Saturday, March 17, 2007
Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies has put together a slideshow (pdf) with lots of data about Iran's conventional and unconventional military capabilities, and the risks that each pose. There's a factoid or a bullet point in there for just about every perspective.
The usual stuff from Cordesman. Wishful thinking:
1. Arab-Israeli peace agreement has as much to do with the Gulf and Iran as reruns of "Mama's Family." Totally irrelevant. And unachievable. Palestinians will not settle for anything less than Israel's destruction and Israelis in any event have nowhere else to go (being chased out of Europe again, this time by Europe's Muslims).
2. Local partners are inept and incapable of standing up to Iran. For all their spending their populations are suspect (too many Shias) and also unwilling to construct the society required for modern mechanized military success. No mechanics, staff sergeants, and the like. A bunch of "officers" with no enlisted men.
3. There is no political will to keep Iraq. We've already decided to abandon Iraq and the only question is when and under how much retreat.
4. The UN and the other international talk shops have zilch to influence Iran's nukes. America and specifically Dems have signalled they support Iran's nuke policy by offering amendments denying Bush any military force to respond to Iran's provocations, including killing US soldiers in Iraq and nukes.
Even if we worked completely with the UN, what could it offer in the way of sticks to make Iran stop it's nuke program? A harshly worded letter? Get serious.
Iran is militarily weak in conventional arms, particularly offensive operations. However, with the US in full retreat from the Gulf (really, how realistic will any presence in the Gulf be after we surrender in Iraq? What Gulf leader will want us there after we've surrendered to Al Qaeda and Iran in Iraq?) ... Iran only has to be better than it's neighbors. Who could not fight their way out a paper bag. Who are already making deals with Iran as we discuss this issue.
Iran has the ability through Al Qaeda, or Hezbollah, or both to nuke the US and get away with it. "Proof" in a court of law is required by domestic politics for any military action, and such proof will not be forthcoming. At least that seems to be the calculation of the Iranians looking at US Dems. With a Dem president they would be right too I think. Jimmy Carter sat and begged in response to Iran's act of war. I don't think Dem Presidential candidates would do anything differently if a US city were nuked. Seriously. They'd ask why do they hate us and offer apologies.
A Rep president though would nuke Iran till it glowed, even without perfect proof to deter further attacks.
What was the bit about Suicide and murder? IF I understand it right Cordesman means that Iran intends to nuke Israel (and the US) regardless of the consequences.
Anonymous: I think things would go very differently if a US city were nuked. Recall that we did not desire, nor get, "proof in a court of law" of Al Qaeda's activities until after we'd destroyed the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
Interesting slideshow, but it doesn't address the most interesting question of Iran's strength/weakness: the internal stability of the regime. IIRC, Iran's economy is stagnant, it has the typical third world demographic bulge (which means lots of young men are unemployed starting about now and in increasing numbers for the next 10 years), it has ethnic "minorities" that comprise half the population, a growing drug problem, extremely poor provision of emergency public services (recall the 40000 dead in that quake a year or two ago), and recent events point to what may well be an internal insurgency underway in the eastern province centered at Zahedan.
Those don't tell us all that much about how likely the regime is to fall (nation states are institutions of extraordinary robustness), or even the level of pressure they're facing about internal discontent, but they do raise very interesting ... questions.