Peter Korzun — Strategic Culture July 29, 2018
According to ABC, the US is going to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities. An operation may start as early as next month. The UK and Australia will participate in intelligence efforts, such as identifying targets.
The US-Iran relationship took a nosedive after Iran threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz in early July. President Trump told the Iranian leadership in a tweet that he would respond with force if Tehran’s hostile anti-US rhetoric did not stop.
The closure of the strait will inflict significant economic damage on US allies but benefit American shale oil and gas producers with prices abruptly going up. About 20 percent of the world’s oil supply goes through the Hormuz Strait. Half of its imports originate in the Persian Gulf. The blockade of the strait would deliver a crushing blow against China to make it slide into economic recession.
The ABC report may be true. It won’t be the first time. The US was behind the 1953 coup when Prime Minister Mosaddegh was overthrown. State Secretary Mike Pompeo has recently called on the Iranian people to rise and overthrow the government. There are other signs the US is going to interfere in what’s happening in Iran one way or another.
The geography protects Iran against ground invasion. According to Stratfor, “Iran is a fortress. Surrounded on three sides by mountains and on the fourth by the ocean, with a wasteland at its center, Iran is extremely difficult to conquer.” Obviously, the US would not be able to use the territory of Turkey. The coastline in the south is easily defendable. Unlike Iraq and Afghanistan, the US Army and Marines just can’t go in and advance capturing key infrastructure objectives. Their mission will probably be controlling the Hormuz Strait and exercising control over the Iran-Iraq border. Knocking out nuclear sites, air defenses, as well as key command and control facilities spread across the large territory, would require repeated waves of air and ship-launched strikes over many days.
The bases in Saudi Arabia and other the UAE could be used by US Air Force. It’ll be the first time bunker buster bombs will demonstrate their efficiency. B-2 bombers will arrive from Diego Garcia, carrying 30,000-pound GBU-57 massive ordnance penetrators (MOPs) capable of penetrating rock and reinforced concrete to hit deep-under-earth installations.
An air campaign can inflict a lot of damage but it’s not enough for achieving the strategic goal of regime change. Special operations forces (SOF) can greatly contribute, including knocking out Russia-supplied S-300 air defense systems. Hit squads and sabotage teams can inflict damage on nuclear sites and other objects but Iran’s geographic position is also not their friend. The US will depend on Israel’s capabilities to conduct covert operations.
Information warfare used to instigate uprisings is what Iran’s enemies really need. The steps to influence the population are on the way. In late May, the US and Israel established a joint task force tasked with amplifying internal pressure on Iran. Khuzestan Province populated by Shia Arabs will be the prime target for information warfare offensive. The region is the main oil producer separated from the rest of the country by the Zagros Mountains. Airdropped US forces supported by aviation could establish control of heights. Actually, controlling the province, which is the economic heart of Iran, makes unnecessary the occupation of other parts of the country. But it’ll be a fierce battle. Besides, it’s not easy to convince the local people that they need Americans to make their life better.
Iranian Kurds are another target for information warfare efforts. In theory, they could seize and hold the ground in areas adjacent to the Iraqi border.
The current economic woes should be exploited by Iran’s ill-wishers now before the situation is improved. That’s what sanctions are for – to spark internal discontent. New punitive measures against Iran will be imposed by the United States in early August. All Iranian oil exports are to be cut off by November to make the country subject to economic blockade.
With military actions limited to air, missile and SOF strikes in Iran, Syria is the place where fighting on the ground would most certainly spark. It’s highly probable that pro-Iranian forces in Iraq, which has already been already hit by civilian unrest, would clash with US military. Proxy forces in other countries are Iran’s strong point.
The hope that a short victorious campaign will boost the US president’s approval ratings and increase the GOP’s chances for success at the midterm election in November has never been abandoned.
Besides, striking Iran in Syria is the way to hinder the establishment of Syria government’s control over the country’s territory without clashing with Russia. This is especially important for the United States at the time a Kurdish delegation, including the US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces, is in Damascus to launch talks on reaching a peaceful deal to preserve Syria’s territorial integrity. Stability with President Assad in power is not what would make the US and its allies happy. An attack against Iranian forces in Syria is the only way to disrupt the negotiation process. It would also hamper the Russia-led Astana process aimed at achieving peace in Syria. August could be the hottest month of 2018.