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US confrontation with Iran

Predictions Regarding Outcome of Hypothetical US-Iranian Conflict

Project: US Confrontation with Iran
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The Atlantic Monthly magazine commissions retired military officers, intelligence officials, and diplomats to participate in a war game scenario involving Iran. The three-hour war game deals “strictly with how an American President might respond, militarily or otherwise, to Iran’s rapid progress toward developing nuclear weapons.” Its main objective is to simulate the decision-making process that would likely take place during a meeting of the “Principals Committee” in the event that Iran ignores the deadline set by the IAEA to meet its demands. Kenneth Pollack, of the Brookings Institute, and Reuel Marc Gerecht, of the American Enterprise Institute, both play the role of secretary of state, Pollack with a more Democratic perspective and Gerecht as more of a Republican. David Kay plays the CIA director and Kenneth Bacon, a chief Pentagon spokesman during the Clinton Administration, is the White House chief of staff. Sam Gardiner, a retired Air Force colonel, serves mostly as National Security Adviser, but plays other roles as well. He is also the person who designed the game. During the game, Israel’s influence on the administration’s Iran policy is highlighted, with Pollack noting at one point, “[I]n the absence of Israeli pressure how seriously would the United States be considering” the use of military force against Iran? One of the largest concerns raised, shared by all of the participants, is that a US attack on Iran would provoke the Iranians to interfere in Iraq. “[O]ne of the things we have going for us in Iraq, if I can use that term, is that the Iranians really have not made a major effort to thwart us… If they wanted to make our lives rough in Iraq, they could make Iraq hell.” At the conclusion of the three-hour exercise, it is apparent that the players believe that the game’s scenario offered the US no feasible options for using military force against Iran. [Atlantic Monthly, 12/2004; Guardian, 1/18/2005]

Entity Tags: Kenneth Pollack, Reuel Marc Gerecht, David Kay, Atlantic Monthly, Sam Gardiner

Category Tags: Nuclear Program, Predictions

Early 2005: Iran Readying for US Attack

Iran reportedly begins preparing its military defenses for a possible US attack. An article in the Washington Times quotes one unnamed Iranian official who says “Iran would respond within 15 minutes to any attack by the United States or any other country.” Iranian newspapers report that Iran is expanding its 7-million-strong “Basiji” militia forces. A Western military expert based in Tehran says he believes Iran would not attempt to repel an initial invasion by US forces but would rather engage them in asymmetrical warfare once they are in. [Washington Times, 2/19/2005; Newhouse News Service, 2/21/2005]

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense

Category Tags: Predictions, Neoconservative Hawks, Preparation

Reuel Marc Gerecht.Reuel Marc Gerecht. [Source: National Geographic]The Guardian of London interviews Reuel Marc Gerecht, a prominent neoconservative at the American Enterprise Institute, about the Bush administration’s policy in Iran. Gerecht, who is also a former CIA officer, says he believes that US strikes on Iran could set back Iran’s nuclear program. “It would certainly delay [the program] and it can be done again. It’s not a one-time affair. I would be shocked if a military strike could not delay the program.” Gerecht says that members of the Bush administration have not yet agreed on a policy for dealing with Iran and that the internal debate is just beginning. “Iraq has been a fairly consuming endeavor, but it’s getting now toward the point where people are going to focus on [Iran] hard and have a great debate.” [Guardian, 1/18/2005]

Entity Tags: Reuel Marc Gerecht

Category Tags: Predictions, Neoconservative Hawks

Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh interviews a government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon about the administration’s plans to invade Iran. He says that Pentagon officials, including Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, believe that a limited attack on Iran would inspire a secular revolution in the country. “The minute the aura of invincibility which the mullahs enjoy is shattered, and with it the ability to hoodwink the West, the Iranian regime will collapse,” the consultant says. [CNN, 1/17/2005; New Yorker, 1/24/2005]

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Seymour Hersh

Category Tags: Predictions

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, tells pilgrims in Mashad that it is “fiction” that Iran is developing an atomic bomb. He says that he would give his life on the battlefield if Iran were attacked by the US and adds that he would not go into hiding if that were to occur, referring to President Bush’s low profile during the September 11 attacks. [Al Jazeera, 3/21/2005]

