War with Iran scenario?

This article was published in the American Conservative Magazine recently. If nothing else, it makes interesting reading.

September 13, 2004 issue
The American Conservative

Four Day War
The Iran/Israel conflagration, a history.

By Claude Salhani

A number of analysts believe that Iran will reach a critical stage in its pursuit of nuclear capability sometime within the next few months. This is a terrifying new development, far more worrisome than the wars and uprisings that have plagued the Middle East to date.

Indeed, as Ray Takeyh, director of studies at the Near East and South Asia Center at the National Defense University, said at a recent Washington conference, Iran may have already passed the point of “political no return” in its bid for nuclear competence. If the Islamic republic has already passed that political landmark, then the actual point of no return cannot be far away.

Iran’s urge to join the elite “nuclear club” has been encouraged by a number of patrons who would like to see a second Islamic nation, after Pakistan, develop a nuclear weapon to counter Israel’s atomic arsenal. Takeyh believes that if Iran has not crossed the threshold, it is “awfully close.”

Stressing the Islamic republic’s objective, last June Iran’s Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi asked that his nation be recognized as a member of the nuclear club. “This is an irreversible path,” Kharrazi stated. He went on to reveal that his country is now able to operate the full nuclear fuel cycle. Then, in a tentative reassurance to the West, added that Iran is “not now enriching uranium.” Not yet—but intelligence analysts believe it will soon begin processing this vital nuclear component.

Iran has long wanted to be recognized as a regional superpower, a desire that began under the shah, if not earlier, possibly as far back as 580 B.C. with Cyrus the Great. The country’s mutation from an imperial dynasty to an Islamic theocracy did little to alter Iran’s visions of regional grandeur. From their perspective, Iranians feel they have good reason to want nuclear deterrence.

First, the United States’ invasion of Iraq served as a reminder to autocracies around the world of their need to be strong enough to deter potential U.S. intervention. If nothing else, Iraq’s invasion served as the poster child for nuclear deterrence against unilateral military action from the world’s remaining superpower. Repeated threats of regime change by the Bush administration have only increased Iran’s fears that they could be next in line. President George W. Bush’s campaign promise about “finishing the job,” if re-elected in November, is a slogan that must keep more than one ayatollah awake at night—and pushing for nuclear deterrence.

Immediately following the 1991 Gulf War, India’s then chief of staff was asked privately what strategic lessons should be drawn from the rapid and overwhelming U.S. victory over Iraq. “Make sure you have your own atomic bomb before you challenge the United States,” he replied.

Second, Iran cannot predict how a highly unstable Iraq—a longtime foe—will turn out once this initial post-Saddam chaotic phase passes. And third, some members of Tehran’s ruling theocracy believe that if Israel is permitted nuclear weapons, why not Iran? Being lumped into the “Axis of Evil” has helped justify a level of paranoia.

While the United States is keeping an eye on Iran’s nuclear progress, there is another country watching even more closely. Israel, feeling the most threatened by Iran’s march towards nuclear competency, is reportedly preparing a repeat of its 1981 raid on Iraq’s nuclear facility at Osirak. With about 140,000 American troops in neighboring Iraq, chances that the U.S. will intervene militarily are slim, making it all the more probable that Israel will feel it has to act unilaterally.

According to a recent report, Israel has built replicas of Iran’s nuclear facilities in the Negev Desert, where their fighter-bombers have been practicing test runs for months. Israel realizes it has a small window of opportunity if it is to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities before they go “hot” and leakage from an attack causes harmful exposure to tens of thousands of civilians caught by radiation forced into the atmosphere by such a raid.
Israel is unlikely to accept Iran’s word that its nuclear program is meant solely for peaceful purposes and aimed at developing commercial energy. The possibility of decisive military action is, indeed, high.

