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25,000 Iranian Suicide Volunteers

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    How Iran will fight back By Kaveh L Afrasiabi http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/FL16Ak01.html TEHRAN - The United States and Israel may be contemplating
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 5, 2005
      How Iran will fight back
      By Kaveh L Afrasiabi

      TEHRAN - The United States and Israel may be contemplating military
      operations against Iran, as per recent media reports, yet Iran is
      not wasting any time in preparing its own counter-operations in the
      event an attack materializes.

      A week-long combined air and ground maneuver has just concluded in
      five of the southern and western provinces of Iran, mesmerizing
      foreign observers, who have described as "spectacular" the
      massive display of high-tech, mobile operations, including rapid-
      deployment forces relying on squadrons of helicopters, air lifts,
      missiles, as well as hundreds of tanks and tens of thousands of well-
      coordinated personnel using live munition. Simultaneously, some
      25,000 volunteers have so far signed up at newly established draft
      centers for "suicide attacks" against any potential intruders in
      what is commonly termed "asymmetrical warfare".

      Behind the strategy vis-a-vis a hypothetical US invasion, Iran is
      likely to recycle the Iraq war's scenario of overwhelming force,
      particularly by the US Air Force, aimed at quick victory over and
      against a much weaker power. Learning from both the 2003 Iraq war
      and Iran's own precious experiences of the 1980-88 war with Iraq and
      the 1987-88 confrontation with US forces in the Persian Gulf,
      Iranians have focused on the merits of a fluid and complex defensive
      strategy that seeks to take advantage of certain weaknesses in the
      US military superpower while maximizing the precious few areas where
      they may have the upper hand, eg, numerical superiority in ground
      forces, guerrilla tactics, terrain, etc.

      According to a much-publicized article on the "Iran war game" in the
      US-based Atlantic Monthly, the estimated cost of an assault on Iran
      is a paltry few tens of millions of dollars. This figure is based on
      a one-time "surgical strike" combining missile attacks, air-to-
      surface bombardments, and covert operations, without bothering to
      factor in Iran's strategy, which aims precisely to "extend the
      theater of operations" in order to exact heavier and heavier costs
      on the invading enemy, including by targeting America's military
      command structure in the Persian Gulf.

      After this Iranian version of "follow-on" counter-strategy, the US
      intention of localized warfare seeking to cripple Iran's command
      system as a prelude to a systematic assault on key military targets
      would be thwarted by "taking the war to them", in the words of an
      Iranian military strategist who emphasized America's soft command
      structure in the southern tips of the Persian Gulf. (Over the past
      few months, US jet fighters have repeatedly violated Iran's air
      space over Khuzestan province, testing Iran's air defense system,
      according to Iranian military officials.)

      Iran's proliferation of a highly sophisticated and mobile ballistic-
      missile system plays a crucial role in its strategy, again relying
      on lessons learned from the Iraq wars of 1991 and 2003: in the
      earlier war over Kuwait, Iraq's missiles played an important role in
      extending the warfare to Israel, notwithstanding the failure of
      America's Patriot missiles to deflect most of Iraq's incoming
      missiles raining in on Israel and, to a lesser extent, on the US
      forces in Saudi Arabia. Also, per the admission of the top US
      commander in the Kuwait conflict, General Norman Schwarzkopf, the
      hunt for Iraq's mobile Scud missiles consumed a bulk of the
      coalition's air strategy and was as difficult as searching
      for "needles in a haystack".

      Today, in the evolution of Iran's military doctrine, the country
      relies on increasingly precise long-range missiles, eg, Shahab-3 and
      Fateh-110, that can "hit targets in Tel Aviv", to echo Iranian
      Foreign Minister Kemal Kharrazi.

      Chronologically speaking, Iran produced the 50-kilometer-range Oghab
      artillery rocket in 1985, and developed the 120km- and 160km-range
      Mushak artillery rockets in 1986-87 and 1988 respectively. Iran
      began assembling Scud-Bs in 1988, and North Korean technical
      advisers in Iran converted a missile maintenance facility for
      missile manufacture in 1991. It does not seem, however, that Iran
      has embarked on Scud production. Instead, Iran has sought to build
      Shahab-3 and Shahab-4, having ranges of 1,300km with a 1,600-pound
      warhead, and 200km with a 220-pound warhead, respectively; the
      Shahab-3 was test-launched in July 1998 and may soon be upgraded to
      more than 2,000km, thus capable of reaching the middle of Europe.

      Thanks to excess revenue from high oil prices, which constitute more
      than 80% of the government's annual budget, Iran is not experiencing
      the budget constraints of the early and mid-1990s, when its military
      expenditure was outdone nearly one to 10 by its Arab neighbors in
      the Persian Gulf who are members of the Gulf Cooperation Council;
      almost all the Arab states possess one or another kind of advanced
      missile system, eg, Saudi Arabia's CSS-2/DF, Yemen's SS-21, Scud-B,
      Iraq's Frog-7.