Entity Tags: Seyyed Ali Khamenei, George W. Bush

Category Tags: Nuclear Program, Predictions

Fox News interviews two retired US military generals and a military expert and asks them to discuss the Bush administration’s military options for dealing with Iran. [Fox News, 4/24/2005] They offer four possible scenarios:
Covert action - The Bush administration could send CIA agents or commandos to sabotage Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Naval blockade - The US could implement a naval blockade at the Strait of Hormuz and halt Iranian oil exports.
Surgical strikes - The US could launch cruise missiles at Iran’s nuclear facilities. “e are moving some aircraft carrier groups into the Persian Gulf as we speak,” notes retired Army Major Gen. Paul Vallely. “They will be positioned to launch any aircraft from the Mediterranean Sea, the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf.” After the cruise missiles, F-117 stealth fighter jets would destroy the country’s radar system and B-2 bombers would drop 5,000-pound laser-guided bunker busters on buried targets like the Natanz enrichment site or the deep tunnels in Isfahan.
All-out assault - An all-out assault involving ground troops, according to the experts interviewed by Fox, would be the least likely scenario.

Entity Tags: Council on Foreign Relations

Category Tags: Predictions, Think Tank Activities

Zbigniew Brzezinski, the national security adviser to President Carter, is grim about the ramifications of a US military strike against Iran. “I think of war with Iran as ending America’s present role,” he says. “Iraq may have been a preview of that, but it’s still redeemable if we get out fast. In a war with Iran, we’ll get dragged down for 20 or 30 years. The world will condemn us. We will lose our position in the world.” Brzezinski says that success in Iran is simple: the US just needs to outwait Iran. “The mullahs aren’t the future of Iran, they’re the past,” he says. [Washington Post, 4/12/2006; Unger, 2007, pp. 346]

Entity Tags: Zbigniew Brzezinski

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Predictions

Neoconservative Reuel Marc Gerecht of the American Enterprise Institute says that “though George W. Bush, the State Department, the CIA, and the Pentagon really would prefer to do anything else,” it seems all but certain that the US will attack Iran to prevent that country from developing nuclear weapons. The Iranian mullahs are driven more by ideology than anything else, Gerecht reasons, and even US attempts to bribe them into shelving Iran’s nuclear program—much less diplomatic and economic sanctions—will not be effective. Gerecht writes that what is most wrong with Iran and other Middle Eastern Muslim nations is their fascination with what he calls “toxic ideas… Marxism, socialism, communism, fascism, and now increasingly Islamism, but never Adam Smith, Milton Friedman, or even the illiberal state-driven capitalisms of East Asia.” He predicts, “The Iranians won’t play ball.” But an American attack on Iran wouldn’t cause further problems in that increasingly chaotic region, Gerecht predicts, but will “actually accelerate internal debate” in a way that would be “painful for [Iran’s] ruling clergy.” As for imperiling the US mission in Iraq, Gerecht says dismissively that Iran “can’t really hurt us there.” [Weekly Standard, 4/24/2006; Vanity Fair, 3/2007] This is the latest of several calls by Gerecht to invade Iran (see February 18, 2002 and January 2005).

Entity Tags: Milton Friedman, Adam Smith, American Enterprise Institute, George W. Bush, Reuel Marc Gerecht, US Department of Defense, Central Intelligence Agency, US Department of State

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Nuclear Program, Predictions, Neoconservative Hawks