What follows is the unfolding of a worst-case scenario, an imaginary yet all-too-possible depiction of how events might develop if Israel were to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Day One: Wednesday

In a pre-dawn raid, undisclosed numbers of Israeli warplanes, taking off from military airbases in the Negev, destroy Iran’s main nuclear facility at Bushehr. Israel’s armed forces have released no details, but it is believed the planes flew over parts of Jordan, northern Saudi Arabia, and Iraq, refueling in mid-air before reaching their target. Military analysts speculate that the planes must have refueled somewhere over Iraq.

During the one-hour raid, Iran claims to have shot down “several” Israeli fighters. Television images show pilots being lynched by furious mobs before Iranian authorities could reach them. The after-effects of the raid shake the Arab and Islamic world. Millions take to the streets demanding immediate action against Israel.

In planning the attack, Israel weighed the threats of Arab and Muslim reaction. The only other nuclear threat, and a possible danger to Israel, is Pakistan. Israel considered striking Pakistan’s nuclear sites, too, but Indian intelligence reports that Pakistan lacks long-distance delivery for its warheads. Bombay is the farthest they can reach. Additional reassurance from American intelligence convinced Israel that as long as Musharraf remains in power, Pakistan does not represent an imminent threat. The decision was made not to hit Pakistan.

Day Two: Thursday

Believing that Israel would never undertake such actions without U.S. approval, or at least a tacit nod from the American administration, Iran retaliates. Thousands of Revolutionary Guards are dispatched across the border into Iraq with orders to inflict as many casualties on American troops as possible. Fierce clashes erupt between coalition forces and Iranians. Within hours, more than 400 U.S. troops are killed, and many more wounded in heavy fighting. Iranian sleeper agents, who have infiltrated Iraq since the downfall of Saddam, urge Iraqi Shi’ites into action. They cut major highways and harass coalition troops, preventing reinforcements from reaching units under attack. Several helicopters are shot down.

Tehran orders the Lebanese Shi’ite movement, Hezbollah, into action against northern Israel. Hezbollah launches scores of rockets and mortars against kibbutzim, towns, and settlements. Israel retaliates. Casualties are high on both sides of the frontier. Tension in the Middle East reaches a boiling point. In Washington, the Cabinet convenes in an emergency session.

Massive demonstrations erupt all over the Arab and Islamic world. Crowds of gigantic proportions take to the streets, ransacking Israeli embassies in Cairo, Amman, and Ankara. American embassies in a number of other cities are burned. With police overwhelmed, the military is called in. Armies open fire, killing hundreds, adding to the outrage.

Day Three: Friday

Following Friday prayers across the Islamic world, crowds incited by fiery sermons in mosques from Casablanca to Karachi take to the streets in the worst protests yet. Government buildings are ransacked, and clashes with security forces result in greater casualties. Martial law is declared, and curfew imposed, but this fails to prevent further mayhem and rioting. Islamist groups call for the overthrow of governments and for immediate military action against Israel.

In Saudi Arabia, Islamist militants engage in open gun battles with security forces in several cities. The whereabouts of the Saudi royal family are unknown. In Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt, and a dozen other countries, crowds continue to run amok, demanding war on Israel.

Day Four: Saturday

A longstanding plan to overthrow Musharraf is carried out by senior Pakistani army officers loyal to the Islamic fundamentalists and with close ties to bin Laden. The coup is carried out in utmost secrecy.
Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI—a long-time supporter of the fundamentalists—in agreement with the plotters, takes control of the country’s nuclear arsenal and its codes. Within hours, and before news of the coup leaks out, Pakistan, now run by pro-bin Laden fundamentalists, loads two nuclear weapons aboard executive Lear jets that take off from a remote military airfield, headed for Tel Aviv and Ashdod. Detouring and refueling in east Africa, they approach Israel from the south. The crafts identify themselves as South African. Their tail markings match the given identification.

The two planes with their deadly cargo are flown by suicide pilots who, armed with false flight plans and posing as business executives, follow the flight path given to them by Israeli air traffic control. At the last moment, however, the planes veer away from the airfield, soar into the sky and dive into the outskirts of the two cities, detonating their nuclear devices in the process.

The rest of this scenario can unfold in a number of ways. Take your pick; none are encouraging.

