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War With Iran: Poor US Option As Central Asia Counterbalances – OpEd

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Not a good idea to invade Iran with full theater force components. With Thousands of mines in Strait of Hormuz, the modern Chinese and Russian defense systems and arms, new allies—it’s a new Iran.

The US and NATO are failing to appreciate the bonding of players behind the Central Asian economic and security net that is rapidly being raised behind the scenes by states of that region. Iran is one of those states in the net. Syria, not so much

Situation

The US is currently mobilizing a strike capable force under Iran’s nose. It already has a heavy military presence in the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan. Things are heating up. The world has cause for alarm regarding Iran but a military invasion will be more difficult than strategists think.

New Alliances Among Central Asians

Much has been said about the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which is composed of China, Russia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Specifically, the media has focused on its 2012 summit and the “Peace Mission” military exercises this month. Supposedly the joint exercises are against terrorism, but urban operation training and counter terrorism missions are a very similar and most likely the training has both in mind, even if they deny this or attempt to misinform us.

Iran is an observer to SCO and so is Pakistan. Iranian-Pakistani oil pipeline development is in progress. Iranian officials mention that the oil connection between Iran and Pakistan will strengthen “security in the region.” This has been the ardent diatribe.

In this context, however, it should come as no surprise that NATO is finding Pakistan harder to deal with as new allies and partnerships are quickly established with other states and groups. Moreover, the restrictive air space, the Haqqan terrorists supporting the Taliban, Pakistan’s nuclear capability, the denial of NATO supply line access to Afghanistan, and the Islamist-military split within the state, all offer as a big a challenge to NATO as the Iranian situation. Don’t forget that Pakistan harbors terrorists like Osama bin Laden, who was living relatively freely in a compound at Abbottabad, and that Pakistan also harbors nuclear missiles. This oil deal makes the two states more dangerous.

The Iranian oil market also continues with China, Russia, Turkey, and India, who have shown a determined resistance to Western calls of an Iranian oil embargo.

Syria’s Civil War Is Related

Iran has historically been one of the strongest backers of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s military regime, followed by Russia and a cautious and distant China. They do not all share the same interest, but they do have great stakes in repelling US-EU influence.

The players involved in the Syria civil war are the civilian Syrian resistance, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the US, NATO, and much of the UN.

The Syria outcome will likely be a collapse of the Assad regime at some point, with increasing civilian deaths and mounting international pressures to end it. The continuation of a proxy war will give way to the lead players will the most at stake: Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and several others with US backing.

Eager Lion 2012 was a war game that just finished, involving some 19 participating nations unofficially aimed at Syria and Iran. In combination with more joint military war games of regional actors, it creates a preparing of the Middle East for the worst.

There is also the Iranian-Syrian-Hezbollah. Hezbollah and Iran are allegedly inside Syria aiding the Assad’s military.

US-Iran War Building Up

We are well beyond conventional considerations and WMDs. The US and Iran have been engaged in covert hostilities of conflict proximity since Operation Enduring Freedom, but primarily the intensity developed during and after Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Consider the recent past:

A number of US drones shot down over Iran. The US RQ-170 Sentinel stealth drone was captured by Iran; possibly a hijacking. But regardless, it is a technological tragedy for them to have it—and you can bet Russia and some other countries will get it too.

There is this strange Iranian-Venezuelan connection. Venezuela built its first UAV with the help of Iran and Russia, among others. Also, Venezuela has been selling F-16s to Iran, according to Gus Garcia Roberts’ in Miami New Times Blogs. This is something they mentioned two years ago.

US and Iran are engaged in a bitter cyber war. The Suxnet virus to shut down their nuclear program was one of them. Its success is debatable and anything done through software is only temporary. It would not detain them form nuclear ambition for long but it did potentially buy the Israel and the US some time.

US and Iran wrestling political control in Iraq will continue with Iran backing Shia majority and US trying to keep a threatened democracy.

Unofficial Iranian sponsored and directed attacks are alleged: like Afghanistan IED sponsorship and intelligence operations against NATO; an assassination attempt of a Saudi Ambassador on American soil or Iranian agents targeting Western tourists in Africa.

US and EU lead the charge against Iran through economic sanctions which are hurting its economy. In response, Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz off if the US and EU sanctions come into effect early July. This means that Iran threatens to block a large chunk of the world’s oil supply from the region in an act or protest. [There is a United Arab Emirates Hormuz bypass but it cannot transport all of the shipping volume that would normally pass through the Strait.]

US war games target Syria and Iran; get the region prepared for the worst.

