warning and targeting. We can’t know what is really going behind the scenes, but I am getting reports that the Russians are on full alert (as they were during the first Gulf war, alas – Saddam Hussein did not listen to the Russian warnings).
6) Should Russia declare that Iran is now under Russian protection? Absolutely not! Why? Think of what is taking place as if you were sitting in the Kremlin: the Empire is about to embark on its last war (yes, I mean that, see further below) and the Russian specialists all KNOW that the US will lose, and badly. Why in the world would you intervene when your “main foe” (KGB/SVR/FSB expression for “USA”) is about to do something terminally stupid?
Besides, this is a cultural issue too. In the West, threats are constantly used. Not only to scare the enemy, but also to feel less terrified yourself. In Asia (and Russia is far more culturally Asian than European) threats are seen as a sign of weakness and lack of resolve. In this entire career, Putin used a threat only ONCE: to convince the Urkonazis that attacking during the World Cup would have “severe consequences for the Ukrainian statehood”. But you have to understand that from a Russian point of view, the Ukraine is militarily so weak as to be laughable as an enemy and nobody in his right mind will ever doubt the outcome of a Ukie war with Russia. This is an extreme and exceptional case. But look at the case of the Russian intervention in Syria: unlike their western counterparts, the Russians did not first spend weeks threatening ISIS or anybody else in Syria. When Putin took the decision, they simply moved in, so quietly that THE BEST military in the galaxy never detected the Russian move.
So, IF, and I don’t think that this will happen, Russia ever decided to move in to protect Iran, the US will find out about it when US servicemen will die in large numbers. Until then, Russia will not be issuing threats. Again, in the West threats are a daily occurrence. In the East, they are a sign of weakness.
Now you know why US threats are totally ineffective :-)
7) US force levels in the Middle-East. The US maintains a large network of bases all around Iran and throughout the entire planet, really. The real numbers are secret, of course, but let us assume, for argument sake, that the US has about 100’000 soldiers more or less near Iran. The actual figure does not matter (and the Iranians know it anyway). What is crucial is this: this does NOT mean that the US has 100’000 soldiers ready to attack Iran. A lot of that personnel is not really combat capable (the ratio of combat ready vs support ranges from country to country and from war to war, but let’s just say that most of these 100’000 are NOT combat soldiers). Not only that, but there is a big difference between, say, many companies and battalions in a region and a real armored division. For example, the 82nd AB is an INFANTRY force, not really mechanized, not capable of engaging say, an armored brigade. Here is a historical sidebar: during the first Gulf war, the US also sent in the 82nd AB as the central force of the operation “Desert Shield”. And here is where Saddam Hussein committed his WORST blunder of all. If he had sent in his armored divisions across the Saudi border he would have made minced meat of the 82nd. The US knew that. In fact, Cheney was once asked what the US would have done if the Iraqis has destroyed the 82nd. He replied that the first line of defense was airpower on USN aircraft carriers and cruise missiles. And if that failed, the US would have had to use tactical nukes to stop the Iraqi divisions. That would be one of those instances were using nukes WOULD make sense from a purely military point of view (nukes are great to deal with armor!), but from a political point of view it would have been a PR disaster (vide supra). The same is true today. For the US to engage in any serious ground operation it would need many months to get the force levels high enough and you can be darn sure that Iran would NEVER allow that. Should Uncle Shmuel try to send in a real, big, force into the KSA you can be sure that the Iranians will strike with everything they have!
The bottom line is this: the US has more than enough assets in the region to strike/bomb Iran. The US has nowhere near the kind of force levels to envision a major ground operation even in Iraq, nevermind Iran!
8) What about the Strait of Hormuz? There is no doubt in my mind that Iran can close the Strait of Hormuz. In fact, all the Iranians need to do to close it is say that they reserve the right to destroy (by whatever means) any ship attempting passage. That will be enough to stop all traffic. Of course, if that happens the US will have no other option than to attack the southern cost of Iran and try to deal with that threat. And yes, I am sorry of I disappoint my Iranian friends, I do believe that the US could probably re-open the Strait of Hormuz, but that will require “boots on the ground” in southern Iran and that is something which might yield an initial success, but that will turn into a massive military disaster in the medium to long run because the Iranians will have not only have time on their side, but they will have a dream come true: finally the US GIs will be within reach, literally. So, typically, the US will prevail coming in, only to find itself in a trap.