Israel retaliates against Pakistan, killing millions in the process. Arab governments fall. Following days of violence, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt succumb to Islamist rebels who vow open warfare with Israel. The Middle East regresses into war, with the fighting claiming hundreds of thousands of lives. A much-weakened Israel, now struggling for its very survival, deploys more nuclear weapons, targeting multiple Arab capitals. The Middle East is in complete mayhem, as the United States desperately tries to arrange a cease-fire.

This was all a bad dream, or rather one writer’s dark vision of what might happen if the current situation is allowed to continue unchecked. What precisely are the chances of any of this coming to pass? The probability of Israel striking Iran is very real. That could happen at any moment. As for the rest, there is really no way to know what will ensue once the demons are unleashed. Events could unfold as described above, or they could develop a bit differently, give or take a nuke or two. Whatever the outcome, it will not be good.

The solution is far from evident. Takeyh, the professor of national security studies, notes that in the past where there have been cases of “nuclear reversal,” such as in South Africa, it has happened due to a change in the region’s strategic environment.

The Middle East hardly falls into that category. Iran is unlikely to give up its nuclear deterrence as long as Israel remains a nuclear power. Israel is unlikely to cede its nuclear capability as long as it feels threatened by the Arab/Islamic world and as long as Pakistan holds on to its bomb. Pakistan, of course, points to India, also a nuclear power. India looks at Pakistan and across the Himalayas and sees nuclear-armed China and says it would never give up its cherished membership to the elite nuclear club.

In his campaign stops, President Bush keeps reiterating that the world is a safer place because of his actions. Yet looking at the state of world affairs it is very difficult to agree with him. The dead-ended Mideast peace talks, Saudi Arabia’s internal turmoil, continuing Islamist terrorist threats, the vulnerability of American troops in Iraq, and the question of Iran’s nukes all contribute to maintaining tensions at an all-time high.

Barring a solid and lasting peace settlement between Israel and its Arab neighbors, the countries of the Middle East are far from nuclear disarmament. If anything, nuclear proliferation is only likely to increase as states like Saudi Arabia find that they, too, need to defend themselves against a nuclear-armed Iran. Recent reports have indicated that Saudi Arabia is looking to lease Pakistan’s nukes. The arms race of the Cold War may be dead, but the race for hot weapons has never been so alive.

Claude Salhani is foreign editor and a political analyst with United Press International in Washington.


Book Reviewer
Cheery stuff indeed...day four was the daftest.

If you were Iran, what do you think would discourage the World's only superpower from rolling casually across your borders - to please their only local supporters ?

How about encouraging the belief that you have nuclear weapons and are prepared to use them ?

It is in NOBODY's interest to provoke or take part in a war with Iran - least of all Britain's.

' Blessed are the cheesemakers, for they shall be numbered in the Kingdom of Heaven '

[ not sure that's right? Plse spk. Ed]

Le Chevre
' Blessed are the cheesemakers, for they shall be numbered in the Kingdom of Heaven '

