and major European powers are determined to stop
Iran's nuclear program. They will first try to
achieve this goal with military threats and economic sanctions. However, if
these tools prove ineffective, Israel
or the United States might
resort to a military attack which will prove very costly for
has so far tried to deter a military attack by promising retaliation and by
demonstrating its military capabilities. It has developed long range missiles
that can reach Israel and
short-range missiles that can hit US military and economic assets in the
Persian Gulf. However, whether or not these weapons will deter an
attack depends on the perceptions of the United
States and Israel
about the amount of damage that
Iran's retaliatory response can inflict on the
The public discussions of
US/Israel attack scenarios and evidence from U.S. invasion of Iraq suggest that
the initial stage of an attack on Iran will include hundreds and perhaps
thousands of rockets and bombs which will not only target Iran's nuclear assets
but also its missiles and military command. As a result
will only be able to launch only a portion of its rockets. For sake of argument
lets assume that 50% of rockets will be successfully launched.
One must also keep in mind that
both Israel and the
U.S. will shot down at least 50% of
Iran's rockets with their anti-missile defense
system. Therefore for every 1000 Iranian missiles chances are that at most 250
of them will reach their targets.
Iran's military assets are limited it might
decide to use its missiles slowly similar to the way Saddam was using his. For
every one hundred American bombs or rockets
was able to fire no more than five rockets. Therefore the
and Israel might conclude that
the damage from Iran's
initial rocket retaliation will be limited.
The second cost factor that
might enter into US/Israel cost calculations is
Iran's capability to launch guerrilla attacks against
and Israeli interests worldwide. Iran
has a number of allies in the region and has hinted of spreading the struggle
against the U.S.
to the entire region if attacked. However, as the reaction of
in recent years has demonstrated. The ability and will of a small country to
retaliate against a superpower is limited.
Strong military powers that
attack a weaker nation use severe punishment to deter revenge attacks and
retaliation. After they cause massive damage to a country through aerial
bombardment they stand ready to do significantly more damage in response to
every act of retaliation. For example if ten U.S. soldiers are killed in a
surprise attack, the U.S.
will retaliate by targeting the fighters (terrorists) in civilian areas and
causing significant collateral damage (perhaps causing at least 100 civilian
casualties.) This massive retaliation strategy forces the victim country to cut
back its retaliation.
Based on past experience
in the Middle East, the U.S.
know that when they attack a Middle Eastern country the long-term retaliation
will be limited because of these factors. Everyone was predicting that after a
U.S. invasion of Iraq there will be a massive surge in terrorist attacks against
American targets but in reality the incidents of such attacks (outside Iraq)
were very limited and did not cause significant damage. Hence the U.S./Israel
might come to the conclusion that damage from a post-attack "terrorist"
retaliation by Iran
will also be limited.
The damage from this channel
will further be limited because the U.S.
has no plan to occupy Iran
and therefore Iranian resistance will not have any domestic targets to attack.
It should also be kept in mind
that the U.S.
will not stop at targeting
Iran's nuclear assets. It will most likely go for
regime change and social disintegration by supporting ethnic uprising in
Turkish, Arabic, Beluchi and Kurdish regions of
Iran. These uprisings will be supported by
military assistance and will weaken the central government to a point that it no
longer cares about retaliation against the external attacker.
threatens to launch a massive retaliation if attacked but how credible is this
threat as far as the U.S./Israel is concerned? The conflict and warfare game
theory tells us that the threat is not credible because even after a severe
aerial attack Iran
will still be better of licking its wounds rather than launching a counter
attack.. The reason is that if it retaliates it will be attacked again with
massive force. Based on behavior of Iraq
and many other third world nations, the
knows that after every military operation against a weaker country it can move
on. (Vietnam did not take any
action against the United States
after the U.S..
forces left that country.
did not dare to retaliate against NATO forces after it lost Kosovo.)
To make this clear lets think
about the attack day and the few days that follow. The U.S./Israel will start
the operation with a "shock and awe" rocket and Aerial bombardment against
Iran's nuclear targets and military assets.
will start its retaliatory attacks at a rate of 2 to 5 missiles per hour. Every
Iranian attack will bring a massive
aerial attacks. Frequency of Iranian missile launches declines to a few launches
After a few days, and when most
infrastructure is destroyed, several countries (perhaps Europeans or Arabs) will
broker a cease fire. Fear of additional punishment will limit
Iran's attacks and sporadic
bombardment of targets inside
will continue for several months or perhaps years.
will limit its response to air defense and expression of defiance. In the
meantime, Iran's access to the
Persian Gulf will be limited and its foreign trade will be controlled by the
through United Nations.
If the government of
Iran remains intact it will have no alternative but to
resume oil exports under U.S.
guidelines (or U.N. guidelines with U.S.
approval) and eventually Iran
will end up in the same situation that
was during most of 1990s. The
will maintain full air supremacy over Iranian skies.
This is a pessimistic scenario
but it can happen. Some say that Iran
is much larger and much stronger than Iraq
when it was attacked by the
United States. That might be true but at the same
Iran is still much smaller
than the United States.
Attacking and defeating Iran
will be more costly and more difficult than invasion of
but it is not impossible for the
military. Besides, removing the threat of an independent and strong
has so many long-term benefits for the U.S.
hegemony in the Middle East that
military strategists might find it well worth the cost.
deter a potential attack by the US/Israel? Based on what has been said so far,
as long as the US/Israel believes that Iran is a rational country, the answer is
no. First, so far Iran
has acted as a rational enemy (just like
Iraq) and as a rational country it will not take
severe steps to retaliate against an initial attack (for fear of more severe
attacks). Second, Iran's
retaliatory weapons can not cause much damage. The US/Israel can stand 100 or
even up to 1000 Iranian missile attacks.
might be able to deter an attack if it demonstrates that it will retaliate
regardless of the cost to itself (which means it is irrational.) In other words
it might be able to deter an attack if it can prove that it is ready to risk
total destruction for sake of retaliation. One way to prove this is to show that
it can switch from a centralized military command to a decentralized command
structure (where hundreds of dispersed missile launchers and resistance units
will operate independently and no one will be able to stop them. (Keep in mind,
however, that Saddam tried to set up a similar mechanism but was not
successfully convinces the U.S./Israel that it is prepared to put its existence
at risk for retaliation, it might not be able to deter an attack with its
current weapons. Iran's
conventional weapons can not inflict a significant amount of pain and damage on
US/Israel and Iranian government is na´ve if it thinks otherwise. It is only the
credible threat of unconventional weapons (chemical, biological, nuclear
contamination) that might work as a deterrence.
To make such a threat credible
must convince the US/Israel of two things. First that it has sufficient
quantities of such weapons and the means to deliver them to far distances. (For
example, if Iran
develops long range micro-missiles that can carry a small warhead of no heavier
than 5 kilos, everyone will know that such a weapon has no value with a
conventional warhead.) Second, that it is ready to use these weapons regardless
of the cost to itself; knowing very well that the response might be a nuclear
attack. It is however, a big gamble for
to acknowledge the possession of unconventional weapons or the means to deliver
is in a difficult situation. If it cannot come up with an effective deterrence,
it will not only put its nuclear assets at risk but might enter into a prolonged
war against a powerful enemy; a war that might jeopardize its territorial
integrity. Without an effective pre-nuclear deterrence completion of
Iran's nuclear program will be very difficult and
risky. If Iranians believe that the nuclear program is worth all this trouble
then they should be prepared to risk everything.
About the author: Renad
Ihab is a retired professor of political science in Tehran University who
resides in Europe.
... Payvand News - 09/11/08 ... --
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