Paul Craig Roberts.Paul Craig Roberts. [Source: Air America]Conservative author and commentator Paul Craig Roberts believes that the Bush administration will certainly attack Iran, and probably with tactical nuclear weapons. Roberts’s conservative credentials are impressive: he served as assistant treasury secretary under Ronald Reagan, was associate editor of the Wall Street Journal, and a contributing editor to the National Review. Roberts writes bluntly that a US military attack on Iran will happen, and will employ tactical nukes for the simple reason that “it is the only way the neocons believe they can rescue their goal of US (and Israeli) hegemony in the Middle East.” Roberts, unusually plain-spoken for a conservative in his opposition to the Bush policies in the Middle East, writes that the US has for all intents and purposes “lost the war in Iraq and in Afghanistan… there are no [more] troops to send” to win in either theater. Instead of acknowledging defeat, “Bush has tried to pawn Afghanistan off on NATO, but Europe does not see any point in sacrificing its blood and money for the sake of American hegemony.” In Iraq, “[T]he ‘coalition of the willing’ has evaporated. Indeed, it never existed. Bush’s ‘coalition’ was assembled with bribes, threats, and intimidation,” and cites the example of Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf admitting in September 2006 that his country was given two choices: join the US coalition or “be prepared to be bombed… back to the Stone Age” (see September 13-15, 2001). This leads Roberts back to his original position that Bush will use tactical nukes against Iran: “Bush’s defeats in Iraq and Afghanistan and Israel’s defeat by Hezbollah in Lebanon have shown that the military firepower of the US and Israeli armies, though effective against massed Arab armies, cannot defeat guerrillas and insurgencies. The US has battled in Iraq longer than it fought against Nazi Germany, and the situation in Iraq is out of control.… Bush is incapable of recognizing his mistake. He can only escalate. Plans have long been made to attack Iran. The problem is that Iran can respond in effective ways to a conventional attack. Moreover, an American attack on another Muslim country could result in turmoil and rebellion throughout the Middle East. This is why the neocons have changed US war doctrine to permit a nuclear strike on Iran.” Roberts, who has worked for and with neoconservatives for decades, says that this group believes “a nuclear attack on Iran would have intimidating force throughout the Middle East and beyond. Iran would not dare retaliate, neocons believe, against US ships, US troops in Iraq, or use their missiles against oil facilities in the Middle East. Neocons have also concluded that a US nuclear strike on Iran would show the entire Muslim world that it is useless to resist America’s will. Neocons say that even the most fanatical terrorists would realize the hopelessness of resisting US hegemony. The vast multitude of Muslims would realize that they have no recourse but to accept their fate.” The “collateral damage” of nuclear strikes against Iran would be acceptable, these neocons believe, especially in light of their “powerful intimidating effect on the enemy.” But Roberts cites nuclear expert Jorge Hirsch, who says such an attack would destroy the international Non-Proliferation Treaty “and send countries in pellmell pursuit of nuclear weapons. We will see powerful nuclear alliances, such as Russia/China, form against us. Japan could be so traumatized by an American nuclear attack on Iran that it would mean the end of Japan’s sycophantic relationship to the US.” Roberts writes that such an attack would make the US an international “pariah, despised and distrusted by every other country.” For the Bush neoconservatives, that is acceptable, Roberts writes: “Neocons believe that diplomacy is feeble and useless, but that the unapologetic use of force brings forth cooperation in order to avoid destruction. Neoconservatives say that America is the new Rome, only more powerful than Rome. Neoconservatives genuinely believe that no one can withstand the might of the United States and that America can rule by force alone.… It is astounding that such dangerous fanatics have control of the US government and have no organized opposition in American politics.” [Baltimore Chronicle, 9/26/2006; Vanity Fair, 3/2007]

Entity Tags: Paul Craig Roberts, George W. Bush, Jorge Hirsch, Bush administration (43), Pervez Musharraf

Category Tags: Predictions, Israel, Neoconservative Hawks

An unnamed Pentagon consultant describes the Bush administration’s policy on Iraq and Iran as “a classic case of ‘failure forward.’” He adds: “They believe that by tipping over Iran they would recover their losses in Iraq—like doubling your bet. It would be an attempt to revive the concept of spreading democracy in the Middle East by creating one new model state.” In the light of belligerent statements made by several administration officials hostile to the current regime in Iran, he also says: “More and more people see the weakening of Iran as the only way to save Iraq.… [T]he goal in Iran is not regime change but a strike that will send a signal that America still can accomplish its goals. Even if it does not destroy Iran’s nuclear network, there are many who think that thirty-six hours of bombing is the only way to remind the Iranians of the very high cost of going forward with the bomb—and of supporting Moqtada al-Sadr and his pro-Iran element in Iraq.” (Note: al-Sadr’s closeness to Iran is a matter of dispute.) [New Yorker, 11/27/2006]

Entity Tags: US Department of State, US Department of Defense, Moqtada al-Sadr, David Wurmser, Tony Blair, George W. Bush, Bush administration (43), Condoleezza Rice

Category Tags: Geopolitics, Predictions

Gary Sick, an Iran expert at Columbia University, commenting on the build-up of US naval power in the Middle East, tells the New York Times that there is a “danger of accidental war.” He notes, “If anything goes wrong, if something happens, there’s an unexplained explosion and we kidnap an Iranian, and the Iranians respond to that somehow, this could get out of control.” [New York Times, 2/15/2007]