"Blessed are the cheesy remark-makers, for theirs is the Kingdom of Arrse." :D
The big problem the US has - is that they've run out of troops. They simply do not have another box they can easily deploy. Sure, they can mobilise fully from CONUS and other foreign deployments but then they've got the problem of shipping men and material over to Iraq. If the Iranians are prepared to take big hits from airpower then they could flood enough men into Iraq to kick off a big fight. Add to that a sustained campaign against the supply routes by insurgents and a window of opportunity to defeat US forces in theatre before reinforcements arrive opens up.
To be honest, I thought the article was one of the stupidest things I've ever read. At no point does it make a case, based on any sort of credible information, for being remotely likely, particulalry for Iran being liable to act in the way it suggests.
1)OK, the Israelis have pulled that sort of stunt before but whether they would be minded to again is very open to debate, and again no evidence is provided to support the idea.
2)Having the bomb does not mean you're going to use it; and pretty much everyone now realises that.
3)I think, and this is just my speculation, that Iran might be rather more likely to react to an Israeli airstrike by attacking Israel - call me old fashioned.
4)These thousands of revolutionary guards streaming over the border would find themselves getting shot to shit by all the A-10s and Apaches that didn't get a crack in the warfighting phase. And I don't really buy the idea that they just rock-up and inflict 400 casualties.
5)The idea of a worldwide conspiracy with Pakistani intelligence and so on is so utterly stupid it would be funny, if so many people on the American Right didn't believe this. I mean how many nukes do you think the Pakistanis have? How vulnerable do you think they want to make themselves to India? How much do you think they're interested in the Middle East? For F**k's sake, why didn't the authors just throw in the dastardly imperialist Canadians invading while America was off her guard at Thanksgiving.
6) The real clue about the article is the bit about
Iran has long wanted to be recognized as a regional superpower, a desire that began under the shah, if not earlier, possibly as far back as 580 B.C.
Nice confident generalisation there covering about 2500 years of geopolitcal history...er, how can you be a regional suoerpower it's c ontradiction in terms and ... oh for crying out loud.
This whole thing is a very tenuous and pretty thinly veiled attempt to drum up a threat to scare decent honest hard-working American Joes towards the Right by telling them there's a major threat out there.
Basically it's a complete load of B****CKS
Too right, JB. Neo-Con propaganda. Just look at the publication it appeared in. They should've commissioned something from Tom Clancy. At least his scenario might've been more credible.
Iran didn't have dreams of being a regional superpower back in 580BC. It was one. Persia controlled as much territory as 1stC Rome, it took months to ride accross. It may well be that the present regime wants to hark back to those times but it also shows that Iran is a very different prospect to Arabia. For a start it remembers a history before 637 which the arabs and Saudi in particular have largely excised.
Secondly for all their religious fulminations they are a less hysterical people than the arabs, stoical even, although Shia has a potentialy worrying streak of flagellation. They may not be heavily into suicide bombing but they might well be into near suicidal attacks and very stubborn defence and there are a lot of them, Iraq failed to defeat them despite a considerable tech advantage and a willingness to use gas.
I doubt that the Pakistani intelligence is that fundamentalist when it comes down to it - probably quite the reverse - like the Saudis they have seen training up fundies and then packing them off to fight and die elsewhere as a way of controlling them. However I bet than given the choice between fundies and liquor they'd go for the booze.
Nice thing to read and digest first thing in the morning, kind of sets you up for the day-doesn't it?

Firstly to try and understand middle eastern politics, stick your head in a micro-wave oven and put it on full power for 5 minutes, then you may begin to understand it :roll:

There are too many variables in this scenario for it to come to fruition if Israel decided to strike first. Seems like someone sounding out for a new doomsday book to me :wink:
Day Two: Thursday

Believing that Israel would never undertake such actions without U.S. approval, or at least a tacit nod from the American administration, Iran retaliates. Thousands of Revolutionary Guards are dispatched across the border into Iraq with orders to inflict as many casualties on American troops as possible
Just like the US knew all about it,when Israel closed down Iraq's reactor?

"Despatched across the border"? Really? Never mind cab ranks of A-10's ,there are also a couple of million Sunni muslims who'd love to hand the Iranians another kicking.Thosands of RG take assembling , does the Author think we won't be zapping the LD's and MSR's all the way back to Tehran ?

At the last moment, however, the planes veer away from the airfield, soar into the sky and dive into the outskirts of the two cities, detonating their nuclear devices in the process.
Ja ,so much more effective than an airburst :roll: Meanwhile the IAF is sitting around playing cards? I think the Author needs to read up on the rules for entering Israeli airspace. Actually,he needs to read up on just why Flight plans are filed. Try convincing an Israeli Air Defence watchkeeper ,you've just flown a Lear from South Africa to Israel non-stop.

Good grief,I've read through this ,and it really is the very worst kind of Neo-con shite.

Mind you ,it convinced the American public to go to war last time :roll:

Note to Author - Try reading "TeamYankee" , "The Ten Thousand" or "World War 3" by General Sir John Hackett.