      There are several advantages to a ballistic arsenal as far as Iran
      is concerned: first, it is relatively cheap and manufactured
      domestically without much external dependency and the related
      pressure of "missile export control" exerted by the US. Second, the
      missiles are mobile and can be concealed from the enemy, and third,
      there are advantages to fighter jets requiring fixed air bases.
      Fourth, missiles are presumed effective weapons that can be launched
      without much advance notice by the recipient targets, particularly
      the "solid fuel" Fatah-110 missiles that require only a few short
      minutes for installation prior to being fired. Fifth, missiles are
      weapons of confusion and a unique strike capability that can torpedo
      the best military plans, recalling how the Iraqi missile attacks in
      March 2003 at the US military formations assembled at the Iraq-
      Kuwait border forced a change of plan on the United States' part,
      thereby forfeiting the initial plan of sustained aerial strikes
      before engaging the ground forces, as was the case in the Kuwait
      war, when the latter entered the theater after some 21 days of heavy
      air strikes inside Iraq as well as Kuwait.

      Henceforth, any US attack on Iran will likely be met first and
      foremost by missile counter-attacks engulfing the southern Persian
      Gulf states playing host to US forces, as well as any other country,
      eg, Azerbaijan, Iraq or Turkey, allowing their territory or airspace
      to be used against Iran. The rationale for this strategy is
      precisely to pre-warn Iran's neighbors of the dire consequences,
      with potential debilitating impacts on their economies for a long
      time, should they become accomplices of foreign invaders of Iran.

      Another key element of Iran's strategy is to "increase the arch of
      crisis" in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq, where it has
      considerable influence, to undermine the United States' foothold in
      the region, hoping to create a counter-domino effect wherein instead
      of gaining inside Iran, the US would actually lose territory partly
      as a result of thinning its forces and military "overstretch".

      Still another component of Iran's strategy is psychological warfare,
      an area of considerable attention by the country's military planners
      nowadays, focusing on the "lessons from Iraq" and how the pre-
      invasion psychological warfare by the US succeeded in causing a
      major rift between the top echelons of the Ba'athist army as well as
      between the regime and the people. The United States' psychological
      warfare in Iraq also had a political dimension, seeing how the US
      rallied the United Nations Security Council members and others
      behind the anti-Iraq measures in the guise of countering Saddam
      Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.

      Iran's counter-psychological warfare, on the other hand, seeks to
      take advantage of the "death-fearing" American soldiers who
      typically lack a strong motivation to fight wars not necessarily in
      defense of the homeland. A war with Iran would definitely require
      establishing the draft in the US, without which it could not
      possibly protect its flanks in Afghanistan and Iraq; imposing the
      draft would mean enlisting many dissatisfied young soldiers amenable
      to be influenced by Iran's own psychological warfare focusing on the
      lack of motivation and "cognitive dissonance" of soldiers ill-
      doctrinated to President George W Bush's "doctrine of preemption",
      not to mention a proxy war for the sake of Israel.

      This aside, already, Iranians today consider themselves subjected to
      the machinations of similar psychological warfare, whereby, to give
      an example, the US cleverly seeks to capitalize on the discontent of
      the (unemployed) youth by officially shedding crocodile tears, as
      discerned from a recent interview of the outgoing Secretary of State
      Colin Powell. Systematic disinformation typically plays a key role
      in psychological warfare, and the US has now tripled its radio
      programs beamed to Iran and, per recent reports from the US
      Congress, substantially increased its financial support of the
      various anti-regime TV and Internet programs, this while openly
      trumpeting the cause of "human intelligence" in a future scenario of
      conflict with Iran based in part on covert operations.

      Consequently, there is a sense of a national-security siege in Iran
      these days, in light of a tightening "security belt" by the US
      benefiting from military bases in Iraq, Turkey, Azerbaijan,
      Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, as well as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia,
      Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and the island-turned-garrison of Diego Garcia.
      From Iran's vantage point, the US, having won the Cold War, has
      turned into a "leviathan unhinged" capable of manipulating and
      subverting the rules of international law and the United Nations
      with impunity, thus requiring a sophisticated Iranian strategy of
      deterrence that, in the words of certain Iranian media pundits,
      would even include the use of nuclear weapons.

      But such voices are definitely in a minority in Iran today, and by
      and large there is an elite consensus against the manufacturing of
      nuclear weapons, partly out of the conviction that short of creating
      a "second-strike capability" there would be no nuclear deterrence
      against an overwhelming US power possessing thousands of "tactical
      nuclear weapons". Still, looking at nuclear asymmetry between India
      and Pakistan, the latter's first-strike capability has proved a
      deterrence against the much superior nuclear India, a precious
      lesson not lost on Iran.

