Sunday, February 12, 2012

Post #184 - Go ahead, poke the tiger with that stick...

Scott Ritter (writing on 7/14/08) warned about the consequences of military action against Iran. Little has changed in the intervening years that would alter his analysis.

"I’ve always pointed out that no plan survives initial contact with the enemy, and furthermore one can never forget that, in war, the enemy gets to vote. On the issue of an American and/or Israeli attack on Iran, the Iranian military has demonstrated exactly how it would cast its vote. Iran recently fired off medium- and long-range missiles and rockets, in a clear demonstration of capability and intent. Shipping through the Strait of Hormuz, regional oil production capability and U.S. military concentrations, along with Israeli cities, would all be subjected to an Iranian military response if Iran was attacked." (Indeed, in recent weeks, Iran has explicitly cautioned the West about that potential consequence.)

Chinese surface-to-surface missiles
"For some time now," said Ritter, "the admirals commanding the U.S. 5th Fleet in the Persian Gulf have maintained that they have the ability to keep the Strait of Hormuz open [reiterated more than once in the past month, AP]. But the fact is, the only way the United States could guarantee that the strait remained open would be to launch a massive pre-emptive military strike that swept the Iranian coast clear of the deadly Chinese-made surface-to-surface missiles that Iran would use to sink cargo ships in the strategic lane. This strike would involve hundreds of tactical aircraft backed up by limited ground action by Marines and U.S. Special Operations forces which would involve 'boots on the ground' for several days, if not weeks. Such a strike is not envisioned in any 'limited' military action being planned by the United States. But now that it is clear what the Iranian response would entail, there can no longer be any talk of a 'limited' military attack on Iran." 
Other reactions might include: "[A] massive bombardment of the military and industrial facilities of the United States and its allies, including the oil fields in Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. American military bases in Iraq and Kuwait -- large, fixed and well known -- would be smothered by rockets and missiles carrying deadly cluster bombs. The damage done would run into the hundreds of millions, if not into billions, of dollars, and hundreds, if not thousands, of U.S. military personnel...killed and wounded."
"To prevent or retard any Iranian missile attack, the United States would have to commit hundreds of combat a counter-missile span the considerable depth of the Persian landmass from which missiles might reach potential targets. While there has been some improvement in the U.S. military’s counter-missile capability, one must never forget that in 1991 not a single Iraqi Scud missile was successfully interdicted by any aspect of American military action [Ritter himself did the assessment for the U.S. Military, AP]...There is no reason for optimism that the U.S. and Israel have suddenly found the solution to the Iranian missile threat."
In addition, "the anti-American backlash that would be generated in Iraq would be immediate and severe. In short, virtually every operation involving the training of Iraqi forces would be terminated as the U.S. military trainers would need to be withdrawn to the safety of the fortified U.S. bases to protect them from attack. U.S. civilian contractors would likewise need to be either withdrawn completely from Iraq or restricted to the fortified bases....Worse, the Iraqi countryside would become a seething mass of anti-American activity, which would require a huge effort to reverse, if it ever could be. Iraq as we now know it would be lost, and what would emerge in its stead would not only be unsympathetic to the United States but actually a breeding ground for anti-American action that could very well expand beyond the boundaries of Iraq and the Middle East."

Ritter cites likely economic impacts: "Oil would almost instantly break the $300-per-barrel mark, and because the resulting conflict would more than likely be longer and more violent that most are predicting, there is a good chance oil would top $500 or even more within days or weeks. Hyperinflation would almost certainly strike every market-based economy, and the markets themselves would collapse under the strain." (Remember that he was writing before we knew how protracted the economic recovery was actually going to be -- before the foreclosures accelerated, before Greece imploded.)

Ritter ends by saying, "Only an irrational person or organization could continue to discuss as viable a military strike against Iran.... It is up to the American people, through their elected representatives in Congress, to inject a modicum of sanity into a situation that continues to be in danger of spinning out of control."

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