Actually ,Howard Coyle's "Bright Star" is absolutely starting to look like a workof premonition 8O


Book Reviewer
claymore said:
' Blessed are the cheesemakers, for they shall be numbered in the Kingdom of Heaven '

"Blessed are the cheesy remark-makers, for theirs is the Kingdom of Arrse." :D

m'Lord, may I cite ' Life of Brian ' in mitigation :wink:
if the iranians did decide to fight uncle sam bad news for anyone in basra
oh gosh thats us isnt oh well . Tony sends his regards can you go down fighting blood price and all that bollocks . if a blood price needs to be paid how come none of his kith and kin are in the fireing line ?
[quote="Goatman"m'Lord, may I cite ' Life of Brian ' in mitigation :wink:[/quote]

All right then. Stoning or crucifixion? You're a very, very naughty boy. 8)
The killer question is why would the Iranians want to do that? They're fat dumb 'n happy pumping out oil, no-ones bothering them, and if their current match form is anything to go by they're the ones who tend get attacked. Whither the Tiger of Persia the last few years? Christ, we shot down one of their airliners FFS. All they did was get some mates to sort us out. Allegedly.
Plus, they had a taste of apocalyptic devastation with that earthquake a while back. What, they've got the hots for more? FYI Isreal has more nukes than UK.
Nah, they're yankin' on the Yanks with this nuclear stuff. They build the power stations so's they got more oil to sell. Them Soccer Moms aint going to WALK their kids to practice...

Just let the Neo-Cons amuse themselves spreading more fear. Or is that your subliminal message here, ARRSE...? 8O


Book Reviewer
claymore said:
[quote="Goatman"m'Lord, may I cite ' Life of Brian ' in mitigation :wink:
All right then. Stoning or crucifixion? You're a very, very naughty boy. 8)[/quote]

" All I said was - this fish is good enough for Jehovah...."
Bush Says Iran Will Not Get Nuclear Weapon

Crawford TX (AFP) Sep 26, 2004
US President George W. Bush says "all options are on the table" for making sure Iran dismantles its nuclear program, and that Washington will never let Tehran acquire atomic weapons.
"My hope is that we can solve this diplomatically," Bush said in a three-part interview with Fox News Channel's "O'Reilly Factor" program, excerpts of which were made public on Sunday.

"Let me try to solve it diplomatically first," said Bush. "All options are on the table, of course, in any situation. But diplomacy is the first option."

The Bush administration has charged that oil-rich Iran does not need a civilian nuclear program for energy and that Tehran is actually seeking to acquire nuclear weapons.

Asked whether the United States would let Iran develop that capability, Bush replied: "No, we've made it clear, our position is that they won't have a nuclear weapon."

"We are working our hearts out so that they don't develop a nuclear weapon, and the best way to do so is to continue to keep international pressure on them," the president said.

Iran appealed Sunday for a negotiated settlement to its standoff with the UN atomic energy watchdog but showed no inclination to abide by a resolution calling for an immediate halt to its sensitive nuclear activities.

"No negotiations with the Americans are on the agenda, but we call on the Europeans to discuss with us," foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters.

Iran is under threat of being hauled before the UN Security Council amid widespread suspicions it is seeking the capacity to develop nuclear weapons.

In a resolution passed on September 18, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) called on Iran to halt its uranium enrichment-related activities, a part of the nuclear fuel cycle that can be directed to both energy and weapons purposes.

All rights reserved. © 2004 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse

So Bush is saying stop it or else then. 8O
Bush is the biggest menace facing the West today. With his infantile grasp of foreign affairs, delusions of adequacy and the backing of the Neocon Nazis like Rumsfeld, Cheney and Wolfowitz, he's liable to suck all of us into a war nobody wants.
I am interested to see the various reactions this topic has elicited. Particularly, I note that some people have been bandying about the term 'Neocon', so in light of this I feel that I should throw some light on the nature of the publication from whence this article came. The American Conservative (www.amconmag.com) was established in September 2002 by Pat Buchanan and Taki Theodoracopulous - Buchanan is a former advisor to three U.S. Presidents (Republicans I imagine) and ran for the office himself; and Taki is the longtime author of the 'High Life' column in The Spectator, among other things. From what I have been able to discover, the ethos behind the magazine is 'traditional conservative' (termed 'Paleocon'), which sees itself as being at odds with the neocons of the Bush administration. The foreign policy behind this thinking is essentially isolationist with a large element of opposition to American support for Israel and Saudi Arabia. These paleocons are opposed to the way the war on terror is being waged as distinct from the war itself.