      Consequently, while Iran has fully submitted its nuclear program to
      international inspection and suspended its uranium-enrichment
      program per a recent Iran-European Union agreement inked in Paris in
      November, there is nonetheless a nagging concern that Iran may have
      undermined its deterrence strategy vis-a-vis the US, which has not
      endorsed the Paris Agreement, reserving the right to dispatch Iran's
      nuclear issue to the Security Council while occasionally resorting
      to tough saber-rattling against Tehran.

      At times, notwithstanding a media campaign in the US, particularly
      by the New York Times, through news articles carrying such
      provocative titles as "US versus a nuclear Iran", the US continues
      its hard-power pre-campaign against Iran unabated, in turn fueling
      the national security concern of those groups of Iranians
      contemplating "nuclear deterrence" as a national survival strategy.

      Concerning the latter, there is a growing sentiment in Iran that no
      matter how compliant Iran is with the demands of the UN's
      International Atomic Energy Agency , much like Iraq in 2002-03, the
      US, which has lumped Iran into a self-declared "axis of evil", is
      cleverly sowing the seeds of its next Middle East war, in part by
      leveling old accusations of terrorism and Iran's complicity in the
      1996 Ghobar bombing in Saudi Arabia, irrespective of the Saudi
      officials' rejection of such allegations totally overlooked in a
      recent book on Iran, The Persian Puzzle by Kenneth M Pollack (see
      Asia Times Online, The Persian puzzle, or the CIA's?, December 3.)

      Thus there is an emerging "proto-nuclear deterrence" according to
      which Iran's mastery of the nuclear fuel cycle would make
      it "nuclear weapon capable" in a relatively short time, as a sort of
      pre-weapon "threshold capability" that must be taken into account by
      Iran's enemies contemplating attacks on its nuclear installations.
      Such attacks would be met by stiff resistance, born of Iran's
      historic sense of nationalism and patriotism, as well as by a
      counter-weaponization based on quick conversation of the nuclear
      technology. Hence the longer the US, and Israel, keep up the
      military threat, the more powerful and appealing the Iranian
      yearning for a "proto-nuclear deterrence" will grow.

      In fact, the military threat against Iran has proved poison for the
      Iranian economy, chasing away foreign investment and causing
      considerable capital flight, an intolerable situation prompting some
      Iranian economists even to call for filing complaints against the US
      in international tribunals seeking financial remedies. This is a
      little far-fetched, no doubt, and the Iranians would have to set a
      new legal precedent to win their cause in the eyes of international
      law. Iran cannot possibly allow the poor investment climate caused
      by the military threats to continue indefinitely, and reciprocating
      with an extended deterrence strategy that raises the risk value of
      US allies in the region is meant to offset this rather unhappy

      Ironically, to open a parenthesis here, some friends of Israel in
      the US, such as Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, an avid
      supporter of "torturing the terrorists", has recently inked a column
      on a pro-Israel website calling for the revision of international
      law allowing an Israeli, and US, military assault against Iran.
      Dershowitz has clearly taken flight of the rule of law, making a
      mockery of the esteemed institution that is considered a beacon on
      the hill in the United States; the same Ivy League university is
      home to the hate discourse of "clashing civilizations", another
      ornament for its cherished history. Even Harvard's Kennedy School
      dean, Joseph Nye, a relative dove, has replicated the US obsession
      with power by churning out books and articles on "soft power" that
      reifies every facet of American life, including its neutral culture
      or entertainment industry, into an appendage or "complement" of
      US "hard power", as if power reification of what Jurgen Habermas
      calls "lifeworld" (Lebenswelt) is the conditio sine qua non of Pax

      The ruse of power, however, is that it is often blind to the
      opposite momentum that it generates, as has been the case of the
      Cuban people's half a century of heroics vis-a-vis a ruthless regime
      of economic blockade, Algerian nationalists fighting against French
      colonialism in the 1950s and 1960s, and, at present, the Iranian
      people finding themselves in the unenviable situation of
      contemplating how to survive against the coming avalanche of a US
      power led entirely by hawkish politicians donning the costumes of
      multilateralism on Iran's nuclear program. Yet few inside Iran
      actually believe that this is more than pseudo-multilateralism
      geared to satisfy the United States' unilateralist militarism down
      the road. One hopes that the road will not wind down any time soon,
      but just in case, the "Third World" Iranians are doing what they can
      to prepare for the nightmare scenario.

      The whole situation calls for prudent crisis management and security
      confidence-building by both sides, and, hopefully, the ugly
      experience of repeated warfare in the oil-rich region can itself act
      as a deterrent.

      Kaveh L Afrasiabi, PhD, is the author of After Khomeini: New
      Directions in Iran's Foreign Policy (Westview Press) and "Iran's
      Foreign Policy Since 9/11", Brown's Journal of World Affairs, co-
      authored with former deputy foreign minister Abbas Maleki, No 2,
      2003. He teaches political science at Tehran University.

      (Copyright 2004 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved. Please
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