LeRoy Collins Commentary 198

Commentary #198
17 July 2008

Ralph Peters

So you want to bomb Iran if they insist upon building their own nuclear weapons? That is certainly a possibility, but there are many factors to consider. Here are a few from Ralph Peters...

/s/ LeRoy Collins, Jr.

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July 17, 2008 --
MY greatest worry on Iran's nuclear threat to civilization isn't the military option. It's trying that option on the cheap.

If there's any way to block Tehran's pursuit of nukes short of warfare, I'm all for it. Maybe yesterday's dispatch of the No. 3 US diplomat to observe the European Union's talks with the mullahs about their nukes will work a miracle (don't hold your breath).

Military strikes must be the last resort. Even a successful attack would panic oil markets, interrupt supplies to an unknown degree and make enemies of the Iranian people for another generation.

But the fanatics in Tehran may leave us no peaceful alternative. In that case, the most disastrous thing we could do would be to launch an economy-model attack.

If forced to strike, we have to do it right. When safe-at-home ideologues bluster, "Just bomb 'em," they haven't a clue how complex this problem is.

Nor is there any chance that the Israelis could handle Iran on their own (their recent air-force exercise was psychological warfare). As skilled as their pilots and planners may be, the Israelis lack the capacity to sustain a strategic offensive against Iran - or to deal with the inevitable mess they'd leave behind in the Persian Gulf. Israel's aircraft could do serious damage to Iran's nuke program, but the US military would face the potentially catastrophic aftermath.

Without compromising any secrets - the Iranians already know what we'd need to do - here are the basic requirements for smacking down Iran's nuke program:

* Take out Iran's air-defense and intelligence network to protect our attacking aircraft.

* Take down its national communications network to degrade its military reaction.

* Strike dozens of dispersed nuclear-related targets - some of them in hardened underground facilities, with others purposely placed in populated areas.

* Hit every anti-ship-missile installation along Iran's Persian Gulf coast and the Straits of Hormuz. The reflexive Iranian response to an attack would be to launch sea-skimmer missiles against oil tankers and Western warships. The Iranians know that oil's now the world's Achilles heel.

* Destroy Iran's naval capacity, including small craft, in the first 24 hours to prevent attacks on shipping (expect suicide attacks, too).

* Immediately take out all of Iran's long-range and intermediate-range missiles - not just those that could strike Israel, but those that could hit Saudi, gulf-state or Iraqi oil refineries, pipelines, port facilities and oil fields . . . or our installations in the region.

* Hit the military's key command centers in Tehran, as well as regional headquarters, with special attention to the Revolutionary Guards' infrastructure.

* Expect three to six weeks of intense air and naval fighting, followed by months of skirmishing and asymmetrical warfare. And Iraq will heat back up, too.

Screw up the effort, and today's oil prices will double or triple, with severe downstream shortages showing up in a matter of weeks - every oil tanker's insurance will be canceled immediately, even if the Straits of Hormuz remain open (unlikely).

And we'll be in the global doghouse.

Gimme-my-war chumps of the sort who believed "dissident" Ahmed Chalabi on Iraq insist that, if we weaken the Tehran regime by attacking, the Iranian people will overthrow it.

Utterly wrong.

Yes, many Iranians detest their killer-bumpkin president. But plenty of Americans despise our president - yet, if our homeland were attacked tomorrow, most would rally behind him. And we'd fight back. The Iranians would respond the same way.

If a war did spark regime change, the new government might well be even harder-line. Nobody likes to be bombed - and serious attacks on Iran's nuclear program would kill a lot of Iranians.

Yet it'd be even worse if we tried to hit Iran on the cheap, in some think-tank-concocted Shock and Awe Part II. "Precision" attacks - limited to air-defense sites and nuclear facilities - would draw a swift and painful Iranian response against the Gulf's oil exports.

And one last worry: If we decide we have no choice but to attack, we're so casualty-averse that our civilian leadership is apt to put critical targets off-limits to spare Iranian lives. We still want to win wars without hurting anybody, by just breaking the other guy's toys. And that's never going to happen.

If we have to fight, we have to fight to win.

Take down Iran's nuke program? I'm damned certain of one thing: If we start this one, we'd better get it right from the first shot.

Ralph Peters' new book is "Looking for Trouble: Adventures in a Broken World."

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/s/ LeRoy Collins, Jr.


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