I found the article interesting, but am of the view that is has been deliberately written from the 'worst case scenario' - and therefore neocon - perspective. It started logically enough but descends into James Bondland with the introduction of the idea of Pakistani nukes being flown into Israel etc.

For those interested, a more 'neocon' publication is National Review (www.nationalreview.com). I include the Mission Statement from The American Conservative's website below.

Mission Statement

Today the United States has no shortage of magazines that would call their orientation, and be described by others as, “conservative.” Add the conservative dominance of talk radio, the popularity of several talented right of-center television commentators, the current Republican majority in the House, and the Bush presidency, and one could argue that conservative ideas have as much resonance as they have ever had.

And yet there is a great, often unarticulated discomfort in the ranks of many who considered themselves conservative during the past few decades.A friend of ours recently told of an encounter with one of his colleagues.“You’re a conservative,” the colleague said—“so you must agree with Paul Wolfowitz that we should attack Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and all those places.”

Well, no. Not all conservatives do agree that the United States should engage—for reasons that hardly touch America’s own vital interests —in an open-ended war against much of the Arab and Muslim world.

A variant of that conversation might be had about immigration—an issue around which genuine debate erupted for a brief time in mid 1990’s—only to be extinguished by the regnant factions of the conservative Establishment. “So you’re a conservative” that conversation would run. “You must believe that ‘there shall be open borders’ as the Wall Street Journal editorial page habitually puts it.

Well, again, no. We believe that America has gained and still does from new immigrants.But we also, after two decades of intense immigration, believe that the nation needs a slowdown to assimilate those already here.

We are told—by some of the more powerful voices on the Right—that these debates are over. Neoconservatism, that influential and in many ways admirable tendency that emerged during the 1970s and flowered during the 1980s, has triumphed. It is now the dominant, nay, the only American conservatism worth talking about.

And if you look at the array of conservative media outlets, that would almost seem to be the case. The major conservative magazines now compete over which can bray loudest for the widest war, the most ambitious expansion of an American military imperium. More discretely, they vie to articulate their relief that the shock of 9-11 has not, as yet, translated into a decisive political push for serious immigration reform.

We will be different.

Many voices will appear in the pages of The American Conservative — often in disagreement with one another. We are of course in considerable part Buchananite—well disposed to the web of ideas that drew millions of voters during three Buchanan presidential bids. But our magazine’s mission is broader: to ignite the conversation that conservatives ought to have engaged in since the end of the Cold War, but didn’t.

We will question the benefits and point to the pitfalls of the global free trade economy; we will free the immigration debate from the prison to which it has been consigned. And we will discuss, frequently, America’s role in the world, turning a critical eye on those who want to cast aside every relevant American foreign policy tradition—from Robert Taft-style isolationism to prudent Dwight Eisenhower-style internationalism, in favor of go it alone militarism, where America threatens and bombs one nation after another, while the world looks on in increasing horror.

We believe conservatism to be the most natural political tendency, rooted in man’s taste for the familiar, for family, for faith in God. We believe that true conservatism has a predisposition for the institutions and mores that exist. So much of what passes for contemporary conservatism is wedded to a kind of radicalism—fantasies of global hegemony, the hubristic notion of America as a universal nation for all the world’s peoples, a hyperglobal economy. In combination with an increasingly unveiled contempt for America’s long-standing allies, this is more a recipe for disaster.

Against it, we take our stand.

–The Editors
Thanks, G'glass. Interesting clash of fundamental stances, isolationist v expansionist/imperialist. Pax Americana.

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