Entity Tags: Gary G. Sick

Category Tags: Predictions

Grover Norquist, the influential conservative who heads Americans for Tax Reform, says that President Bush’s neoconservative advisers have been consistently wrong about their predictions for success in Iraq, and warns that Bush is now receiving similar advice about striking at Iran. “Everything the advocates of war said would happen hasn’t happened,” says Norquist, who initially supported the invasion of Iraq. “And all the things the critics said would happen have happened. [The president’s neoconservative advisers] are effectively saying, ‘Invade Iran. Then everyone will see how smart we are.’ But after you’ve lost x number of times at the roulette wheel, do you double-down?” [Vanity Fair, 3/2007]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Grover Norquist, Bush administration (43)

Category Tags: Predictions

A report by a nonpartisan British think tank, the Oxford Research Group, warns that military strikes against Iran could actually accelerate Iran’s development of nuclear weapons. The report says military action could lead Iran to change the nature of its program and quickly build a few nuclear arms. Frank Barnaby, the nuclear scientist and arms expert who authored the report, says, "If Iran is moving towards a nuclear weapons capacity it is doing so relatively slowly, most estimates put it at least five years away." But an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities "would almost certainly lead to a fast-track program to develop a small number of nuclear devices as quickly as possible." It "would be a bit like deciding to build a car from spare parts instead of building the entire car factory." Western powers have threatened to expand sanctions on Iran; the US has not ruled out using force against Iran, but says it wants to give diplomacy a chance. [BBC, 3/5/2007]

Entity Tags: Oxford Research Group, Frank Barnaby, Iran

Category Tags: Predictions

Neoconservative founder Norman Podhoretz, a senior foreign adviser to Republican presidential frontrunner Rudolph Giuliani, says the US has no other choice than to bomb Iran. Podhoretz says heavy and immediate strikes against Iran are necessary to prevent that country from developing nuclear weapons. “None of the alternatives to military action—negotiations, sanctions, provoking an internal insurrection—can possibly work,” Podhoretz says. “They’re all ways of evading the terrible choice we have to make which is to either let them get the bomb or to bomb them.” Podhoretz says that such strikes would be effective: “People I’ve talked to have no doubt we could set [Iran’s nuclear program] five or 10 years. There are those who believe we can get the underground facilities as well with these highly sophisticated bunker-busting munitions.” (Podhoretz does not identify the people he has “talked to.”) “I would say it would take five minutes. You’d wake up one morning and the strikes would have been ordered and carried out during the night. All the president has to do is say go.” Giuliani has echoed Podhoretz’s belligerence towards Iran; last month, Giuliani told a London audience that Iran should be given “an absolute assurance that, if they get to the point that they are going to become a nuclear power, we will prevent them or we will set them back five or 10 years.” Podhoretz says he was pleasantly surprised to hear Giuliani make such assertions: “I was even surprised he went that far. I’m sure some of his political people were telling him to go slow…. I wouldn’t advise any candidate to come out and say we have to bomb—it’s not a prudent thing to say at this stage of the campaign.” Podhoretz has given President Bush much the same advice (see Spring 2007).
'Irrational' 'Insanity' - Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel blasts the “immorality and illegality” of Podhoretz’s “death wish,” and notes that such “military action would be irrational for both sides. The US military is already stretched to the breaking point. We’d witness unprecedented pandemonium in oil markets. Our troops in Iraq would be endangered.” Vanden Heuvel cites the failure to destroy Saddam Hussein’s Scud missiles during six weeks of bombings in 1991 (see January 16, 1991 and After), and the failure of the Israeli bombing of Iraq’s Osirak reactor (see June 7, 1981) to curb “regional [nuclear] proliferation.” She concludes, “Podhoretz and his insanity will embolden Iranian hardliners, plunge the region into even greater and darker instability and undermine our security.” [Nation, 10/28/2007]
Giuliani's Stable of Neocons - Since July 2007, Giuliani has surrounded himself with a group of outspoken hardline and neoconservative foreign policy advisers (see Mid-July 2007).

Entity Tags: Norman Podhoretz, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Saddam Hussein, George W. Bush, Rudolph (“Rudy”) Giuliani

Timeline Tags: Neoconservative Influence

Category Tags: Israel, Neoconservative Hawks, Nuclear Program, Predictions

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