Israel has biggest fears of a nuclear Iran. The rhetoric between the two has become more intense. Moreover, Iran’s style of ambivalent diplomacy of a nuclear weapons program added to the threatens to “wipe Israel off the map” and other outlandishly militant remarks do not help the situation. Israel

Iran’s interests can be summed up as: 1) holding sovereignty of their borders, 2) maintaining theocratic rule, 3) deflecting Western cyber penetration and ideological incursion; 4) suppressing internal opposition, 5) seeking new partnerships, 6) supporting Syria, Hezbollah and Iraqi Shia, 7) indirectly engaging and disrupting American efforts in Afghanistan, and 8) maintaining a nuclear program without full transparency.

Iran has three nuclear weapon states moving closer to their side (Russia, China, and Pakistan); all associated with SCO over economic and security interests that largely define the current buildup. It has a population of about 75 million people, where Iraq only has 31 million and Afghanistan, 30 million. Lastly, it has had ten years to watch, learn, modernize and form new relations with security guarantees; with military capabilities and equipment primarily from Russia.

Consider Alternatives to an Immediate Military Invasion of Iran

Kenneth Waltz, a renowned neo-realist theorist, recently argued that a nuclear Iran would perhaps be the best result in an article titled, “Why Iran Should Get the Bomb.” His main argument coincides with his staunch belief and observation that political power strives for balance. Iran therefore, seeks nuclear weapons, with the frame of mind to regain a superiority status equal to the Israel. And if you hold nuclear power and an atomic deterrent as a value to the ultimate countermeasure to ward off superior conventional forces, they are also balancing NATO’s increased presence and influence.

Truly, this is the case with Iran on many levels, as we’ve seen above, but the question is: Does Iran want a nuclear weapon to balance Israel, NATO, or a secular world altogether?

Also, if Iran now has nuclear Russia, China, and Pakistan as strategic allies, why does Iran want to pursue a nuclear weapon? One, they do not trust their “allies” who are no more than merely strategic “friends” at this point. A second reason is that the Iranian nuclear deterrent, is in their minds, the only real way to keep the US out of their state for good and potentially out of the immediate region.

What will the US lose if it does invade?

Expect many casualties, strong initial resistance, a hardened insurgency, an uncertain mix in the population, collateral damage, high costs, enmity, and potentially third-party support.

What will the US lose if it does not invade?

They will lose the opportunity to stop Iran’s present regime from developing a nuclear bomb (if that is their intention).

Obviously the US and others in the region will at first buckle at a nuclear Iran. Chiefly, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Russian and China are not all that keen on a nuclear Pakistan either but they are less likely to prevent it.

The US is not the only state to worry about a radical Shia theocracy with nuclear arms, stronger military presence and state-sponsored terrorist threats. But then, if that is true, why not invade Pakistan, who has all these things right now? Is it because the US has to bribe them to keep the friendship?

It is a faulty hawkish argument for war with Iran because they are trying to get nuclear weapons. Another faulty lefty one is that the US and NATO are just after the Iranian oil. The picture is bigger and the messier than the surface can show. Many wars in history have happened over the smallest of things when all the pieces were in place.

Hostiles short of war are still recommended The first thing before any invasion or even consideration of invasion should be to gain a strong intelligence base. Hence, the drones flying and dropping over Iran.

Second, an intelligence network and an operable position inside Iran is needed with such a large population. Inciting a revolution, if this was a NATO objective, was not timed correctly through the recent protests from 2009-present.

Did the US miss a window of opportunity into Iran? Maybe, but not as bad as it did with Iraq, circa 1991 or Hungary, 1956. Still, these types of protests and crackdowns are also drawing in Western concern but there have been too few strong consistent calls for democracy and reform on Iran as it is unfortunately not the center issue.

Plausibly deniable intelligence and special operations are still the best choice of attack until enough internal support and outside commitment can be guaranteed and coordinated in tempo with larger US forces.

The important thing to understand is that war with Iran and Syria, or just one of them has the potential for a large scale war repercussions in Central Asia. We are already witnessing a civil war emerge in Syria. In Iran, we saw protestors and crackdowns but the West was slow to respond and the geo-political climate was more restrictive.

If the US enters into conflict with Iran now, it should expect outside interference by several very capable states. It will not be as easy a target as it looks. Central Asian partners have already installed or given Iran plenty of arms and electronic equipment capable of causing the US great pains in any invasion. It is more than critical to not underestimate the climate.

What the US and allies should do, is wait for Iran to have nuclear weapons before it attacks with full commitment of the armed forces. As soon Iran has such capability, the US, NATO, and the Russians should disarm the Iranian regime and allow the Iranians genuine elections responsible and new government.

This Central Asia conflict has the markings of devastation for a weary NATO and may even be the war that breaks the Western grip in the entire region. If America is not too careful, it will lose any and every gain it has made since November 2001.

Brett Daniel Shehadey

Brett Daniel Shehadey

Brett Daniel Shehadey is a writer, commentator and holds an M.A. in Strategic Intelligence from AMU and a B.S. in Political Science from UCLA.

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