9) Do the Iranians seek death? This is an important one (thanks to Larchmonter 445 for suggesting this!). The short answer is no. Not at all. Iranians want to live and they do not seek death. HOWEVER, they also know that death in defense of Islam or in defense of the oppressed is an act of “witness to God”, which is what the Arabic word “shahid” is (and why the Greek work μάρτυς “martis” means). What does that mean? That means that while Muslim soldiers should not seek their death, and while they ought to do everything in their power to remain alive, they are NOT afraid of death in the least. To fully understand this mindset, you need only become aware of the most famous and crucial Shia slogan “Every Day Is Ashura and Every Land Is Karbala” (see explanation here). If I had to translate this into a Christian frame of reference I would suggest this “every day is Good/Passion Friday and every land is the Golgotha”. That is to say, “no matter were you are and no matter what time it is, you have to be willing to sacrifice your life for God and for the defense of the oppressed“. So no, Iranians are a joyful people (as are Arabs), and they don’t seek death. But neither do they fear it and they accept, with gratitude, the possibility of having to sacrifice their lives in defense of justice and truth. This is one more reason why threats by terminal imbeciles like Pompeo or Trump have no effect whatsoever on Muslims.
10) So what is really happening now? Folks, this is the beginning of the end for the Empire. Yes, I know, this sounds incredible, yet this is exactly what we are seeing happening before our eyes. The very best which the US can hope for now is a quick and complete withdrawal from the Middle-East. For a long list of political reason, that does not seem a realistic scenario right now. So what next? A major war against Iran and against the entire “Shia crescent” ? Not a good option either. Not only will the US lose, but it would lose both politically and militarily. Limited strikes? Not good either, since we know that Iran will retaliate massively. A behind the scenes major concession to appease Iran? Nope, ain’t gonna happen either since if the Iranians let the murder of Soleimani go unpunished, then Hassan Nasrallah, Bashar al-Assad and even Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will be the next ones to be murdered. A massive air campaign? Most likely, and initially this will feel good (lots of flagwaving in the USA), but soon this will turn into a massive disaster. Use nukes? Sure, and destroy your political image forever and not only in the Middle-East but worldwide.
As a perfect illustration, just check the latest stupid threat made by Trump: “If they do ask us to leave, if we don’t do it in a very friendly basis, we will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before ever. It’ll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame”. Folk, this is exactly the kind of stupid language which will deeply offend any Iraqi patriot. This is the kind of language which comes out of an empire in the late stages of agony.
Trump will go down in history as the man who thought he could scare the Iranian and Iraqi people with “tweets”.
I hope that these pointers will be useful, especially when you are going to be hit with a massive Tsunami of US flagwaving propaganda (Trump “we are THE BEST”). Simply put: this is bullshit. Modern wars are first and foremost propaganda wars, and what you see as the output of US ruling elites are just that – “information operations”. Let them wave their (Chinese made) flags, let them declare “United we stand” (for what exactly they stand is never specified) and let them repeat that the US military is the MOST FORMIDABLE FORCE IN THE GALAXY. These are nothing but desperate attempts to control the narrative, nothing else.
Oh, and one more irony: while the GOP controlled Senate is most unlikely to ever impeach Trump, is it not pathetically hilarious that Trump has now, indeed, committed acts ought to have him removed from office? Of course, in the real world, the US Neocon deep-state controls BOTH parties and BOTH parties fully support a war against Iran. Still, this is one of those ironies of history which should be mentioned.
I will resume my work tomorrow morning.
Until then, I wish you call a good nite/morning/day.
PS: if you have any follow-up question, please post them in the comment section and I will try to reply to the most relevant ones.